Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleague from Trois-Rivières. He gave a passionate speech, although it did come a little early.
I want to thank my colleague as well, the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, for his very passionate and clear support for my initiative. I am grateful to him for the clarity and for demonstrating the very obvious distinction that the government seems to wish to gloss over between what are now called record suspensions or pardons, and the notion of expungement, which, of course, is at the heart of my bill.
As a private member's bill, members would know that I was not able to talk about the automatic expungement, because that would cost money and private members' bills are not allowed to do that. Therefore, I was left with an application process of my own. What troubles me is that the government is trying to conflate expungement and pardon as if there were no difference, and to make an argument, frankly a legally baseless argument, that expungement is somehow to be reserved, as the Liberals have chosen to do with Bill C-66, for activities that violate the charter. First of all, as I pointed out in my speech on Bill C-93 on Monday, going through a number of scholars like Professor Roach, Professor Berger and others, there is absolutely no distinction for that. More importantly, the government itself continues to acknowledge that it has no choice; it is from government records.
However, this law, which has been around since 1922, the prohibition on cannabis, has had a disproportionate impact on indigenous people and black people in particular. The government admits that, yet the Liberals are content to stand here six months after they brought in the law that made cannabis legal, in essentially the dying days of Parliament, to bring forward a half measure that likely will not get on the order book. It is something they can check off, I presume, during the campaign. Whether it gets through the Senate, the House and all of its committees before then, I have my doubts. Nevertheless, they have chosen to do this. This has an impact on real people's lives. The government acknowledges that, but the Liberals are prepared nevertheless to do this application process.
The Liberals pejoratively say that I recommended there be an army of summer students. I did no such thing. There are ways to deal with it. If it costs money and it is inconvenient, let us talk about what it means to that black person in Toronto who cannot get his or her foot on the social ladder and has to perhaps be on social assistance, or that indigenous person who cannot rent an apartment because they have a criminal record. The government will say that the Canadian Human Rights Act has an answer for that, but that is not living in the real world, as far as I can tell. It is disappointing.
With regard to the government's initiative, the welcome that it is waiving the fees and making it faster, I would characterize it as a good first step. However, it is too little and it is certainly too late. It is disappointing that we here on this, and it is disappointing that the government has not done the full measure. I was hoping that my bill could go to committee along with Bill C-93, and people of goodwill could try to find a solution which would involve expungement, and make the changes that even the government admits are necessary. However, this measure simply will not do the job.