House of Commons Hansard #316 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-59.

Topics

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

moved that Bill S-210, an act to amend An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill S-210, an act to amend an Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts. The legislation seeks to modernize Canada's statutes and remove the short title “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” from the legislation.

Bill S-210 was introduced by Senator Mobina Jaffer in the Senate and has reached third reading here in the House of Commons. I am proud that the legislation passed unanimously, without amendment, at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Language matters, and the fact that the bill has reached its final stage of the legislative process is a proud reflection of that.

The language we use in the laws we pass matters. It reflects the intentions and desired outcomes of our statutes, as well as the type of society we want to build. When phraseology like “barbaric cultural practices” is used in law-making, it becomes apparent that the intention is to divide and fearmonger. Let me be clear. The politics of fear and division have no place in Canada, and no place in Canada's statutes. That is why Bill S-210 is before us today.

Bill S-210 amends Bill S-7 from the previous Parliament by removing its short title. It does not in any way affect the measures put in place by the bill. While Bill S-7 was aimed at strengthening protections for women and girls, the reference to “barbaric cultural practices” in the title creates divisions, promotes harmful stereotypes, and fuels intolerance by targeting specific communities. It is being perceived as offensive by certain communities and stakeholder groups that serve immigrants, as it targets a cultural group as whole, rather than the individuals who commit specific acts.

As Senator Jaffer put it at the justice committee:

I have objected to pairing the words “barbaric” and “cultural”. That's not a Canadian value. When we put the two ideas together, we take responsibility for horrific actions away from the person who committed them. It's not a community that commits those acts; it's a person. Instead, we associate the crime with a culture and a community, and we imply that such horrible practices are part of a culture or a community.

Hate crimes against certain minority populations are on the rise in Canada. When we falsely equate barbaric practices with cultures, we open the door to racist and intolerant attitudes that often drown out constructive dialogue on promoting diversity and inclusion. By recognizing the impacts that our words have on the tone and tenor of public discourse, policy-making, and law-making, we can be more deliberate and thoughtful in the words we choose. We abandon the dog whistle politics of barbaric cultural practices and commit ourselves to advancing values beyond mere tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion.

The Prime Minister captured the importance of these values and those of diversity in his address to New York University. He said:

Whether it's race, gender, language, sexual orientation, or religious or ethnic origin, or our beliefs and values themselves, diversity doesn't have to be a weakness. It can be our greatest strength.

Now often people talk about striving for tolerance. Now don't get me wrong. There are places in this world where a little more tolerance would go a long way. But if we're being honest, right here, right now, I think we can aim a little higher than mere tolerance. Think about it. Saying, “I tolerate you” actually means something like, “okay, I grudgingly admit that you have a right to exist, just don't get in my face about it....

There is not a religion in the world that asks you to “tolerate thy neighbour”. So let's try for something a little more like acceptance, respect, friendship, and yes, even love.

And why does this matter? Because in our aspiration to relevance, in our love for our families, in our desire to contribute to make this world a better place, despite our differences, we are all the same.

Words are important, and so are the values we put forward. Equally important, if not more so, are the actions we take in defence of those values. That is why our government has taken meaningful action to further embrace multiculturalism and promote diversity.

We have a Prime Minister who proudly represents Canada on the world stage as an open and welcoming nation. Indeed, Canada is a nation built in no small part through the contributions of immigrants.

Our government understands this. That is why we promote safe and accessible immigration. We have prioritized family reunification by bringing families together more quickly. We doubled the number of parent and grandparent sponsorship applications accepted per year, from 5,000 to 10,000. We know that when families are reunited and offered the opportunity to succeed, all of Canada succeeds.

Our government is committed to an immigration system that strengthens Canada's middle class, helps grow our economy, supports diversity, brings families together, and helps build vibrant, dynamic, and inclusive communities.

The story of Canadian immigration is inseparable from the story of Canada itself, as we are committed to aiding and accepting people from all cultural backgrounds. Success stories abound when newcomers are offered the opportunity to succeed.

Let us take Peace by Chocolate as an example. The company, based in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, was founded by the Hadhad family. The Hadhads ran a successful chocolate factory in Syria, but they were forced to flee the civil war violence. After three years in a Lebanese refugee camp, they were offered the chance to immigrate to Canada. They started Peace by Chocolate, working to rebuild the business they had lost in war-torn Syria. Their story of success is a proud example of the opportunity that Canada offers to those who immigrate here, regardless of nationality.

The policies we are putting in place will allow more immigrants to find a home in Canada, contributing to our growing economy. These newcomers will drive innovation and help employers meet labour market needs. Supporting companies that bring high-skilled workers improves business opportunities for all Canadians. These are just a few examples of measures that our government has taken to further promote multiculturalism and ensure that our immigration system is efficient and accessible.

Our actions to promote diversity do not stop there. The Minister of Canadian Heritage recently unveiled the new federal action plan for official languages. This plan will invest nearly $500 million over five years and focus on strengthening our communities, strengthening access to service, and promoting a bilingual Canada.

Through targets that aim to restore and maintain the proportion of francophones living in linguistic minority communities at 4% of the general population by 2036, provinces such as British Columbia will receive the support they need to continue promoting our linguistic diversity and bilingualism.

In support of multiculturalism, we are investing $23 million over two years through budget 2018 in the federal multiculturalism program. Budget 2018 states:

This funding would support cross-country consultations on a new national anti-racism approach, would bring together experts, community organizations, citizens and interfaith leaders to find new ways to collaborate and combat discrimination, and would dedicate increased funds to address racism and discrimination targeted against Indigenous Peoples and women and girls.

In our pursuit of a more caring and inclusive country, we must also commit to doing better in the journey of reconciliation. As a multicultural country, Canada grapples not only with the intersections of a broad range of newcomer cultures, but with multiple generations of Canadians and indigenous peoples. Reconciliation must be part of the conversation as we discuss diversity and inclusion in a 21st century Canada. Recognizing and making reparations for the historical abuse and mistreatment of indigenous peoples is a fundamental part of building a more inclusive society and promoting the diversity of Canada.

As members in this place, we have the privilege of introducing bills or motions that will affect and hopefully benefit our constituents, and all Canadians. I have had the privilege of sponsoring two private member's bills: Bill S-210, which is before us here today, and Bill C-374, which is now before the Senate.

If passed by the Senate, Bill C-374 would seek to advance reconciliation by adding much-needed indigenous representation to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, implementing call to action 79(i) of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. The legislation would provide first nations, Métis, and Inuit representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Without indigenous representation, the board conducts its affairs without a fulsome understanding of Canadian heritage and history. The inclusion of indigenous perspectives on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada would allow us to more fully commemorate Canada's historical peoples, places, and events, and offer a more authentic perspective on our heritage.

Canada is a pluralistic society, and our approach to fostering a more inclusive society is multi-faceted. It requires diligence and thoughtfulness on the part of legislators. By advancing legislation such as Bill S-210, we commit to recognizing the implications of the words we use, with the understanding that action is equally important. Abandoning terms such as “barbaric cultural practices” is an important step in modernizing our statutes and reflecting back on the type of society we want to build as Canadians.

I would like to thank my colleagues for their participation in this debate today. I am hopeful that members will join me today in supporting Bill S-210.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I was a member of the opposition when we had this debate about the short title and just how important it is. My colleague and friend made reference to Canada's diversity. It is often referred to by our Prime Minister as one of Canada's greatest strengths, as is the importance of multiculturalism to us as a society. I wonder if my friend could provide his personal thoughts with respect to Canada being a multicultural country and how we have benefited from that both economically and socially. Ultimately, I would suggest that we are envied by countries around the world because of our great diversity. I wonder if my colleague might want to add some thoughts to that, and why he felt so compelled with respect to this legislation.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Madam Speaker, last weekend, when I was in my riding, Cloverdale—Langley City, I had the honour, in one single day, of having a taste of the diversity represented in our community. I was able to go to a South Asian wedding at one of the gurdwaras in my riding, and from there I went to Ramadan prayers with the Muslim community. That afternoon, I joined the Buddhist community for a graduation ceremony and handed out certificates at the ceremony. To me that represents, in one single day, the diversity that we have in Canada, and how that is the strength of our community and our country.

As the Prime Minister has said, it is important to celebrate the diversity in our society, because it really is Canada's strength. It helps us with world trade, and it is a way of showing that faiths and communities from around the world can live together in one country, the one we proudly call Canada. That is why Bill S-210 is so important. We need to show that anyone is welcome in Canada and that we can make a proud and strong country.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I want to applaud the member for adding indigenous representation to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, and I would ask him to talk more about the importance of that to Canada's history. There is only one group of people who have been here for millennia, so I think it is a tremendous initiative.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Madam Speaker, the member is referring to Bill C-374, which is before the Senate right now. It is a very important bill, again going along with the theme of diversity being our strength. That particular bill references the need to have indigenous representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. The Senate is currently debating the bill.

Today, we are having a debate on Bill S-210, which is another step we can take to show that Canada actually values diversity. It is an important opportunity for us to weigh in on the discussion about what kind of culture and community we want to build.

As my colleague from the New Democrats pointed out, words are so important, and Bill S-210 really challenges us as legislators to get the wording right to build an inclusive and supportive Canada. That is why I am very proud to be sponsoring Bill S-210 in the House of Commons today.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, after a nice quiet weekend in my riding, I want to take this opportunity to thank all the pages and all of the parliamentary precinct security folks who looked after us during our all-night voting on Thursday night.

I also want to say a special thanks to my riding staff, because I miss them, Lauren Semple, Hilary Eastmure, and Michael Snoddon, and all the people at home who have been holding down the fort while we have been here since the end of January.

I am really grateful to everybody who is keeping the community work going, NGOs, local governments, everybody who is working hard to support the work we are doing here in Parliament.

We really hope that this is our last week, and I cannot wait to be home. Because we are close to the end, I have to say I am a little impatient about giving this speech. Bill S-210 proposes to amend the title of a Harper-era piece of legislation, the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act.

It seems like a long time ago when that piece of legislation was passed. It was passed in what I would call a dark decade of parliamentary rule. The unveiling of that quite racist legislation was one of the low points in the Harper era. It was dog-whistle politics at its worst. It was racist and inflammatory. Ministers stood and said we need to eradicate barbaric cultural practices, when all they needed to say was that we are going to rule against female genital mutilation. We are all for that, but it does not need to be put in the frame of alienating anybody who is not white and born and raised in Canada. Canada is a diverse country. We all practice our culture in different ways. There are acts that should be criminalized, especially acts that are damaging to young girls.

The Conservatives campaigned on that Harper-framed legislation, and I like to think that was part of their downfall, because the citizens of this country said no to it.

I also want to give special thanks to This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which acted like a second official opposition alongside New Democrats in the previous Parliament. I still chuckle about the show's parody on the barbaric cultural practices act. It named things like wearing socks with sandals as a cultural barbaric practice, and kissing the cod in the wrong way. They had fun with it, but it was not funny.

Given all the damage that was done in 10 years of Conservative rule, the Liberal government received a strong mandate from the Canadian public.

However, here we are today with legislation before us which would simply amend the title of the legislation. It would do nothing else. I am going to vote in favour of Bill S-210, because who would not vote in favour of it? Language matters, but actions also matters. There is so much work to do. Here we are, two and a half years into this term, and we still are not getting it done.

Some time this week, we will be tabling a report on what the Liberal government could do to end the atrocious rate of incarceration of indigenous women in Canadian jails and how badly they are treated. The report also talks about the barriers they face in the justice system that results in them being imprisoned at a higher rate.

Another Conservative law repealed the mandatory minium sentencing. It removed judicial discretion. The Liberal Party campaigned in 2015 that it would repeal mandatory minimum sentencing, but it has not done it.

Of all the things that would make a difference in people's lives, I wish that this legislation had more oomph behind it. Of course, language matters, but attendant action is so important. Voting yes to the bill, which I will be doing, will not change anyone's life. There is still a lot of legislative damage that has yet to be undone, and I do not believe that Bill S-210 would have been at the top of anybody's list.

I also have a bit of a bad attitude about this because of my private member's bill on abandoned vessels, Bill C-352. I worked on my bill with local government partners for about eight years before coming to this place. I tabled it in February 2016, and I updated it in April 2017.

Three days after it went on the Order Paper in October of this year, the government introduced its own bill, which I had wanted to see. I had hoped the government would have plagiarized and incorporated my private member's bill into it. However, then it used a couple of almost never used parliamentary manoeuvres to prevent my bill from being heard or voted on at all.

Obviously, it was a great disappointment. It was a piece of legislation, whether one agreed with it or not, that had some substance and some heft. It would have made a difference on the ground. It would have changed legislation that would have prevented oil spills and marine plastics and pollution on our beaches in the form of fibreglass boats. That is a long-standing problem that local governments have been calling the alarm on. However, that was killed, and here we are taking the time to debate legislation that is only going to amend a legislative title.

I urge all my colleagues to hunker down and get the real work done that would actually change lives on the ground. We have tremendous privilege being in this place. We have tremendous power. We have a huge mandate, and we have a lot of work to do. Let us do the hard work that really matters and get on with the work that Canadians sent us to do here in this place.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Madam Speaker, it has truly been a privilege to bring forward Bill S-210, An Act to amend An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

I would like to first thank my colleagues for their support in this legislation, and contributions in debate. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Senator Mobina Jaffer for introducing this legislation in the Senate, and for her work in advancing this bill.

As I mentioned in my opening remarks, I have had the unique opportunity to bring forward two pieces of legislation. I took great care in considering what issues I wanted to advance, and I am proud to have supported Bill S-210.

I would also like to take a moment to provide comments to my colleague from the New Democratic Party for the thoughts she just offered. First of all, I would like to thank her for the pledge to support this legislation today. However, I also believe that this bill actually does have the impacts we are seeking in society. She said it does nothing for Canadians, yet I believe that reflecting inclusive language in legislation is the most important thing we as legislators can do.

As was noted, we have a remnant of the Harper Conservatives on the books that was very inflammatory, very divisive, and it used the lowest grade of politics in trying to divide Canadians. This would remove that. I think that is a great use of legislative time. I am proud to have dedicated my efforts in sponsoring Bill S-210 in the House of Commons to further this discussion.

Bill S-210 is a reflection on the importance of the language we use in crafting and drafting our legislation, and the ways in which we wish to shape our society. As our Prime Minister likes to say, “Canada is strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them.”

Through this legislation, we have the opportunity to reject phraseology, and the unnecessary and inappropriate conflation of culture with barbaric practices. Through this legislation, we have the opportunity to reject the politics of fear and division in favour of diversity and inclusion. I am hopeful that all members will join me in supporting Bill S-210 and advancing these important efforts.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Suspension of SittingImmigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The House is now suspended until 12:00 p.m.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:27 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

The House resumed from June 13 consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

Noon

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I should mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster.

I rise once again to speak to Bill C-45 on the legalization of marijuana, on behalf of the millions of Canadians who would like to be standing beside me or in my place.

Let us not forget that the Prime Minister promised that legalizing marijuana would take street drugs out of the hands of children and take the production and sale of drugs away from organized crime. That is the line the government adopted to support this bill, but we can clearly see that it is completely false.

Last fall, we voted under the guillotine of time allocation, and naturally, given the Liberal majority, the bill was passed and sent to the Senate.

I am pleased to see that the senators felt free to propose the 46 amendments we are studying today. Interestingly enough, 29 of these 46 amendments are from the government. We have said all along that Bill C-45 is a botch job, that it would not work, and that we could not support it. Today we have proof, because the government itself had to make 29 amendments to a bill it rushed to ram down the throats of the members of the House of Commons.

Now the Senate, comprised mostly of government-appointed independent Liberals, agrees with the opposition and made a total of 46 amendments. Clearly, Bill C-45 was botched from the beginning, and we still do not understand the logic.

The Prime Minister appears to be living in a fantasy world. We often hear people taking about a magical land of unicorns and Care Bears. I think those people have a point, considering what is going on and how the Prime Minister sees and does things. It really is a fantasy land, and nothing we are being told makes any sense.

The government's official position was that Bill C45 was supposed to resolve the problem of marijuana trafficking controlled by organized crime and keep marijuana out of the hands of children, but it is really having the opposite effect. It is also going to cause other problems.

No, legalizing marijuana will not reduce access to it. Yes, organized crime will find ways around our laws. No, police officers cannot use magical Care Bear powers to fight drug-related violence and crime.

All that because the Prime Minister decided to make this an issue, to make it an electoral promise. He decided that this was urgent and that he had to legalize cannabis as quickly as possible without any respect for the concerns of scientists, doctors, or law enforcement officers.

What is more, the Prime Minister, who is supposedly a great friend to the first nations, did not even take into consideration their extremely serious concerns.

On top of all that, Canadian employers will have to deal with this situation. How will employers be able to monitor employees who work in manufacturing, in industries that require the use of dangerous equipment? We still do not have any answers on that. The government is rushing to legalize cannabis, but there are still unanswered questions.

The basic premise had to do with children. I will talk later about plants in homes, about how organized crime will get around the law, and about how children will be allowed to be in possession of marijuana. They will not be allowed to buy any, but they will be allowed to have it on them. It really does not make any sense.

Let's also talk about police officers. Over the weekend, a police officer gave me an example. He said that, under the existing legislation, when a police officer stops a vehicle and can smell marijuana, he or she has the right to search the vehicle. Most of the time, or quite often at least, when police officers conduct such a search, they find other drugs, such as amphetamines or cocaine, hidden in the vehicle. Having the authority to intervene because of the smell of marijuana often enables the police to discover hard drugs in such vehicles.

Three years ago, in Quebec City, where I live, the police stopped a tractor-trailer. They smelled drugs, searched the vehicle, and found a million dollars from the sale of drugs by organized crime hidden in it.

Now, police officers who smell marijuana will have to do some kind of yet-to-be-determined test to find out if a person is intoxicated, but they do not have the right to conduct other searches. These are real-life situations, not imaginary hypotheticals. Instead of helping police officers, the government is creating problems for them. Bill C-45 defies logic.

There is also the issue of market adjustment. Organized crime is not going away. Independent Liberal Senator Serge Joyal mentioned that, according to police, organized crime has already infiltrated Canada's medical marijuana market. He also said that 35 of Canada's 86 legal cannabis producers are financed in part by investors who use tax havens to hide their identity and that Cayman Islands investors have already pumped $250 million into the Canadian cannabis industry.

Despite the Liberals' attempt to get this bill passed as quickly as possible, senators made a number of amendments, including an amendment that would require cannabis companies to publicly disclose the identity of their shareholders. That is a reasonable solution that the opposition can get behind. This amendment would make it impossible for organized crime to use tax havens to infiltrate the Canadian cannabis market. That should have been in there from the get-go. I hope our friends on the other side of the House will accept this amendment.

As far as possession of marijuana is concerned, that will be legal. Retailers will be allowed to sell marijuana and people will have to be at least 18 to buy it, but children like mine, who are 13 and 14, will be allowed to have marijuana in their possession. At the risk of sounding unparliamentary, that seems stupid. They will not be allowed to buy it, but they will be allowed to have between 10 and 15 joints on their person. My son could have between 10 and 15 joints on him and that would not be an offence or a crime, but he would not be allowed to buy those joints. There are so many things like that that we do not understand and that do not work. We think that there are still too many inconsistencies in Bill C-45.

Then there are the property owners. In Quebec, the Corporation des propriétaires immobiliers du Québec, or CORPIQ, cannot fathom why we would pass a law that would let people grow cannabis plants in apartments in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. These plants need humidity to grow. People will grow them in closets and are going to do all sorts of things that will damage the apartments and cause problems for the owners, not to mention the issue of the odours. There still remain unanswered questions.

In that regard, I would like to sincerely thank the governments of Quebec and Manitoba, which resolutely refused to let people grow cannabis at home. However, the Prime Minister of Canada told the provinces that they could not prevent people from doing it. Now that the bill has passed and Quebec is saying no, while the federal government says yes, there could be a constitutional challenge over pot plants. Society has far more important problems. We do not need a constitutional battle over pot plants grown at home. I hope Quebec will continue its fight, and I will be supporting it 100%.

This issue is even creating problems at the Canada-U.S. border. The bill does not address those Americans who may travel to Canada with marijuana on them, thinking that it is legal. According to the legislation, when a Canadian border services officer stops an American who is in possession of marijuana, the traveller must be turned back to the United States, where he or she will be charged. Similarly, Canadians who are not careful and who are in possession of cannabis when they are stopped at the U.S. border will also be charged. This problem has not been fixed.

According to a report from US. Homeland Security, there is a significant problem with drugs being trafficked from Canada to the U.S. Nothing has been fixed.

I could have used much more time, but I can say that I am very happy with the Senate's work. I hope that the government will at least listen to reason here.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:10 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, I want to clarify something for the member. He mentioned his concern that under our legislation a young person under the age of 18 would be able to legally possess cannabis in the province of Quebec. I want to inform him that the Province of Quebec recently enacted legislation which makes it an offence under provincial regulation to purchase, possess, or consume cannabis for any person under the age of 18.

It is legislation that is enforceable. It is an absolute prohibition that the police will be able to enforce, but it does not result in a criminal record for the child. It is exactly what the police have asked for. It is a ticketing regime that results in real consequences. Police can seize the drug, issue a ticket, and there is a fine. There are other restorative measures that can be instituted, but it is a complete prohibition.

I would also advise that virtually every province and territory has introduced legislation that has made it a provincial offence to purchase, possess, or consume cannabis for all young people under the age of majority. With that information, I wonder if the member might be reassured about his concern.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments. However, I wonder why Bill C-45 includes a provision that would make cannabis possession by minors permissible. Youth under 18 would not be allowed to buy cannabis, of course, but they would be allowed to have the drug in their possession. The provinces are going to have to deal with that measure.

The federal government could have defined all the prohibitions. Instead, the government is allowing cannabis possession by minors and leaving the burden of regulation to the provinces, which will each handle it differently. Quebec has set out its rules, but if someone goes to New Brunswick there will be other rules. At some point, it is the federal government's responsibility to ensure that we have regulations that help the provinces instead of making things more complicated for them.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles for his excellent remarks.

It is a bit odd to hear our Liberal colleague boast about a provincial government decision. Need I remind the House that just last week the federal government disregarded the will of the provincial Liberal government to prohibit home grow? We know that under the current Prime Minister's government, there can be four pot plants in each of the millions of homes in Canada.

I have a question for my colleague. Will this measure, which would unfortunately allow home grow, help keep children away from marijuana or would the opposite happen? How will we be able to review and evaluate the quality of the marijuana? After all, people keep saying that legalization will bring with it higher-quality pot.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2018 / 12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent asked an excellent question, which gets to the heart and to the reality of this whole issue.

Earlier I said that we do not live in a magical land of Care Bears. There are legal industries that are producing massive amounts of cannabis in greenhouses, funded by money coming from tax havens. Some people are having a grand old time. They are making money. Then, there is a huge number of apartments and houses, millions of possibilities and places where people can grow pot plants. In the Montreal area, there is even a Mafia organization, which I will not name, that is already using apartments belonging to different people. These people create a network, control people who grow pot plans in the apartments and houses, and then sell this pot.

As soon as home growing becomes legal, organized crime groups will start planning, as I said in my speech. Since it is legal, organized crime groups will take over 40 or 50 houses or apartments. People will grow the plants, harvest them, and sell the product, ultimately getting a percentage from the organized crime group. This is why, as soon as the government allows home grow, two networks will develop, namely the industrial manufacturing network and the underground network.

We cannot forget about children in all of this. When there are four pot plants in a home, young people can pick the plants and start selling them to their friends on the streets. This is why we do not understand the government's logic, and there are many people who feel the same way I do.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-45, the cannabis act, a bill that would have a profound impact on our Canadian society.

The Liberal government's plan to legalize recreational marijuana has created a lot of uncertainty and unanswered questions. It is pushing this legislation forward without giving it the due diligence it requires. That is why it comes as no surprise this legislation has been sent back to us with so many amendments.

The priority of the government should be the health and safety of Canadians, but through legislative process, it has been clear that the Liberals are rushing to fulfill a political promise. At the outset, the Liberals set an arbitrary deadline to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, and the rush to legalize this harmful drug continues. This is despite concerns that have been raised from scientists, doctors, and law enforcement officials.

In this legislation, the Liberals have included a section outlining its purpose. The stated purpose of the cannabis act is to protect public health and safety, particularly that of young people, and that its purpose is to restrict access to cannabis for young people and to discourage its use. It also states that it sets out to reduce illicit activities and the burden on the criminal justice system. It states the goal of providing access to a quality-controlled supply of cannabis. Lastly, it wants to enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis.

Unfortunately, the legislation before us does not and will not achieve these goals. It is important to consider why this legislation does not achieve its stated purpose. We often hear from those in favour of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana that it is just a harmless drug. That is a myth. There is scientific evidence that marijuana is not a harmless drug, especially for young people. To quote the Canadian Medical Association:

Children and youth are especially at risk for marijuana-related harms, given their brain is undergoing rapid, extensive development.

Our understanding of the health effects of marijuana continues to evolve. Marijuana use is linked to several adverse health outcomes, including addiction, cardiovascular and pulmonary effects..., mental illness, and other problems, including cognitive impairment and reduced educational attainment. There seems to be an increased risk of chronic psychosis disorders, including schizophrenia, in persons with a predisposition to such disorders. The use of high potency products, higher frequency of use and early initiation are predictors of worse health outcomes.

The health effects I just described are very serious. They come at a high cost to Canadian taxpayers, and an even higher individual cost to the person experiencing any of these health problems. Knowing this, the recreational use of marijuana should never be encouraged. This is particularly critical when it comes to young Canadians. A young person's brain continues to develop until the age of 25. Although provinces are able to set a higher age, the cannabis act recommends the age of 18 as a federal minimum. That means the Liberals are recommending legalizing marijuana for individuals seven years before their brain finishes developing.

Medical professionals have testified that increased use before the age of 25 increases the risk of developing mental disorders by up to 30% compared to those who have not used marijuana before the age of 25. I would argue that what one permits, one promotes, and knowing what one allows, one encourages. Knowing the medical facts we know, it is irresponsible to allow an 18-year-old to legally smoke recreational marijuana. The Liberals are normalizing drug use and knowingly putting Canada's young people at a disadvantage.

A concern was raised during the study of this bill at the House's health committee that by setting the age at 18 for legal recreational use, there was a greater chance it would land in the hands of even younger children.

The point was raised that children 16 or 17 years old are more likely to be around 18-year-olds than, say, a 21-year-old. This means that the legislation as it is could increase the likelihood of a minor using marijuana. Let us not forget that this legislation actually allows children aged 12 to 17 to possess up to five grams of marijuana. That is the equivalent to 10 to 15 joints. If the message the Liberals are trying to send to the youth is that they should not use marijuana, they have missed the mark. The legal quantity of marijuana possession for children aged 12 to 17 should be zero. Zero sends the right message.

A public education and awareness campaign would also help send the right message. A campaign of this regard should be implemented before the legalization of marijuana and not after. While Health Canada is putting together a program, there has been no indication that it will be rolled out before the legalization of marijuana, and there is no requirement of sorts. There are no provisions in the cannabis act for public education. If not rejected, this legislation should at least be put on pause until a public education plan is rolled out. It also should not be rushed ahead when provinces, municipalities, police forces, and employers are not ready to implement it.

The belief that legalizing recreational marijuana use will eliminate the black market is also flawed. That outcome is dependent on a wide variety of factors, many of which are being left up to the provinces. The fact that this act legalizes home grow plants is actually more likely to result in an increase in the size of the black market. This bill allows individuals to grow four plants per dwelling, with no height restrictions on the plants. Four plants could yield up to 600 grams of marijuana. That is a large quantity and it could easily be trafficked. A network of home grows could easily contribute to organized crime. There is also the question of how the four plant policy will be enforced.

In addition to the impact on the black market, the home grow provision in this legislation also raises other concerns. When marijuana plants are grown in homes, marijuana becomes even more accessible to young Canadians. There is also no ability to control the quality of the marijuana that is grown in someone's home. This directly counteracts a stated purpose of this legislation.

The impact of marijuana plants on a home could be very significant. It is a known fact that the moisture from marijuana plants can create mould and spores in the structure of a home. This can impact the structural security of a home. It can also result in air quality that is harmful to a person's health.

There is also the concern that there is a 24 times greater incident of fire in residences growing marijuana. This creates even more danger for individuals living in apartments and multi-unit dwellings. This legislation also creates a unique concern for landlords.

I have raised many concerns with the legislation before us. I did not even get to the very valid concerns of many Canadians who are concerned with the odour of recreational marijuana use, or the issues of second-hand smoke and drug-impaired driving. Employers are also concerned with marijuana use in the workplace and its impact on workplace safety.

The cannabis act is irresponsible legislation. It fails to meet its intended purpose. It does not keep marijuana out of the hands of children. It does not keep profits out of the hands of criminals. It does not address the many concerns that have been raised by scientists, doctors, and law enforcement.

The cannabis act is being rushed through to fulfill a political promise, and doing so sacrifices public health and safety.

Conservatives will not support the Prime Minister's ill-conceived plan to legalize this harmful drug. Canadians deserve better.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, I disagree very strongly with the member's remarks.

She spent a lot of time canvassing many of the negative health impacts of cannabis, which I fully accept. In fact, she suggested that some advocates for the legalization of cannabis suggest that marijuana is some sort of a harmless drug. I have not heard that from any member in any party in the House, and I resent the fact that such a straw man argument was presented during the course of her remarks.

We have a system today that criminally prohibits possession and use, and it has proven to be incredibly ineffective. Canada is among the very worst of any country in the world when it comes to the consequences that impact our youth today from the over-consumption of cannabis.

Why is the hon. member committing to a system that has proven to be ineffective, rather than trying something new, something that is based on the advice of experts, and something that will reduce consumption by young people and divert profits away from organized crime?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, in my previous line of work I worked a lot with children and youth, and I have worked in situations where psychiatrists cannot differentiate what is the marijuana consumption side effect and what is the psychosis, whether it is from depression, anxiety, or whatever it is. It makes it difficult to treat patients.

What is most alarming about all this is we have not even seen a public health campaign about this, and how we are going to make children aware that this is unsafe for them. The fear I have is that we are going to normalize this and hurt young Canadian children who will be our leaders for tomorrow.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, the argument presented by the other side seems to be that this drug is so dangerous, has such extraordinarily harmful effects, is so volatile, and in particular has such a drastic impact on young children that we need to leave it in the hands of criminals. If this drug is as dangerous as the members say, it needs to be made illegal in terms of the current system, but the current system has not prevented it from getting into the hands of youth. In fact, the member opposite just said that people she sees are getting access to the drug, which means the former government's approach to this placed it in the hands of kids. If it is that dangerous, that system is unacceptable.

Clearly, a regulated system that restricts it and focuses on keeping it away from young people is a better way to go than simply the status quo, which the member has already said is so dangerous and so ill thought-out that people could not tell the difference between the psychotic episodes and consumption. Regulating it and keeping it out of the hands of young people is a responsible, smart thing to do. However, if it is this dangerous, why would the party opposite want to leave it in the hands of criminals to finance criminal behaviour in their communities?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I am not sure if the member opposite listened to what I had to say.

The way this legislation is written, children aged 12 to 17 can be in possession of it. This is alarming. We do not have a public health campaign out there right now teaching children or talking about it with children, that this is potentially harmful and dangerous for them. I do not see how the government would protect children when the legislation is written as it is and the Liberals have refused amendments from the other place that would address this.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:25 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, I want to advise the member opposite that one of the harms we are trying to protect children from is getting criminal records, and so we worked with all the provinces and territories. The Province of Saskatchewan has actually enacted legislation that creates an offence for the purchase, possession, and consumption of cannabis for anyone under the age of majority. Therefore, the member's concern that young people would have legal access to this is simply not correct. It will be dealt with in provincial legislation, which is the proportional and appropriate legislative regulatory response.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I find that statement to be a little rich. It seems we have a government right now that decides when it wants to respect provincial jurisdiction and when it does not.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:25 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, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-45, the cannabis act.

I would like to begin my remarks by acknowledging the very comprehensive and important work of the Senate. The depth and breadth of its review was unprecedented for any proposed federal legislation that has come before it. It included extensive studies by five committees, which together conducted 47 meetings over 195 hours and heard testimony from over 200 experts and witnesses.

We have followed this process very closely. We have listened very carefully to the thoughtful questions and observations put forth by the members of the other place. The country has been well served by their careful attention to this important issue, and we are deeply and sincerely appreciative of their hard work and wise counsel.

I would also like to acknowledge the work of the aboriginal peoples committee. The government's response benefited tremendously and was made better by its advice and advocacy. I am sincerely grateful for its advice and counsel, which I believe has significantly improved the government's response to indigenous community concerns.

The Senate's comprehensive study has also provided parliamentarians and Canadians alike with an opportunity to learn more about the government's policy to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis, including understanding the main objectives and features of the proposed framework. One of the things I have been struck by throughout this process is the overwhelming consensus among nearly all parties that the government must do more to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens—our kids—from the health and social harms that the current failing system of cannabis prohibition has led to.

Prohibition has not stopped our young people from accessing and using this drug. In fact, Canada's record of youth consumption of cannabis is among the worst in the world. Prohibition has enriched organized crime in the billions of dollars each year while exposing Canadians to an unregulated, untested, and unsafe drug. Finally, the failed system of criminal prohibition has resulted in the criminalization of hundreds of thousands of Canadians and contributed to an unjust disparity and impact on vulnerable communities.

Prohibition has failed. We cannot regulate and control a prohibited substance. It is only by ending the prohibition, which is what legalization is, that we are able to implement a comprehensive and far more effective system of strict regulatory control. It means replacing a dangerous system of illicit production and grow ops with a strictly regulated, licensed regime that provides for adherence to rigorous health and security standards, oversight, testing, and accountability. For the provinces and territories, it means displacing drug dealers and illicit dispensaries with a strictly regulated distribution system, which will do an infinitely better job of keeping cannabis out of the hands of kids and redirect revenues from criminal enterprises to the public good.

Bill C-45 acknowledges and respects the jurisdictions of the provinces and territories to strictly regulate all aspects of distribution and consumption to reduce the social and health harms related to the current failed system of cannabis control. I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge and thank each of the provinces and territories for their excellent collaborative work in bringing forward their respective legislative framework and, in particular, for providing a proportionate and enforceable prohibition for the possession, purchase, and consumption of cannabis for young people under the age of majority that will allow law enforcement to do their job of protecting youth but which will not expose our kids to the harm of a criminal record.

Although the government commends the valuable work done in the other place in conducting a thorough study of Bill C-45, it is our government's view that some of the amendments adopted would not fully support the bill's policy objectives and could have unintended consequences. For example, the other place adopted an amendment that would prohibit prosecution by indictment when an 18-year-old or 19-year-old distributed five grams or less of dried cannabis to a youth that is less than two years younger. The amendment would also allow for tickets to be issued in such circumstances. Finally, this amendment would also allow for a parent or guardian to share cannabis with their 16-year-old or 17-year-old children at home.

Our government has consistently indicated that the proposed cannabis act would not provide a mechanism whereby young persons could legally access cannabis. In fact, we strengthened penalties for adults who provide cannabis to minors or to use it to commit cannabis-related offences. However, the parental exception created by this amendment would essentially serve to create a legal supply channel in the cannabis act for 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds to access cannabis and would allow a parent or guardian to distribute up to 30 grams of dried cannabis to their 16-year-old or 17-year-old children or wards at home. A youth could in turn distribute up to five grams of dried cannabis received from their parent or guardian in the home with other youth outside the home.

Both the parental exception and the elimination of the ability to prosecute by indictment for close-in-age sharing of small amounts would serve to encourage and normalize cannabis use by our youth and is therefore not accepted by our government.

Ultimately, the crown should retain discretion on how to proceed, based on the circumstances before it. By not accepting this amendment, such discretion would be preserved, and where appropriate, the crown could elect to proceed summarily. This amendment goes against the fundamental objective of the bill, and that is why we are unable to support it.

Next, the Senate has recommended 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. In addition to raising significant concerns from a privacy perspective, this amendment would likely engender a number of significant operational challenges.

For example, the inherent volatility of shareholding in publicly traded corporations could make the proposed reporting requirements practically impossible to meet, and could cause extreme delays in licensing. Moreover, it could also impose unprecedented requirements on businesses operating in the legal cannabis industry, making their treatment inconsistent with the treatment of businesses operating in other sectors of the Canadian economy.

The proposed act was carefully designed to ensure that its current provisions comply with privacy and other obligations and that it respects our charter. Our government has robust physical and personal security screening processes in place for the existing cannabis for medical purposes industry, which is designed to guard against infiltration by organized crime. For example, all officers and directors of a company must undergo thorough law enforcement record checks prior to licensing.

As part of a 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. An amendment to Bill C-45, adopted by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, would also give the minister expanded powers in this regard.

We have designed and implemented a rigorous and robust security framework that we believe will prevent organized crime and illegal money from infiltrating the legal cannabis market. For those reasons, we do not support this amendment.

Finally, I turn to the amendment proposed by the Senate with respect to allowing provinces to prohibit personal cultivation. The determination of four plants as an appropriate and reasonable limit to allow Canadians to engage in personal cultivation only for their use was arrived at after very careful consideration through examination of other jurisdictions and consultation across the country by both our task force and our senior officials. It was intended to allow those who may not otherwise have access to this drug, as a result of being from remote communities or perhaps being underprivileged, to have reasonable access. The limitation of four plants was also determined to be a safe limit, whereby the commercialization of that would be highly unlikely, and prevented by other sections in the act, and that any effort to sell that would be criminalized.

At the same time, our government has created an offence for producing more than four plants. However, we also have been very clear that we have acknowledged the provincial jurisdiction to impose strict regulation in relation to personal cultivation. For example, we have acknowledged that any province can place limits on the number of plants up to four and can place restrictions and regulations determining limits on location, safety, security, health concerns, and the size of fences. They can impose a requirement for permits, for example, and fees to be paid.

What we have also recognized is that prohibition does not work, and the effort to continue to enforce a prohibition takes away a province's and a municipality's opportunity to regulate this behaviour. We have seen the failure of prohibition. We have seen it has resulted in an unsafe situation in all of our communities. It has put our kids at risk and enriched organized crime. We believe that by imposing a strict regulatory framework, federally, provincially, and municipally, we will be able to do a much better job of controlling this behaviour to ensure we reduce the social and health harms to our kids, protect our communities, and protect the health of our citizens.

Despite the disagreements we may have on specific amendments, I want to reiterate that based on our extensive study over the last two years, the government is confident that Bill C-45 represents a balanced approach that will help meet our objectives. This is why we believe the amendments proposed in the other place need to be carefully considered, with a view to maintaining that balance and avoid unintended consequences, through the implementation of a new regime.

Where a disagreement exists with respect to a provincial authority, our government is not telling the provinces and territories that they cannot strictly regulate. However, we have also acknowledged that there may be limits to their ability to do that. The government is not saying that the Province of Quebec cannot prohibit personal cultivation. Nor are we prepared to authorize that in our legislation. We recognize that the failure of prohibition should not be perpetuated and continued in the country when we have an opportunity to regulate this substance properly.