Mr. Speaker, during the last election, we promised to legalize and regulate cannabis. In October, we kept that promise.
The goal was to be more effective in keeping cannabis away from our kids and reduce the illegal profits of organized crime. As L'actualité journalist Alec Castonguay recently noted, “Organized crime no longer has a complete monopoly over the cannabis market. It is losing its footing.” That is great news.
That is not all. Bill , which was strengthened by a few amendments made in committee, will enable Canadians with a criminal record for simple cannabis possession to have their record quickly suspended so they can move on with their lives.
Bill would allow Canadians with criminal records for simple possession of cannabis to get pardons from the Parole Board with no application fee and no wait time.
Getting a pardon means that if a prospective employer or a landlord runs a criminal record check, it will come up empty. That makes it much easier for people to find a job or a place to live. It also makes it easier to get an education, to travel or just volunteer with a kids' hockey team.
Members of certain communities, particularly people of African descent and indigenous Canadians, have been disproportionately affected by the counter-productive criminalization of cannabis that we finally ended last fall. That is why we have taken the unprecedented steps of waiving the fee and the waiting period.
Without this bill, applicants would have to pay a $631 fee and wait five to 10 years to have their criminal records suspended. Bill will completely eliminate those obstacles.
Bill C-93 also eliminates the usual subjective criteria applied by the Parole Board of Canada. Usually, the Parole Board member who examines an application for pardon must take into consideration the good conduct of the applicant and determine whether a pardon would bring that individual a measurable benefit. However, no discretionary factors will be taken into account in applications submitted under Bill .
Everything I have mentioned thus far, from the elimination of the $631 fee to the elimination of the waiting period of up to 10 years and the elimination of subjective criteria, was in the original version of this bill. The public safety committee has studied the legislation and sent it back to us with several additional provisions that make it even stronger.
Thanks to an amendment from the member for , a cannabis possession conviction will not count against an individual if that individual is applying for a pardon for other prior offences.
An amendment from the member for ensures that cannabis possession convictions pardoned under Bill cannot be reinstated simply on the basis of the person no longer being “of good conduct”.
Incidentally, it is important to mention that when it comes to the permanence of pardons, it is worth remembering that half a million pardons have been issued in Canada since 1970, and 95% of them are still in effect.
Records are reinstated only in exceptional circumstances, such as the commission of a new offence, and the amendment from the member for will make sure that for people pardoned under this legislation, that will no longer apply.
The bill also now includes an important amendment from the member for , allowing people to apply for expedited pardons for cannabis possession even if they have outstanding fines associated with their conviction.
Why is that important? One of the main reasons people apply for pardons is to be able to get a job and earn a paycheque. That can be a catch-22 for people who need a pardon to earn money but need money to get a pardon. We were already waiving the $631 fee and now, even if people still owe a fine or a surcharge, they can get their pardon anyway.
That brings me to the report stage amendments the government is presenting today.
The first relates to the amendment made in committee, which I just mentioned. As things stand, the applicant has to provide the board with police and court documents demonstrating the nature of the conviction. Under Bill , the applicant must demonstrate that the substance in question was indeed cannabis and that there is no outstanding sentence associated with the offence.
Information about sentences can usually be found in court documents. Given that unpaid fines will no longer matter, we propose amending the bill such that court records are no longer required from applicants whose only sentence was a fine. That would address the committee's recommendation that the government find more ways to make pardons for simple possession of cannabis even more accessible. We continue to work with the Parole Board of Canada to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from this new system.
There was another amendment that was made at committee, and I thank the member for for proposing it. It won the unanimous support of the committee, and I understand why.
It is possible in certain cases that relevant police and court records simply will not be available, especially if a lot of time has passed. In those cases, the member's proposal was to let applicants submit sworn statements saying that their only conviction was for simple possession of cannabis. The Parole Board would then make inquiries and could issue a pardon if it were ultimately convinced. The principle of this amendment is in line with other measures in Bill that aim to make pardons for cannabis possession as accessible as possible.
The problem is that, unfortunately, it is not likely to work in practice. If someone has a criminal record that says “possession of a controlled substance” but there are no police or court records available to prove that it was cannabis, that person would submit a sworn statement. The Parole Board would then make inquiries, and the only inquiry it could really make would be to go back to the police and the court and ask them to double-check. When the response comes back saying, “We told you the first time, we don't have those records”, there would be no way for the board to be sure what the substance was. The person could still get a pardon, but he or she would have to follow the usual process.
Unfortunately, therefore, the use of sworn statements in this context would result in more work for Parole Board staff, as well as for local police and court officials, but not more accessible pardons for Canadians, which is the goal of this piece of legislation. That is why we are proposing to remove it from the bill.
This bill is a major step forward that will change the lives of Canadians who have been stigmatized by convictions for simple possession of cannabis. Four years ago, when some people wanted to maintain the prohibition on cannabis or just wanted to decriminalize it, which would have meant fining marginalized people, we proposed legalizing it, period.
We made legalization happen. I encourage all my colleagues to support Bill so that people weighed down by a criminal record for simple possession of cannabis can rid themselves of that burden quickly.
Madam Speaker, thank you for bringing some order to the House when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Border Security was arguing with the NDP. I am here to present our arguments.
I was talking about our , who made a lot of promises in 2015. Many Canadians put their trust in him; they saw him as a beacon of hope. Now, in 2019, it is clear that he made a lot of promises and ultimately did not achieve much.
Canadians are giving up. They are tired of seeing the Prime Minister dance around when it comes time to work. They are frustrated with seeing the Prime Minister talk when he should be taking action. They are worried that the Prime Minister is welcoming terrorists, contract killers and other criminals without lifting a finger to help victims of human trafficking and our veterans who gave everything for Canada. They are sick of seeing the Liberals go after law-abiding citizens and ignoring organized crime and ISIS traitors. They are sick of it.
They saw the Prime Minister go after women in his cabinet because they resisted. What was their crime? They wanted to obey the law. Canadians are sick of seeing this Prime Minister refuse to take responsibility for his mistakes, and this October they will take action. A number of Liberal members have already taken action, in fact. Several have already quit the caucus and many others have announced that they are leaving politics. Even the Toronto Star is touting a potential replacement for the position of prime minister and leader of the Liberal Party.
Before talking about Bill C-93, I have to say a few words about Bill , because one complements the other. To give credit where credit is due, one of the Prime Minister’s few accomplishments was passing Bill C-45. However, let's not forget that it was a botched bill. It was passed in the House and became law, but it was botched.
The Prime Minister decided that his commitment to passing Bill C-45 was a national priority. Everything was a priority. There was nothing more important in Canada than legalizing marijuana. Organized crime, violence against women and the economy paled in comparison to legalizing weed.
Now that Bill C-45 has been in force since October 2018, Bill C-93 is being introduced at the last minute, once again, at the tail end of the current session and Parliament. They want to rush to expunge the records of people accused of simple possession of cannabis in the past.
Normally, an offender with a conviction on their record has to wait five to 10 years before applying for a pardon and pay a $631 fee. Originally, the fee was set based on the cost to the Canadian government and to taxpayers. We agreed that applying for a pardon for simple possession of marijuana should be free, even though sound stewardship of public funds is a Conservative priority. One of the reasons we did not oppose this measure was that the committee learned that no more than 10,000 people would be eligible to apply for a pardon, costing taxpayers about $2.5 million. That is what officials told us.
It is important to remember that the goal is to grant a pardon to those who have been convicted of simple possession of cannabis and do not have an extensive criminal record. We understand these convictions are often the result of youthful indiscretion. It was also explained to us that the indigenous and black communities are disproportionately affected and are less likely to have the resources to apply for a pardon. We are flexible on this point, and we accept the facts. There is no problem there.
However, there is a problem with the way Bill C-93 was crafted. Some of our amendments were accepted, and we thank our colleagues on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for that. The fact remains that the bill still has a few flaws.
The Conservatives' amendments improved the bill's procedural fairness and require the Parole Board of Canada to include a review of the program in its annual report, which will enable us to review the legislation the year after it comes into force.
Currently, the record suspension process is a user-pay system. Earlier, the member mentioned the $631 record suspension fee. Now that cost is estimated at $250, which justifies the $2.5 million I mentioned.
The other option, expungement, would involve minimal cost, but it would not apply to individuals charged with more serious offences who negotiated lesser charges or were in possession of a quantity above the current legal limit. In general, law enforcement organizations are in favour of record suspension for simple possession, but they want us to take into account individuals who pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of simple possession.
Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, testified that, in those circumstances, it is possible that both the Crown and the court may have accepted the plea agreement based on the assumption that the conviction would be a permanent record of the offence and would not have accepted the lesser charge if they had known this would be cleared without any possibility of review at a future date.
That is why I moved a motion to amend the bill. This amendment would delete clause 6. The Canadian Police Association explained that the Parole Board of Canada must retain the discretion to conduct additional checks because every case is different. Clause 6 of Bill , as it is currently drafted, does not enable the Parole Board of Canada to do its job properly.
In his haste to meet his self-imposed political deadline, the failed to consider the many concerns of municipalities, law enforcement, employers, scientists and doctors regarding the legalization of cannabis. Similarly, the Liberals introduced legislation that correlates with the legalization of cannabis in the last few weeks of this Parliament without listening to the main stakeholders, including law enforcement.
Now that cannabis is legal, the Conservatives understand that criminal records for simple possession of cannabis should not place an unfair burden on Canadians. However, we will be monitoring the implementation of the bill. We promise to determine whether it is working and whether it is fair when we take office in October.
As with Bill , the Conservatives will also amend Bill in order to ensure that it effectively provides appropriate access to no-fee record suspension. We believe that Canadians should have timely access to no-fee record suspension and we will ensure that the law upholds the integrity of the Parole Board of Canada so that Canadians have their records suspended.
Come October, when we form the government, we will have a lot of cleaning up to do. Our priority will be the real needs of Canadians, including their safety and their prosperity. Everything we do will be for Canadians. When we go to India, it will not be to dance and wear costumes. When we go to Washington, it will be to work and to clean up the mess made of the new free trade agreement. When we invest taxpayers' money, I guarantee it will not be to reward murderers, terrorists or dictatorships that are detaining our citizens on bogus charges. We will also clean up the mess at our borders. We will prioritize new Canadians who obey Canadian laws, and we will crack down on those who cheat and jump the queue. As a government, we will show compassion to those in need, as well as taxpayers. We will take action to improve the environment, but not by dipping into taxpayers' pockets.
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin today by quoting Solomon Friedman, a defence attorney who appeared before the committee.
I think that this quote clearly states what we think of this bill.
I should first note that Bill C-93 is better than nothing. But better than nothing is a mighty low bar for our Parliament. You can do better. You must do better. Instead, I would urge a scheme of expungement along the lines already provided for in the Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act.
I would add here that that was a bill presented by the government. He went on to say that the record of these convictions for the simple possession of cannabis “should be expunged permanently and automatically”.
I also want to read a quote from Elana Finestone, from the Native Women's Association of Canada:
Unfortunately, the effects of the bill will go unrealized for many indigenous women with criminal records for simple possession of cannabis. Simply put, the bill remains inaccessible for indigenous women who are poor and have administration of justice issues associated with their simple possession of cannabis conviction.
I must repeat what I said in my questions earlier. I have never seen such a sorry, pathetic attempt. I have all the respect in the world for our public servants, and they told the committee that it was too much work for them. They said that there were no systems in place that would allow them to expunge criminal records for simple possession, as parliamentarians wanted. This is unacceptable, and this is a far cry from the Liberals' claims of “better is always possible”. As members can see in the quotes I read out, that certainly does not apply to this bill.
Furthermore, when the minister appeared in committee, he was unable to answer my very simple questions. The , the who just spoke, the and the associate minister in charge of border security have all acknowledged, on different occasions, the impact that pre-legalization laws had on indigenous peoples, racialized persons, the poor and all marginalized Canadians. They all acknowledged this.
What the Liberals did with Bill , which provided for the expungement of the criminal records of LGBTQ people, was a good, commendable thing. It was what a fair and just society should do. The Liberals expunged those criminal records.
Why did they not do the same thing in this case? I asked the minister that question. Unbelievably, he responded that Bill C-66 had to do with violating rights that were protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Excuse me, but that is quite an arbitrary criterion. I asked all of the witnesses who appeared in committee whether the law included the concept of injustice specifically with respect to a violation of our rights protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They all told me that it did not.
Not only did they say no, but Kent Roach specifically recognized that the 's standard for defining historical injustice is nothing but a fabrication of the government, an arbitrary measuring stick that it put in place with Bill , and now suddenly it does not want to follow through with Bill for these marginalized Canadians who, in a different way, have been victims of their own historical injustice.
I could not put it better than Cannabis Amnesty put it at committee when it quoted a Supreme Court decision that recognized that a law can be found to have been discriminatory even if the law itself is not discriminatory, but its application has been discriminatory. It is hard to find better examples in the history of our country than the war on drugs and the criminalization of simple possession of cannabis.
The , being unable to respond to those questions, led a parade of witnesses at committee who all agreed with the sentiment expressed in the quotes I shared with the House, that this bill is nothing more than an 11th hour attempt to check off a box and really does very little.
Putting the onus on marginalized Canadians is never going to lead to the kind of justice this bill purports to want to attain. Why? We just need to look at Bill and the expungement of the criminal records of LGBTQ Canadians. Seven out of the 9,000 some-odd Canadians who could have applied have applied. There are seven out of 9,000, and change. What would be different this time? We asked the officials and they were unable to provide us with an answer, except to say they are going to come up with creative ad campaigns using social media and things like that. It is unbelievable to think that we are going to reach the most marginalized in our society by coming up with fancy hashtags and buzzwords on social media. It is simply mind-boggling.
My speaking time at report stage is limited. I have just 10 minutes, but I want to talk about the amendments that were adopted.
First, there is the amendment proposed by the Green Party. To be clear, this amendment was proposed by the Green Party and then amended by the Liberals. At first glance, it seems well intentioned. It ensures that record suspensions remain in effect regardless of the good behaviour criteria that usually applies. That is something we support in principle. We support it because a record suspension can be revoked under these criteria, for a speeding ticket for instance. We can all agree that this type of assessment is profoundly unjust.
However, the Green Party's amendment amended by the Liberals omits a very important aspect. This is not just about good behaviour. Under this amendment, a Canadian whose criminal record is suspended under the terms of Bill C-93 and who commits a crime thereafter will have their criminal record suspension annulled and will continue to carry the burden of their criminal record for simple possession of cannabis. They will then be unable to make an application under the terms of Bill C-93.
This means that marginalized Canadians, who belong to the various groups that were just mentioned, could presumably benefit from the process set out in Bill C-93, but not if they commit a crime thereafter. Clearly, we are not pardoning the crime that has been committed, whether it is proven in court or not. However, we know that all sorts of factors could come into play, such as mental health, housing and the discrimination that exists in our legal system and our criminal justice system. This means that, whenever another crime is committed, the activity previously engaged in that is now considered legal remains illegal. That is utterly absurd and illogical. I have a very hard time understanding how a government that says it wants to help these people can go in that direction.
I could not believe what the member for said at committee. I felt like I was in the last Parliament, with Vic Toews as Minister of Public Safety. At committee, I said that Canadians who obtain a record suspension for simple possession of cannabis should be allowed to keep that record suspension even if they have committed other crimes, because simple possession of cannabis is now legal. To paraphrase her quite accurately, she said that the NDP was trying to make it easier for murderers to obtain record suspensions. I invite Canadians to look at the transcript.
That is the kind of rhetoric that led to a change in government in 2015. We have a member of Parliament from downtown Toronto employing the same rhetoric as Stephen Harper's Conservatives in the previous Parliament. That is unreal. All we are trying to do is to ensure that the most marginalized Canadians with criminal records for simple possession of cannabis do not continue to be criminalized because they get caught up in the continuing discrimination they have to live with from our criminal justice system.
I want to raise one last point because I have only a minute left. I want to talk about the administration of justice.
Representatives of various indigenous organizations talked to us about indigenous individuals who had a criminal record for simple possession of cannabis and who did not show up in court because the court was too far from where they live or because of any number of other factors one can think of that would interfere with getting to court. The representatives told us that these people, who get a record suspension—even though the NDP would have preferred an automatic expungement—these people cannot get a record suspension, much less an expungement, because they did not appear in court on charges of simple possession of cannabis, which is no longer a crime.
In conclusion, this government said it wanted to make things better, but it is a long way from delivering justice to the most marginalized members of our society.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to address Bill this morning. I found it actually quite excessive listening to my New Democrat friends on this issue. As the parliamentary secretary put it, I think it is important that we recognize that the NDP tends to grossly exaggerate its stand on a wide variety of issues. This is a good example of that.
In the last federal election, the New Democrats, under Mr. Mulcair, actually said that they were not in favour of the legalization of cannabis. That was their position. Now the member says that we should not hold them to account for what the NDP said back in the last federal election, but in the same speech, he said that he wants to hold us to account for what we said in the last election.
Let us talk about the cannabis issue. What did the government say back in 2015? The Liberals were very clear, and our leader was very clear, that we were in favour of the legalization of cannabis, because we wanted to protect our young people. We wanted to bring in strong regulations. We wanted to go after criminal activities. That was our justification for making that commitment to Canadians back in 2015. The Conservatives, on the other hand, wanted the status quo.
The NDP position was very clear. It did not want to legalize cannabis. It wanted to decriminalize cannabis. Reflect on that. I think the NDP is trying to find relevance in society today, because even the Green Party tends to outdo the NDP on the environment file. Many of the positions the NDP is adopting today are going to the Green Party. On this issue, it is following the Liberal Party. That is fine. We do not mind sharing our ideas with our NDP friends.
However, those following this debate should not be fooled by the type of information the New Democrats are providing on this issue. They argue for expungement, because they are grasping. A few years ago, they were not even in favour of the legalization of cannabis. During the 2015 campaign, we made a very strong presentation to Canadians, and Canadians accepted it, and now, through Bill , we actually have cannabis legalized here in Canada.
The Conservatives and the NDP, that unholy alliance, I would argue, at times come together. The last few days, they have been saying, “Here we are with 18 days left to go in this session and the government is wanting to rush things through.” When we were elected, we made a commitment to Canadians to work hard every day. What do they expect us to do, say that with only 18 days left in this session, we are going to stop, as if there is nothing else for us to do?
From day one, with that very first bill, Bill , to reduce taxes for Canada's middle class while at the same time increasing it for Canada's wealthiest 1%, until the last day we sit, this government's intention has been to continue to deliver for Canadians in a real and tangible way.
The legalization of cannabis took us a considerable amount of time. We cannot just bring in legislation and pass it. Legislation of that nature requires a great deal of background work, such as working with the many different stakeholders, provinces and indigenous leaders. We could not bring in this legislation before we even passed the other legislation.
This legislation is before us today because it is good, sound, solid legislation. This is the type of legislation that is going to have a profoundly positive impact on the lives of many Canadians. That is the reason we are debating it today.
Whether there are 16 days, 10 days or five days left does not really matter. At the end of the day, Canadians can know that this government will continue to work every day to advance good, strong social budgetary policies.
For individuals who have been convicted of simple possession of cannabis, this legislation would allow an expedited pardon for that particular conviction. It is as simple as that. This legislation would expedite it and ensure that there was no cost for receiving that pardon.
For those who have an interest in getting a pardon, this government has made it exceptionally easy for them to do. That is why this legislation is important. It is why we challenge all members of the House to support it.
With regard to the expungement argument being brought forward, a pardon is all that is required. It is far more than the NDP was prepared to offer in 2015. When its members say that it should be expungement, they should put an asterisk there to indicate that it is a lot more than what they were prepared to do back in 2015.
I know that the NDP had a change in leadership. I believe that the current leader says that the legalization of heroin and cocaine should be allowed. I believe that could be a potential election platform coming from the NDP. That is what its current leader has talked about in the past. Maybe the NDP might provide some clarity and transparency on that issue. We are glad that the NDP has accepted the idea of the legalization of cannabis.
The NDP had some influence with the Conservatives. Prior to the last election, the Conservative Party was outright against it. I remember the brochures, the propaganda and the myths being created. Even back then, the Conservatives were more focused on being critical of personalities than on substantive policy issues. The Conservatives were against it. They did not want legalization, and I do not believe they even favoured decriminalization. After the election, they started to talk about the decriminalization of cannabis.
A few of them are saying that they started talking about it a bit earlier. In fairness to my Conservative friends, that might be the case. Having said that, who were the biggest benefactors? I argue that it was the gangs and the criminal element that were the biggest benefactors of the Conservative policy on cannabis. Stop and think about that.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill , an act to provide record suspensions to individuals with convictions for simple possession of marijuana. While I agree in principle with the intent of this bill, I believe it is flawed and in need of further amendments.
Based on what we heard at committee, Bill was rushed, lacked consultation outside of the government and fails to achieve its objectives. This seems to be the theme with the current Liberal government. We know that with this bill, the government meant to provide a no-cost, simple process for those with convictions for simple possession of marijuana to obtain a record suspension. It also hoped to remove the stigma of a criminal conviction for this offence.
Using the evidence and testimony of experts at committee, we should be able to show a clear benefit to those targeted by the legislation. However, despite the 's best intentions, I am not sure any of these objectives were achieved. Even after two Conservative amendments were accepted by committee, one of which was removed this morning, the bill is only less bad; it has a long way to go.
To make a good decision on this legislation, the committee needed evidence and information from departments and agencies working on criminal records and record suspensions. The bill should not have been a surprise to anyone. The announced his plans for marijuana legislation in 2015. Clearly, some kind of amnesty or consideration would take place to try to balance the old and new realities that were occurring. The issue was raised in the House and by the media as legalization was occurring and after the legislation was passed. The government repeatedly told Canadians that it would bring in amnesty after legalization. On October 18, 2018, the said he would make things fairer and remove the stigma.
That is why it is so confusing. No one had any clear idea how many people would be eligible or would benefit, how to implement it or how much it would cost. When we asked officials how many people would be eligible, officials and the provided their best guess. That work would be challenging and time-consuming. Convictions are not listed as simple possession of marijuana. As the minister noted, in order to know who would be eligible, officials would need to know who had a record for possession of illegal substances and which of those was for simple possession of marijuana.
According to testimony at committee, Canadian conviction records do not generally say “cannabis possession”. That is not the language used. Rather, they say something like “possession of a schedule II substance”. Then the police and court documents have to be checked to find out what the particular substance was. Therefore, the blanket generic approach is not all that obvious, given the way the charges are entered and records are kept in the Canadian records system. Doing this for every drug possession charge that potentially involves cannabis would be a considerable undertaking, even if all the documents were in one central computer database. Additionally, many older records are paper copies kept in boxes in courthouses and police departments across the country.
We also do not know how many individuals the government expected to apply for this record suspension. Public Safety officials stated:
It's very difficult to know who has possession for cannabis offences, so we can't just go into a database and say this is how many offences there are. We've extrapolated from statistics collected by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, and their figure is upwards of 250,000 convictions for the simple possession of cannabis. That is a starting point. The number of people expected to apply is much lower.
The official, appearing before the public safety committee, went on to remind members that people can get that pardon solely if their only offence is for possession of cannabis. While people may have that offence, if they also have other offences on their record, they would not be eligible. She admitted that it was not an exact science, but the department had extrapolated from the figure of 250,000 and estimated that 10,000 would apply.
Outside experts have suggested that a significantly higher number of approximately 500,000 people in Canada have a record for cannabis. How many of those people would benefit from this? The and officials could not say. How much will taxpayers pay to provide a record suspension to someone who committed a minor offence? The minister and officials have guessed that to be about $2.5 million.
It is hard to understand the cost evaluation for a new process for an unknown number of people. We asked the to provide the committee with details of how the government reached its costs. The minister committed to providing that before we had to vote on the matter at committee, but here we are today and we have still not received that breakdown.
If costs are higher than the anticipated amount that was presented to us by the , the Parole Board will have to pass it on, either to taxpayers or to applicants in another process.
One thing the committee heard from almost all the legal witnesses was the challenge of obtaining record suspensions, especially for individuals who could benefit from this record suspension the most. The process to apply can be quite onerous for individuals who are not necessarily legally or administratively savvy. They need to obtain a record of their conviction from the court of jurisdiction.
Once they have proof that all fines or sentencing conditions have been met, people will then be required to have a records check done by a police department, as well as an identity confirmation by way of fingerprints. None of these requirements are free, and they could potentially cost several hundred dollars. To put it simply, those most impacted probably do not have the means to pay. It is quite clear that the people the and his colleagues are saying they are going to be helping continue to face potentially insurmountable hurdles.
The Native Women's Association of Canada stated that the effects of the bill “will go unrealized for many indigenous women with criminal records for simple possession of cannabis. Simply put, the bill remains inaccessible for indigenous women who are poor”. The Canadian Association of Black Lawyers stated, “The suspension of the record will almost seem like a token gesture”, and went on to point out that “for many who are coming from extremely poor areas and families who don't have the means to push them forward, this is a huge stumbling block.”
Part of the title of the act is “no-cost, expedited record suspensions”. This is clearly not the case. There will be a cost to the applicant, and it clearly will not be fast, as it takes multiple trips to police stations and courthouses just to get the information to file an application.
Witnesses told us over and over again that the only way to remove these convictions was to expunge them. Legal experts noted that a record suspension would be set aside if an individual had any future charges. Border crossings would continue to be an issue, as the U.S. may have the old records of people's convictions, even if they have been suspended. We were also told that an expungement would certainly be more closely aligned to the proposed values of the Liberal government. The government claimed it was legalizing marijuana because it would remove the black market, decrease use by children and reduce consumption. The plan it implemented would not accomplish any of these objectives, and Bill would not accomplish any of the 's objectives, as he said it would.
The told us in the House that the effects of an expungement or record suspension were identical, so it really did not matter which one the government picked. Since it was a lot of work for the government to figure out which individuals had criminal convictions for simple possession of marijuana, it would go with record suspensions. It was clear that this made it easier for the government and not for those who had convictions.
I believe in redemption, but I know that redemption is earned not through the generosity of the , but by the person who seeks it. I am not sure the redemption in these cases will result in benefits to very many Canadians.
I was initially pleased that the committee agreed to make some minor improvements to this deeply flawed piece of legislation. Conservative amendments addressed a serious gap that had been missed. What happens when the courts do not have people's records? Records are lost, destroyed and may not be found. When an individual is seeking to follow the minister's challenging application for the not-so-free, not-so-easy process and cannot get the basics for an application, should that individual be ignored? I say no. We proposed an amendment, but this morning it was deleted and replaced by something else that does not cover it.
Unfortunately, we are not able to eliminate clause 6, which would limit considerations by the Parole Board when examining these applications. We should not be giving these record suspensions out to people who do not deserve them, and the only way to accomplish that is to ensure a thorough review. The Liberals, sadly, disagreed with that at committee.
In conclusion, this is not a good bill, as it only makes things very slightly better. Like most of the Liberal promises, it falls far short or is not as advertised. Too few Canadians would actually benefit from the intention of this bill.
Madam Speaker, to continue my point, I would say that this legislation has come forward in a manner that has allowed us to give it the thoughtful consideration it needs. We have studied it in the House and it has been studied at committee. Amendments were put forward. It has come back to the House, and there has been time for consultation. It is now time to take action to make sure that all people, particularly the most vulnerable in our communities, can get the justice they deserve, given that the criminalization of cannabis has changed significantly in the past year.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise today at report stage on Bill , an act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis. The purpose of the bill is plainly stated in the title. It would streamline the pardon application process for people who have been previously convicted only of simple possession of cannabis and who have completed their sentence.
Two main requirements of the existing process would be waived to make this happen: one, the current $631 Parole Board application fee, and two, the waiting period to apply, which can be up to 10 years. As hon. members have heard since the bill was introduced, these requirements make life difficult for people who have been convicted of a relatively minor offence and who just want to get their life back on track.
The combination of the fee and the waiting period can be a serious obstacle, so we are getting rid of them. Allowing people to apply for a pardon faster and more easily would reduce barriers to their reintegration into society as productive, law-abiding, contributing citizens. It would also open all sorts of doors to jobs, education and housing.
It is time to move the bill forward. I am pleased to note that even stakeholders who have said they would prefer a different legal mechanism were clear that the bill is a positive step and should be passed as soon as possible.
The bill was passed at second reading with an overwhelming majority. From there, it went to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. As always, hon. members on that committee gave it their careful consideration. They heard from numerous witnesses, including government officials and the .
Those hearings followed a study of the pardons system last year, during which the committee also heard from a number of stakeholders. Representatives of the John Howard Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society gave powerful testimony about how a pardon can change a person's life for the better. In fact, when law-abiding people can put their criminal records behind them and move on with their lives, it is better for all of us and it is better for society.
Amendments have been made, and an updated version of the bill has now been reported back to the House for its final blessing.
For the most part, the committee's scrutiny and revision have produced a better and stronger bill. Bill would allow for expedited, no-fee pardons for people whose only conviction was for simple possession of cannabis. If their conviction was for an offence involving trafficking, production or exportation of cannabis, or something else entirely, they would not qualify. In those cases, they could still apply for a pardon once they have completed their sentence, via the usual route, with the fee and waiting period.
Criminal records often do not specify the exact offence. They may just say something like “possession of a controlled substance”. To demonstrate that the substance was cannabis and that there is no outstanding sentence associated with the offence, people will generally have to provide police and court documents.
At committee, an amendment was passed allowing people to apply even if they have an outstanding fine. In recognition of that, the government has introduced a report stage amendment removing the need to provide court documents for people whose only sentence was a fine. That is because, in that circumstance, the court documents mainly serve to show that the fine has been paid, and that would no longer matter.
There were other amendments adopted at committee that are worthy of our support. Among them was an amendment to ensure that a cannabis possession conviction does not prevent someone from getting a pardon for other offences, and an amendment removing the possibility that a pardon could be revoked for reasons of non-criminal “bad conduct”.
Unfortunately, the Conservatives introduced an amendment today at report stage that would reinstate subjective criteria when processing a pardon for cannabis possession. Their amendment would mean that when people apply for a pardon for cannabis possession, the Parole Board would investigate them to make sure they are generally well-behaved. The board would also conduct an investigation to determine whether granting them a pardon would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
With Bill , we deliberately removed these subjective criteria from the process because they do not make any sense when we are talking about people who do not have convictions of anything other than simple possession of cannabis for personal use. The whole point is to let people clear their records with as few obstacles as possible. At the end of the day, that is what Bill C-93 is about. It is about fairness.
It is about providing a much-needed lifeline to people who want to contribute to their families, to their communities and to society but who have barriers in their path. With cannabis possession now legalized in Canada, we should do all we can to knock those barriers down. Bill is the right way forward to achieve this goal, and this is the right time to put it into effect.
Let us take the opportunity we have at report stage to ensure that a proper version of the bill moves ahead for a final vote in the House.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill , an act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis.
I hate to say this, but I do support the bill in principle. It is a terrible bill. It has been pushed on us at the end of this Parliament. The Liberals have known this was coming up, but now they are trying to ram it through. It reminds me of the NAFTA trade deal. It is not very good for Canadians.
The Liberals brought forward the marijuana legalization bill, Bill , an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts. It received royal assent in June 2018. The at that time wanted to push it through, but he had to set it aside until October 17 because there were so many complications. The Liberal government did not look at how complicated it would be for many jurisdiction across our country.
I never supported Bill , and I still do not support it. It was badly thought out and badly written, probably worse than the bill before us. However, this is typical of the government. Again, look at what it did with NAFTA.
Yesterday, when the spoke about NAFTA, he said a deal was better than no deal. He did not say it was a great deal. Bill was his promise to the public. It was an election gimmick. It probably worked, but let us get back to Bill .
No deal would be bad, therefore that is why I support this. The Parole Board wants to investigate a good portion of these applications, which its representatives said so many times at our committee hearings. It said that it did not have an electronic program. It also did not seem to be very interested in that and had not even looked at it. Many different witnesses said that the program to apply for a record pardon was too cumbersome.
A prosecutor in California recently said that when government used 20th century technology to tackle a 21st century problem, it would be the people who would pay the price. That is exactly what we are doing today. We still working with 20th century technology, most of it by hand.
Bill recommends that the Parole Board look at electronic means. It was my recommendation, and it was kept in the report. As mentioned earlier, the Parole Board could not tell us exactly how many people might apply for this. One figure was 250,000 and another agency said it might be closer to 500,000. The Parole Board said that it might get 10,000 to 12,000 people applying. It could not give us the cost. This seems to be a government agency where bureaucrats do not want to step out of their sandbox and modernize. It is not listening to Canadians to do what is best.
I would like to read about something that recently took place in the state of California, which legalized marijuana a few years ago. It is called the “Code for America’s Clear My Record to revolutionize criminal record clearance practices”. This article was posted on February 14 by Jails to Jobs magazine. It states:
Imagine the effect that automatically clearing hundreds of thousands of eligible criminal records would have on the lives of people who have them. Those unable to get jobs because of mistakes they made in the past would now be record free. Imagine that.
Considering the hassle and expense that people must go through to clear their records, it almost seems unbelievable. But it’s not. Technology has the capability to “download rap sheets in bulk, algorithmically, read them to determine eligibility and automatically fill out the petitions....”
However, we are not going that way. We made a recommendation, and I discussed it many times, but it was ignored by the Liberal government and the Liberal members on the committee.
Code for America launched clear my record. It was a program developed in the United States and it went online in California last year. California intends using this system to clear 250,000 criminal records for simple marijuana possession in one year. Here we are bringing in Bill with no real strong indication of going electronically in the modern age. I have made a recommendation, and I think it probably will sit in the background.
The whole discussion on Bill should have been about modernization and making it easy for the people to go on a computer, whether their own, or one through a social service agency or a legal channel, fill in the application, the history and make a declaration. Let the computers do a lot of the digital analyzing work of checking the records. The program could go on to interconnect with provincial court registries. The program could go on to interconnect with the RCMP. However, it is going to be done it manually in the 21st century. I cannot understand why we would go that way when the technology is out there and proves it can be done.
I have come to understand the NDP's rationale for expungement. When I listened to my colleague from the NDP explain the rationale at the committee, it made sense in a lot of cases.
I started policing back in the sixties as a young man, and the marijuana movement was just starting. We were laying charges for simple possession of marijuana or maybe trafficking if a person had a certain amount. Expungement could work if that is the only record the person has.
However, my colleague from and I have concerns. He is a police officer too. In a lot of cases, going back over the years, these simple records sitting in our record systems did not start that way. They may be simple possession charges today, but they may have started off as trafficking or obstruction charges, but they were dealt down by the prosecutor and a defence lawyer to simple possession charges. We are concerned with those charges. That is why the Canadian Police Association has asked that they be thoroughly reviewed.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill , an act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis.
In short, this bill creates an expedited pardons process for Canadians who have criminal records for nothing more than simple possession of cannabis. Bill C-93 reduces the usual fee of $631 to zero. This is the most important aspect of the bill, especially for the most vulnerable in our society. It reduces the usual waiting period of five or, in some cases, 10 years, down to no time at all. It removes the usual subjective criteria, like whether a person is of “good conduct” or would get a “measurable benefit” and, thanks to an amendment made at committee by the member for, it lets people get pardons for cannabis possession even if they have outstanding fines.
I would like to clarify an assertion that was made earlier in the House about the comments of the member for at committee. She actually said that murderers who smoked pot should not be treated better than murderers who did not smoke pot. I just wanted to clarify that for the record.
Taken together, the various parts of this bill mean that people burdened with criminal records for simple possession of cannabis will be able to have their records cleared with no fee, no waiting period and no problem if they cannot afford fines or surcharges, and there is no possibility that their applications will be denied on the basis of subjective criteria.
That brings me to the amendment the Conservatives have introduced today. It does two things. The first is that it reintroduces subjective criteria for people seeking pardons for simple possession of cannabis. The whole point of Bill is that the process should be simple and straightforward. This change would undermine that objective. Ordinarily, Parole Board members, the same people who adjudicate parole hearings, review pardon applications and consider a variety of factors. They make sure that the applicant meets the basic eligibility criteria, like whether they have served their sentence and waited the requisite amount of time. They also consider subjective criteria, like whether the applicant has been of good conduct and whether granting the pardon would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. On the basis of all of these considerations, the board member uses discretion and decides whether the applicant will be pardoned or not.
The legislation we are debating today is designed to remove all subjectivity from the pardoning process for people convicted only of cannabis possession for personal use. As the bill is designed that way, the Parole Board's intention is not to use board members to evaluate applications. Instead, the board will just have staff check to make sure that the applicant meets the basic eligibility criteria, like confirming that their conviction was not for a more serious offence, like trafficking. It will be a quick, simple, administrative process with no discretion involved. That way, applications can be processed quickly and people will get their pardons quickly.
However, the Conservatives want to have the Parole Board spend time and energy conducting inquiries into the general conduct of applicants. I am not sure what behaviour they think would justify denying someone a pardon for activity that is now legal. I would really like to hear Conservative members give some examples of what kind of non-criminal conduct they think would be a good reason to make a person continue living with a criminal record for cannabis possession. I asked that question of the critic for public safety earlier today during this debate, but have not yet had a response.
With this expedited process, we are only talking about people who have not committed any other offence. What non-criminal activities do Conservative members think are acceptable grounds for maintaining all the obstacles to employment, housing, education, volunteering and travel that a criminal record represents? I cannot think of a single one.
The same Conservative motion would also have the Parole Board consider, in each case, whether granting a pardon for simple possession of cannabis would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Again, I can't imagine what circumstances they are thinking of. What is the scenario in which pardoning a person who has nothing more on their record than cannabis possession would bring the administration of justice into disrepute? What exactly would the Parole Board be looking for? We are not talking about murderers, sex offenders or drug dealers. They are not eligible to apply for this process. Instead, we are talking about people who did something that has been legal since October.
It seems to me that if the Parole Board were to review their application and reject it, that could bring the administration of justice into disrepute. However, for some reason the Conservatives have decided that they want people who are saddled with a criminal record for simple possession of cannabis, and who have likely been facing all sorts of obstacles in their daily lives because of it, to jump through even more hoops. It just does not make sense. It will also make the whole process take longer. Processing times for applications submitted under Bill should be pretty short, since there are no subjective criteria.
If the Conservative amendment were to pass, every application would be slowed down by unnecessary inquiries. As well, Parole Board members, who already have full workloads dealing with all sorts of challenging cases that require their attention, would have to spend time needlessly investigating people who once possessed cannabis, to make sure their conduct is acceptable and that the reputation of the justice system can survive their rehabilitation.
As members may have guessed, I will be opposing the Conservative amendment. I strongly support a straightforward process that stops treating people who are only guilty of cannabis possession with unjustified suspicion. I support waiving the application fee and waiving the waiting period. I support letting people get their lives back on track without insisting that they pay fines they may not be able to afford. I support having Parole Board staff process applications quickly for anyone who meets basic and objective eligibility criteria. I support skipping all the discretionary evaluations of good conduct and measurable benefit and whether the administration of justice might be brought into disrepute.
We ran on a mandate of legalizing and regulating cannabis, because the old system of prohibition was a failure. We were not content to accept decriminalization, which really just means imposing fines on people in marginalized and low-income communities. We upheld our commitment and a new legal regime is now in place.
In conclusion, this bill is a critical companion to the legislation that legalized cannabis, and I ask all members of the House to facilitate the timely passage of Bill .
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise to speak to Bill , an act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis. It has already been stated that the Conservatives, though having concerns about this legislation, will be supporting the bill. The bulk of my speech will be about some of the comments bandied about in this debate by the government side, which are disingenuous.
I will go back to the passing of Bill , the legalization of cannabis bill, and some of the challenges being seen across our country. There are concerns that Conservatives and, indeed, opposition members on all sides of the House stated prior to the passing of Bill C-45. At the time, Conservatives felt it was a flawed piece of legislation that was passed hurriedly to try to tick off the box, so that the Liberals could say they have done what they said they were going to do in 2015. There were serious concerns then and there are serious concerns now.
Government members have said that Bill is just another example of how Liberals are being tough on organized crime and keeping drugs out of the hands of our youth, and yet they cannot provide us data as to whether the passing of Bill has actually minimized the proceeds going to organized crime, whether it has kept organized crime out of the legalized cannabis market or whether it has kept cannabis out of the hands of youth.
I will read a passage from Bill , under part 1, “Prohibitions, Obligations and Offences”. Subclause 8(1) states, “Unless authorized under this Act, it is prohibited... for a young person to possess cannabis of one or more classes of cannabis the total amount of which, as determined in accordance with Schedule 3, is equivalent to more than 5 g of dried cannabis”. A young person in Canada is defined as between the ages of 12 and 18. By virtue of that statement in Bill C-45, it is legal for someone between the ages of 12 and 18 to have under five grams of cannabis.
When members are in their ridings, we spend a lot of time working with many different groups. I, for one, have spent a lot of time with the educational and law enforcement communities, and Bill has done nothing to keep the proceeds of cannabis and marijuana from organized crime and nothing to minimize access by youth. As a matter of fact, it has probably made it easier. In some of the most marginalized communities, there is increased drug use because it is now okay for those aged 12 to 18 to have less than five grams of marijuana on them.
The Liberals have also said that Bill would provide barrier-free access for travel, but we already know that it would not clear one's record. The record still exists, as it is not expunged. Canadians travelling across the U.S. border or the borders of other countries are still subject to the enforcement of the rules and regulations of those countries.
When I was talking about Bill , I canvassed our front-line officers, our law enforcement. When we talk about consultation, if we are going to be totally honest in this debate, the government likes to say it has consulted Canadians from coast to coast to coast, but it has not. Our front-line officers asked us to put forth reasoned amendments, and a colleague across the way just said the Liberals would not support that.
When I was preparing for this, I talked with some of my friends who are on the front lines. They said that, in reality, for the last 10 years, most seizures have been treated as non-seizures. Therefore, this may have an application for those who were charged maybe 20 or 25 years ago, and it might help some people in our most marginalized communities, maybe first nations or our black community, as I believe the NDP talked about. This might assist them, but it would not impact those who have been charged in recent years, perhaps in the last decade leading up to October of last year.
Cannabis is often called a gateway drug. Our colleagues from and themselves were on the front lines in law enforcement for many years and have served our country and our communities valiantly. Therefore, when they offer comments and real-world experience with respect to this, I tend to listen.
I also know, from working with some of my friends in coordinating law enforcement agencies and front-line workers, that possession is often a gateway charge. Law enforcement officers may not have all the information they need to make a complete case, so they will charge people with possession to be able to build a case.
It has also been noted that, many times, in a major trafficking case when the worst of the worst are before the courts, they will plead down to possession. That is why, going back to my comment about listening to our front-line workers, those who have been charged with protecting us and keeping us safe and sound, we must always do whatever we can to provide them with the tools required to do their job so that we and our friends, families and communities can remain safe and sound.
I will go back to Bill . Bill is another failed piece of legislation where the government did not provide adequate thought and did not listen to the consultations. Bill was the same. It did not arm the communities and municipalities with the required tools. The number one cost in most communities is with respect to policing. The government did not arm them with the tools to be able to pay for the increased costs of policing. It did not arm our front-line officers with adequate training for the roadside tests in the rush up to October. What is impairment? Is it one joint? Is it two joints? What is impairment under the influence of cannabis? Indeed, we are now seeing charter challenges because of the flawed testing equipment the RCMP forces have been outfitted with.
As I said in the preamble to my speech, the Conservatives will be supporting this piece of legislation as we move forward. Our colleague across the way will probably challenge where the Conservative stance is on this. I think the confusion lies in that this is another piece of flawed, rushed Liberal legislation that the government is trying to move forward. It is saying that it is doing this, but it is not putting the resources and the work behind it. It is not listening to the people who will be in charge of implementing this legislation, and this is causing concern.
Our job as the opposition is to challenge and to question. That is what we are doing. We are speaking for those who do not have the floor. There are 338 members of Parliament elected to be the voice of their communities, and that is what we are doing.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House and add my voice to today's report stage debate regarding Bill , the government's cannabis pardon legislation.
Let me say at the outset that I will continue to use the term “pardon” in my remarks, rather than “record suspension”.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank my hon. colleagues for their contributions to the bill. I appreciated the thoughtful discussions we had on Bill , both in this chamber and at committee. Those discussions and the close scrutiny the bill has undergone have helped shape the version that is now before us.
For those convicted only of simple possession of cannabis, Bill would streamline the process for getting a pardon in two main ways: It would waive the normal waiting period of up to 10 years, and it would eliminate the $631 application fee. In other words, under Bill , people in this group would be eligible to apply for a pardon immediately after completing their sentence, and they would not need to pay the application fee.
The ultimate goal is to make it easier for them to reintegrate into society and have a better shot at a happy, productive and fulfilling life. Indeed, in the words of the , the bill would have “life-changing impacts for people dealing with the burden and the stigma of a criminal record for cannabis possession.” I cannot overestimate just how significant a pardon is for those with a criminal record.
Registered nurse Louise Lafond explained it eloquently and succinctly in her testimony before the committee last December. Speaking on behalf of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, Ms. Lafond compared the ability to apply for a pardon to “being able to turn that page over. The X [the criminal record] is still there, but they are able to pursue paths that were closed to them.”
That is why this bill is so important, and I am pleased that the review process at committee has resulted in a slew of worthwhile amendments. I commend the committee for working together so harmoniously to adopt those amendments. The already solid bill that was introduced by the is today even better as a result of this tremendous work.
In particular, the changes strengthen the fairness aspect that is at the heart of the bill. One example is the series of amendments proposed by the hon. member for and adopted by the committee. These amendments, all of which are connected, would allow people to apply for record suspensions even if they have outstanding fines associated with cannabis possession.
To be clear, those fines could still be enforced civilly, but the individual in question could have the criminal record set aside. As my hon. colleague said, those individuals “might have difficulty covering those costs, and that could pose a barrier to people who are applying for record suspensions.” It is a concern that has been raised by advocates and stakeholders, and it has now been addressed by the amendments in question.
Amendments introduced by the member for also waive all waiting periods associated with cannabis possession convictions, even if people have other convictions on their record. They would still have to wait the full waiting period for those other offences, but if those waiting periods have all elapsed, they will not have to wait any additional time due to their conviction for cannabis possession. In other words, if a fine for simple possession of cannabis is still outstanding, that would not stop someone from being able to proceed with a pardon application.
Another important amendment was moved by the hon. member for . As originally drafted, Bill allowed a member of the Parole Board of Canada to refuse a pardon application on the grounds that a conviction for simple possession of cannabis is relevant to good conduct. This could have created a situation where someone with a theft conviction from five years ago is denied pardon because a board member determined that a conviction last year for simple possession of cannabis demonstrated poor conduct.
With cannabis possession now legal in Canada, and people now freely, openly and legally consuming cannabis, that is unfair and, quite frankly, absurd. It goes against the government's intention to ensure that convictions for simple possession of cannabis do not continue to create barriers to reintegration.
I am so pleased to note that this part of the bill was amended at committee. The amendment would ensure that a conviction for cannabis possession was not taken into account as part of the good conduct review for people seeking pardons for other criminal offences. Ultimately, this would mean that people with other convictions on their records would not have convictions for simple possession of cannabis affect their ability to obtain pardons for other offences. This would be good for the applicant. It would also be good for society.
This brings us to the report stage amendments we are debating today. The first has to do with an amendment at committee by the member for . The amendment would allow someone who had checked police stations and courthouses for records and come up empty-handed to provide a sworn statement that he or she had been convicted of only simple cannabis possession. Unfortunately, it would then require the Parole Board to check those same police stations and courthouses to ensure that the records were not there so that the board could be satisfied that it was truly only a simple cannabis possession charge. Under this amendment, the board would still need to see the record. Having local police and court staff perform another search in the same place would be a duplicative waste of effort. While well-intentioned, this amendment should be undone by the report stage amendment.
I would like to once again thank my hon. colleagues for their efforts in getting us to this point in the process on Bill . I strongly support this important piece of legislation in its current form, and I encourage all hon. members of this House to do the right thing and pass it at third reading when the time comes for a vote.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak to Bill , which I think is a critically important bill for many Canadians who have been concerned about, and fighting for, an effective, rational drug policy in this country for the last 50 years.
To give a historical perspective on this issue, in 1972, almost 50 years ago, we had the Le Dain commission in this country, which examined drug policy. One of the core recommendations of that commission, which thoroughly examined all the issues concerning drug policy in Canada, was that Canada should immediately move to decriminalize cannabis. It made other recommendations as well for sensible, evidence-based drug policy. Of course, at that time, from 1972 all the way to 2015, successive Liberal and Conservative governments utterly refused to even take the next logical step of decriminalizing cannabis, leaving 400,000 Canadians to acquire criminal records from 1972 onward for the simple act of possessing and consuming cannabis for personal use. The NDP, of course, took the Le Dain commission's recommendation very seriously, and from then on, in every single federal election since 1972, advocated and campaigned on taking cannabis use out of the Criminal Code. We pursued decriminalization, because the only other option at that time was criminalization.
In 2015, of course, the Liberal Party decided on an abrupt change of policy. I would add that in the previous Parliament, the Harper government actually introduced legislation in the Criminal Code that would punish cannabis users even more harshly, and the Liberals voted for it. That was in 2014, I believe. At that time, that was the version of the Liberal Party. We are used to members of the Liberal Party saying one thing in an election and doing another. We cannot really count on what they say day to day. However, in 2014, they wanted to punish cannabis users criminally even harder. In 2015, the Liberals had a magical change of heart, and suddenly, 45 years after the Le Dain commission, and many elections after the New Democrats urged them to decriminalize marijuana and they refused to do so, and after they made punishment more severe for people in Canada who used cannabis, they had a magical epiphany and decided that they would legalize it.
I was struck by the comments by the hon. , who saw fit to attack the NDP for not immediately jumping to legalization in our campaign and staying with our historical position of decriminalization. He pointed out that this was somehow a contradiction for us, when, in fact, it was his own party that campaigned and championed the criminalization of cannabis for most of the last 50 years, until it thought that there was an obvious electoral advantage in changing its position suddenly.
The same member also stood in the House and attacked the NDP for exaggerating issues in debate, as we often do, as he said. He went on to accuse the NDP of seeking the “legalization of heroin and cocaine”. Those were his exact words.
I am shocked by that characterization. First of all, it is a complete exaggeration of our position. It is the kind of political wedging, simplification and attack politics by the Liberals that we often see from the Harper Conservatives, which is why I think the Liberals are so sensitive to that issue. Of course, the NDP is taking the firm position that with Canadians dying by the thousands from opioids in this country, from a poisoned, toxic street supply, we are looking at saving lives by bringing a safe supply to these people through a highly regulated and medically driven process to decriminalize the purchase of drugs and put it through the medically regulated system. That is what we are actually saying, but he wants Canadians to think that we are championing heroin and cocaine. That kind of right-wing, Republican, U.S.-style wedge politics does politics a disservice in this country, and he should be ashamed of himself for it. Frankly, with the people dying in this country, it is disgusting to hear that kind of language coming from the Liberal Party of Canada in 2019.
The issue before us, of course, is what to do with criminal records for cannabis offences, now that certain cannabis offences, namely possession and use of cannabis, no longer exist. The NDP's position is simple. We have examined this issue in great detail, and as the most progressive, consistent party on progressive drug policy in this country for 50 years, we are very familiar with the issues and the pros and cons.
We are proposing that the only fair, just, effective and efficient way to deal with Canadians who are saddled with and harmed by criminal records for cannabis offences that no longer exist is to have an automatic expungement of all those records so that Canadians no longer have those records as millstones around their necks, preventing them from getting jobs, preventing them from volunteering with organizations, and in some cases, preventing them from travelling.
The Liberals have refused to do that. Instead, they have tabled a bill that rejects expungement and instead requires Canadians to apply for pardons. This bill makes two amendments to that process. It waives the $631 fee, which the Conservatives jacked up in the last Parliament to make pardons more difficult for people to get. It also waives the five-year waiting period. Both are positive, I suppose.
However, a pardon is not the same as expungement. Expungement removes the offence and allows Canadians to treat the offence as if it never occurred. A pardon, though, means that the offence still exists, but it is forgiven. The difference is that if there is an expungement of the record, a Canadian, when asked by an employer or a U.S. border official, “Do you have a criminal record?”, could say, “No, I do not.” That is versus, “No, I don't have a criminal record for which a pardon has not been granted.” That is what a Canadian has to say to an employer or to a volunteer organization or to a U.S. border guard when granted a pardon.
Here are the problems with the bill. First, it would not help marginalized Canadians, who we know are disproportionately impacted by criminal records for cannabis. This process would still require Canadians to apply for a pardon, and we all know that many cannot, many will not and many are not able. There are 400,000 Canadians carrying criminal records today, and the estimate we have is that between 10,000 and 70,000 Canadians are expected to apply for pardons.
The Canadians who are most needy, the people who are most deserving and in need of a pardon, the poor, the young, the indigenous, the racialized and rural Canadians, would probably not get a pardon, because they would not be able to actually navigate the system to apply for a pardon. The pardon was described by Senator Kim Pate, in studying this bill, as “punishingly complex, bureaucratic and time-consuming.” Problem number one with this bill is that would still leave many Canadians, the most needy, without a pardon.
Second, the record would be pardoned, not extinguished. A pardon still exists in the records. This bill would remove a record from Canada's CPIC system, but it would not remove records from provincial and municipal databases. The record could still be seen. It could still be acted upon.
I would ask Canadians what they would rather say about their cannabis records: “I do not have a record” or “I do not have a record for which a pardon has not been granted”. I think the answer is obvious.
Third, the record could be resurrected in a future criminal proceeding. It is not as if the record would be gone forever. If a person had a cannabis record pardoned, it could still be brought up later in a future criminal proceeding.
Fourth, Bill would apply only to those convicted of simple cannabis possession, meaning that anyone with a prior record, suspension, or crime related to possession would be unable to use this provision. Again, it is narrowly restricted.
Finally, U.S. border officials would still have access to this record if there was a pardon. If someone is sitting in a lineup at the border, and a U.S. border guard asks if that person has a cannabis record, and the answer is, “No, I do not”, the person will likely be waved through. However, if someone says, “I don't have a criminal record for which a pardon has not been granted,” the guard is likely to flag that and go into the system. U.S. border guards would still have access to the record in the system.
The Liberals say that they cannot change this. However, the Liberals provided an expungement in this very Parliament for people who had been convicted of homosexuality crimes. They just did an automatic expungement for anyone who was convicted of those crimes, which we no longer regard as crimes.
However, they say that is too complex to do for cannabis offences. That is fundamentally untrue, and I look forward to hearing the Liberals explain why. Do they think there is a fundamental difference between those two offences? The offences once existed; they do not now. The records should be treated equally. They should be expunged for all Canadians.
I look forward to answering questions from my colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, here we are again, days away from rising and returning to our constituencies for a summer of gauging the opinions of those in our communities, and the Liberals are back at their same old game, rushing legislation through the House without consulting relevant stakeholders and, more important, not even listening to relevant stakeholders. As a result, Bill will fail to accomplish its intent, the typical Liberal way.
There is a cascade of failures. Let us look at how we got here.
Back in 2015, the Liberals said that the current approach was not working. They said we had to take the profits away from organized crime and take it out of the hands of our youth. They said that the approach of previous Conservative and Liberal governments was not working to decrease the use of marijuana by our youth.
If we look at statistics from 1980 by Statistics Canada, they show that minors represented 22% of marijuana users. By 2015, only 5.8% of marijuana users were aged 15 to 17. Their whole approach to this was based on a premise that was false and misleading.
Right now, there is absolutely no evidence that it has taken the criminal element out of it. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that it is increasing. The demand is out there. When regular marijuana users want it, instead of going to government facilities, quite often they go back to where they have been getting it over the years.
This is a huge cascade of failures and the government made the decision to move forward with Bill , proposed legislation that places a focus on expediting the process for providing pardons to individuals convicted of marijuana possession charges prior to the implementation of Bill , the Cannabis Act, which officially legalized cannabis possession on October 17 of last year.
The Liberal government is rushing, with days left, to clean up the mess it made with the rolling out of its marijuana legislation. It was simply not prepared for the effects of its legislation on marijuana on our judicial process, and this is its last-ditch attempt at putting together a piece of shaky legislation before the House rises, which is just in a matter of days. We do not have a lot of time to look at the bill.
My constituents have felt the effect of the Liberal government's failure at providing effective processes since the rollout of Bill last October. For example, as I said earlier, the has been claiming for what is now years that legalizing marijuana will keep marijuana out of the hands of our kids.
In Oshawa, there have been two instances of marijuana edibles finding their way into one elementary school and parents are very upset. They are saying, as a result of this, these grade 6 students reported feeling dizzy and euphoric. More and more of these stories are rolling out. Stories have been reported, it seems like on a daily basis, from coast to coast to coast. The government is now trying to make up for these obvious mistakes with this poorly drafted policy, pushing it through the House before the House rises.
In my riding, considerations for workplace safety are really important. These are non-existent with the Liberals. Many of my constituents work blue collar jobs. Not providing proper workplace safety measures to go along with the legislation endangers workers and could potentially result in serious injuries or the death of Canadians as a result of the government's inability to effectively roll out workplace safety provisions.
How about tests available to law enforcement in determining whether a driver is impaired by marijuana? It has been obvious that the science is not there yet. These tests are far from being perfected. It is obviously not safe to get behind the wheel while impaired by the effects of cannabis, yet the government passed its legislation anyway, without any consideration as to how law enforcement would combat drug-impaired driving. Until the time that such tests are perfected, roads could become much more hazardous than before.
For this bill we are talking about today, Bill , it is the stance of the Conservative Party that there should be an expedited process in place to offer record suspensions for those convicted of marijuana possession before October 17, 2018.
I am going to focus on the notion that the current government is clearly out of touch with the reality of everyday prosecutorial practices. In the current form of Bill , even those who are truly responsible for more serious drug crimes will be able to have their records suspended, and not just simple possession offenders. A critical consideration that the Liberal government has evidently ignored, despite testimony on it at committee, is the process of offering a less serious conviction, such as marijuana possession, in exchange for co-operation by more serious drug offenders, such as those charged with the intent to sell illegal drugs. Out-of-court plea bargaining agreements occur on a regular basis. As a result, many individuals who are truly responsible for more serious drug crimes end up pleading guilty to simple possession charges. If Bill were to pass in its current form, and obviously it will, without provisions taking this issue into consideration, we would be suspending the records of individuals who should not have that option available to them in the first place.
A very important stakeholder came to committee and the government ignored what he had to say to improve the bill. Tom Stamatakis, the president of the Canadian Police Association, stated:
[I]t is possible that both the Crown and the court may have accepted the plea agreement based on the assumption that the conviction would be a permanent record of the offence and would not have accepted the lesser charge if they knew this would be cleared without any possibility of review at a future date.
The fact is this concept is simply logical. Canada's Crown prosecutors are tasked with upholding the laws passed by Parliament. What prosecutor would offer a plea bargain agreement to drug dealers, knowing they would later have their offence suspended? What the Liberals are proposing with this bill is to throw out all of that prosecutorial history that has been there for decades.
To solve this problem, my Conservative colleagues moved amendments to Bill that had been proposed by the Canadian Police Association. Had those amendments not been voted down, they would have granted the Parole Board the power to open inquiries on any factors that would bring the administration of justice into disrepute, such as suspending the record of drug dealers as a result of prosecutorial plea bargaining practices. The reality is that there were two amendments. The first would restore the Parole Board's power to make these inquiries to determine the applicant's conduct since the date of their conviction. The second would restore the Parole Board's power to make inquiries with respect to any factors that it may consider in determining whether record suspension would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. These were common-sense ideas put forth by the men and women on the ground who are going to be tasked with following through with this cascade of marijuana legislation, most of which was poorly thought out. The amendments would ensure that these individuals not take advantage of a process that clearly was not intended to be used in their particular cases.
This is just another example of the Liberal government seemingly making every attempt to let criminals get away with their illegal actions. It is despicable. I speak on behalf of my constituents when I say it is unacceptable that the current government is not taking this issue into any consideration whatsoever.
Let us talk for a moment about the costs of this. I think nobody in the House would want to see marginalized Canadians not given access to these record suspensions. The reality is this. The minister was asked to come up with some numbers to let Canadians know how the government came up with the estimated cost of this. Unfortunately, the minister utterly failed to provide how this process was put forth and how it would apply to Bill . He promised to provide the numbers by the time we vote on this legislation. Has that occurred? Absolutely not. Has anyone seen these processes? We have seen the estimates, we have seen the numbers, but we really do not know how much it will cost Canadians. Therefore, the answer here is no.
Would anyone be surprised that perhaps even he does not know? I think the answer might be no.
I see that my time is up.
Mr. Speaker, it is very kind for you to acknowledge that what has been happening in the Liberal benches is inappropriate. The Liberals can do better.
I opposed the marijuana legalization legislation. It represents a huge risk to the mental health of future generations of Canadians. Even though the legislation does not allow children under the age of 18 to purchase marijuana, it does allow them to possess marijuana. That is the craziness of it.
We know from medical research that Canadians under the age of 25 who consume marijuana run a huge risk of mental impairment in future years. Why would we take that risk? That was why I opposed the legalization of marijuana.
Now that marijuana is legalized in Canada, there is a step that the Liberals did not consider as they were ramming through marijuana legalization. What would happen to all those people who were convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana, simple possession, over many years, people who now want to know why, now that it is legal, they are still saddled with a criminal record.
Canada has a system under which record suspensions take place. This legislation is about that. Just so everyone understands, Canadians already have the right to apply for record suspensions, or pardons as they used to be called. That is already in the law. However, there is a cost and there are some conditions to do that.
For example, before people can apply for a record suspension for simple possession of marijuana, they have to wait five or 10 years, whatever the term is. They need to have served their sentence, whatever that is. They will have to pay a fine, if it was levied. Then they have to pay a fee of $631. There is a problem with that.
I am not against middle-class Canadians or wealthy Canadians being required to pay for the cost of something that will clean up their record so they can get jobs. If people have a criminal record, even it is for simple possession of marijuana, that can disqualify them for a host of job opportunities. Why would we want to saddle young Canadians or middle-aged Canadians with that burden?
However, the cost of $631 to apply for a record suspension disproportionately impacts negatively poor Canadians. We heard at committee that minority groups like black or indigenous Canadians felt they had borne the brunt of the war on drugs and were disproportionately affected in society by simple possession charges that remained on their record. These are often folks who cannot afford the $631.
It is for that reason that I do support the legislation. I do not in any way support weakening our drug laws. In fact, they need to be strengthened. I do not for a moment believe we should be weakening the protection of young Canadians against marijuana usage. We want to ensure our children grow up with healthy brains, with minds that are keen, that allow them to engage in our workforce and be productive members of our society. Fortunately, this legislation does not undermine any of that. However, we want to ensure that legislation like this is properly considered.
When I look at the amendments proposed by the Conservatives at committee, they were reasonable amendments. They would ensure that there was still an ability for those who had serious drug offences that may have been pleaded down to a charge of simple possession could be captured and that it would be taken into consideration before a record suspension would be granted.
What did our Liberal friends do? They voted down that amendment, a very reasonable amendment about the protection of the public, about public safety. Of course, as might be expected, when Liberals are faced with that kind of a decision, they side with the criminals, not with the potential victims of those crimes.
The legislation before us is relatively benign because it actually does not create record suspensions. It would ensure that the process for applying for a record suspension for simple possession of marijuana would be simplified and would not cost Canadians who might not be able to afford the $631, something that might prevent them from securing a record suspension.
For all those reasons, I will be supporting the legislation. However, I want to make it very clear that the Conservatives will continue to stand up for the safety of Canadians. We will continue to advocate for stronger criminal justice legislation to ensure our country remains safe. That is the responsible and accountable thing to do.
Mr. Speaker, today, we are talking about Bill .
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 , 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.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to speak to Bill .
I played a fairly significant role in the debates on Bill in 2017, because at that time I was serving as my party's justice critic. I recognize that the issue of cannabis reform has occupied the public sphere for quite some time.
I listened to my Conservative colleagues during the debate on Bill and in today's debate, and I note they favour a strong criminal justice approach. They admit that the problem in question has to do with concerns over mental health and youth getting inappropriate access to large amounts of cannabis. As we know, too much consumption of cannabis can have consequences.
I have always believed that the criminal law approach to drug reform and drug policy is in a sense like using a sledgehammer to hit a nail. I believe that if we want to talk about social and health problems, we really need to focus our policy tools and levers on making sure that our health and social services have the tools to provide not only education regarding the possible harms of over-consumption of certain substances, but also support services to people who feel they have a problem. We should remove the stigma of criminality and of being an outcast among a group of friends or family and community, so that people have the ability to get the help they need. I believe policies like this have been shown to be very effective.
With respect to the harshness of other drugs, especially given the opioid crisis and the heroin crisis, we can look to countries like Portugal, which have moved to a more social- and health-related policy for their drug problems. They saw significant results from that. Portugal went from being a country that used to have one of the highest rates of opioid deaths per capita in Europe to having one of the lowest.
When it comes to cannabis, I believe we had this debate, in large part, with respect to Bill . Bill C-45 did not necessarily legalize cannabis, but rather made it less illegal, because in the provisions of Bill C-45, the consequences for stepping outside the boundaries of the law are in fact quite severe.
I come from a part of the country where attitudes toward cannabis possession and use are quite liberal. Many people on Vancouver Island, and indeed in British Columbia, have long regarded the crime of cannabis possession and use to be outdated and belonging in the previous century. Of course, we are very much looking forward not only to seeing the law reformed but also to seeing the injustice of the criminality addressed.
Unfortunately, when we look at the timeline, it is quite obvious that the Liberal government has not treated this particular issue of Bill with the seriousness it deserves. As my colleagues will remember, when Bill was introduced, it was already April 2017. I believe that particular bill received royal assent later that year. However, it was not until October 2018 that it had its provisions for coming into force. In other words, we were well into the third year of the government's mandate before Bill C-45 came into effect and cannabis use and possession were legalized.
Another problem is that police in different jurisdictions in Canada have different approaches. I have spoken to members of the police forces in Vancouver Island, whether in the RCMP or in municipal police forces, and they always tell me that with their limited resources, they have always had far bigger problems to go after than cannabis possession. By and large, when they have caught people with cannabis, they have usually just seized it and told them to please go on their way and not do that in public. However, we know that in other parts of Canada, the full force of the law has been brought to bear on people who possess even tiny quantities of cannabis.
Despite the record and the fact that the government has admitted this is a problem and has acknowledged the injustices, it is only now, in the dying days of the 42nd Parliament, that we are actually dealing with a bill that could have a substantive effect.
The government still has a very heavy legislative agenda before it. The House has just recently passed a motion to extend its sitting hours. We know that the other place, the Senate, is certainly showing true to its form as a new independent body. There is a lot of government legislation that is really up in the air right now, and I am not quite sure that Bill is going to have enough time to reach the finish line. Moreover, I think it does far too little.
The member for had a perfect blueprint for the government to follow in the version of Bill . Rather than going through the pardon process, as Bill is doing, his bill would seek to expunge all previous crimes of personal possession from the record.
I like the word expungement, because it has an air of permanence about it. Expungement basically means that the crime never occurred. It is completely erased from the record. We have something that is now legal in Canada, and we have acknowledged the injustice of it, so it should be expunged from the record of any person who may have been charged with that crime back in the 1970s and 1980s. Such individuals could truthfully state to any official that they have never been charged with or convicted of such a crime.
The problem with a record suspension or a pardon, and we use those words interchangeably, is that the record is going to be set aside but would still exist. Moreover, when travellers go to other countries, such as the United States, which has very harsh drug laws, there is nothing in the bill that would actually tackle the problem of the United States still having those records on its systems. That, indeed, is a big problem.
The major criticism I have of the Liberal government is that instead of going all the way, it often resorts to half measures. We had a beautiful opportunity before us in this Parliament, through Bill , to substantively tackle this issue.
My party, the NDP, has a long history of fighting for this issue. Just in this Parliament, if we go back to June 2016, we used one of our opposition day motions to fight for decriminalization. The Liberals have always argued that decriminalization is not an effective policy, but we always argued that it should be a policy that is employed as an interim measure as we went on to legalization. If we had had that in place for those three years, a lot of Canadians could have avoided those run-ins with the police and with the criminal justice system, which I think many in this place can agree has far bigger problems to deal with using its limited resources. We raised this, as I mentioned, in the debate on Bill and, of course, through Bill .
I can recognize that there are parts of this proposed legislation that will certainly have a benefit for some people. However, that is precisely the problem: Not everyone is actually going to take advantage of the provisions. It is nice that the fee is going to be waived and that there is an expedited process, but still there is the problem of going through that, and the fact that some people have greater resources than others and will be able to benefit from this much more. I still think expungement would have been the better route, and I will remind my constituents that there was one party in the House of Commons that was fighting for expungement.
I cannot give my support to a half measure, not when we had a better option before us. Therefore, on principle, I will vote against this legislation. I will vote against it because there was a better way, and I am not going to let the Liberal government get away with another half measure without firmly standing in my place on behalf of my constituents and voicing my displeasure at the loss of what was a beautiful opportunity.