Mr. Speaker, today, we are talking about Bill C-93, an act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis.
This bill seeks to make changes to the pardon process and eliminate fees for Canadians who were convicted of marijuana possession before cannabis was legalized in October 2018.
Now that cannabis has been legalized, this bill seeks to help Canadians who were convicted of something that is now legal by allowing them to apply for a record suspension without being subject to the usual waiting period or fees. For the information of those watching at home, offenders currently have to wait five to 10 years after serving their sentence, depending on the type of conviction, before they can apply for a pardon. They also have to pay about $600.
This enactment amends the Criminal Records Act and makes reference to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Narcotic Control Act and the National Defence Act.
We are days away from the end of this Parliament and this government, which was elected in 2015. At the time, the Liberal government made a lot of promises to get elected. Only one of those promises was kept, namely to legalize marijuana. It seems that was important to Canadians. During the next election campaign, in September, the Liberals will brag about their record and say that the only thing they did was legalize marijuana.
Today, the Liberals are doing things at the last minute again after dragging their feet for three and a half years. I recently made a speech in which I referred to the fable of the ant and the grasshopper, but I will not get into that again. We know that the grasshopper represents the Liberals and the ant represents the Conservatives, diligent, hard-working people who are ready to take the bull by the horns. We will have to fix the mess the Liberal government has gotten us into.
I would like to remind hon. members that Bill C-45, the cannabis legalization act, had two objectives, namely to protect our young people and to eliminate organized crime. I must admit that those are commendable objectives. However, the Liberal government sped up the process. We question their motives, but I will not get into that.
I believe they were serious about what they wanted to achieve, but the actual process of legalization was botched because the Liberals rushed the process. In Quebec, they rushed the process so much that the shops selling cannabis have to close for two to three days a week due to poor management and inadequate supply. That is a testament to the government's improvised approach.
Furthermore, a number of news articles are saying that organized crime is thrilled that the Liberal government is promoting this product, which, in my opinion, is harmful to young people 25 and under, but let us not reopen that debate. They Liberals have a majority and they legalized marijuana, and now we have to live with it. We will need to assess and deal with the consequences.
In an effort to eliminate organized crime, the Liberals are promoting cannabis. Who benefits from this promotion? The answer is organized crime, because there is not enough supply and cannabis has been trivialized. Young people are hearing that there is nothing wrong with cannabis and that it is good for you.
I will read an article by Antoine Lacroix that was published in Le Journal de Montréal on May 16 entitled “Spike in Cannabis Poisoning in Kids since Legalization”. Conservatives are not making this up.
Hospitals are becoming increasingly concerned.
A large increase in the number of children with cannabis poisoning since legalization is worrying medical experts, who are calling on parents to make sure that their pot products are out of reach.
“This is not something we saw a lot with kids under the age of seven. Before 2016, it would be once every three years”...bemoaned Dr. Dominic Chalut, an emergency room physician and toxicologist at Montreal Children's Hospital.
I did not say that he was a Conservative. I just gave his title. He is a doctor, an emergency room physician and toxicologist at Montreal Children's Hospital. I think he is credible. I am not making this up.
The article continues:
Dr. Chalut thinks that the phenomenon will get worse once edibles are legalized in Canada, even though they are already easily accessible.
The Liberals believe they have everything under control since cannabis was legalized, that organized crime is out, that all is well and that Canadians are not dealing with a dangerous product. I have to wonder how reliable and stringent they are.
I will continue:
Impact also felt at Sainte-Justine
On Wednesday, the [Montreal Children's Hospital] called on parents to be vigilant. Since October 17, 2018, 26 children have been treated for poisoning, compared to “a handful per year” previously.
Sainte-Justine Hospital has also seen a twofold increase in poisonings in the past year.
It is important to keep in mind that marijuana was legalized less than a year ago.
“The trend is rather alarming, and we are seeing an uptick in the number of cases. We are going to have to pay very close attention to this”, said Dr. Antonio D'Angelo, a pediatric emergency doctor.
Experts point out that an amount that causes minor symptoms in an adult can have significantly more adverse effects in a child.
We stated that when debating Bill C-45.
In the worst cases, children went to intensive care to be treated for cannabis poisoning. The symptoms include convulsions, vomiting and drowsiness. The [hospital] reports that the youngest patient was under a year old.
The Quebec Poison Control Centre is asking people to be cautious, as they are seeing a sharp increase in poisoning among adults and children.
On October 17, 2019, Ottawa will legalize edibles, such as gummy candies and pot brownies, across the country. The provincial government, on the other hand, has not yet decided whether to authorize edibles.
I could go on, but I will get back to Bill C-93. I just wanted to set the stage.
As I said, Bill C-93 seems to be a rush job. Apparently that is the Liberal way: wait until the last minute and get it done in a hurry.
The Liberals were criticized for legalizing marijuana, but they did not learn from that experience. Now, yet again, they are scrambling to repair the damage they did.
We are in favour of pardons. We want to make sure the process is fair. I think fairness for all Canadians is a very important concept. To demonstrate our good will, we helped draft the bill and proposed a number of amendments in committee. The committee was impartial, which meant that we could present our amendments and they were agreed to. The Liberals, the Green Party and the Conservatives all presented amendments, but the NDP did not. I do not know where the NDP members were. For our part, we take this seriously and felt it was important to participate in the committee. That demonstrates our good will. We are parliamentarians and we are here to help make the best laws possible. That is why we, as Conservatives, get involved.
The Liberals did not agree to all our amendments, but they did agree to two of them, and that improved the bill's procedural fairness. Because of our amendments, the Parole Board will have to include a review of this program in its annual report.
It is important to understand that the well-being of all Canadians is important to us, as is fairness.
We want to reassure Canadians that when we gain power in October 2019, we will make some changes to smartly and carefully meet Canadians' needs and guarantee their safety.