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View Michelle Rempel Profile
View Michelle Rempel Profile
2019-06-19 15:08 [p.29392]
Mr. Speaker, a law firm that the member for Steveston—Richmond East owns had been implicated in a scheme that allegedly laundered money in the Vancouver area for a foreign drug lord. Today, the member is at the Prime Minister's right hand. He is front and centre. Compare that to another Vancouver area MP who got kicked out of his caucus simply for standing up to him and doing what was right.
This begs the question, if he is such a feminist, why the obvious, on display, double standard?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
View Michelle Rempel Profile
2018-10-29 12:30 [p.22916]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for answering some of those questions, and my colleagues who asked them. It feels like legitimate, real debate has broken out in this place this morning. It is a rare day. It is wonderful.
Before I start speaking in favour of Bill C-84, there are some people I would to thank. These people have worked very hard on this bill, which, to me, is the minimum this place could do in terms of updating Canada's very outdated and archaic animal cruelty laws. First is Pierre Sadik, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies; Camille Labchuk, Animal Justice; the member for Beaches—East York, who tabled a private member's bill earlier in this Parliament; and my legislative manager, Bari Miller.
These people have all helped me over the last year and a half in putting together a non-partisan consensus that we need to see some advancement in terms of the legal framework that Canada uses to protect the rights of hunters, anglers and farmers but also to acknowledge that animal cruelty has indicators and broader societal implications than on just animal welfare itself.
Today, we are speaking specifically to the provisions in Bill C-84. It has been nearly a year since I tabled Bill C-388, my private member's bill, which does include provisions that are in this bill, which responds to the 2016 Supreme Court decision, R. v. D.L.W., which the minister spoke to at length this morning.
For those who are listening this morning, who might not be familiar with the content of that particular decision, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld an acquittal of a British Columbia man who was charged with bestiality after compelling their family dog to sexually abuse their 16-year-old stepdaughter. In the decision, the Supreme Court found that existing provisions around bestiality do not adequately define what sexual acts with animals are prohibited under Canadian law.
The Supreme Court applied a very narrow understanding of sexual abuse that requires a penetrative act. This narrow definition created a loophole that allowed sexual abusers to avoid conviction and highlights how the definition of bestiality in the Criminal Code is severely outdated. The bill before us today responds to this situation by tightening up that definition of bestiality to prohibit sexual abuse of animals, including that beyond a non-penetrative act.
I have been disheartened, because there have been some discussions, both within the Canadian media and people abroad, saying that this is not a problem, it is a manufactured problem, and asking why we are even talking about this. First of all, I would argue that the definition needs to be tightened up, including taking into consideration some of the questions that my colleagues have asked about ensuring that animal husbandry activities are allowed.
This is important because, first of all, in the situation of the Supreme Court ruling, we have a 16-year-old woman, a girl who did not have justice dealt to her because the Supreme Court charged us as legislators with ensuring that this definition was closed. It has been over two years since this happened.
To me, this is justice in one case, and that is enough. However, broader than that, we also have to understand that since the Supreme Court ruling, there have been other cases that have had a similar lens applied to them and then had unfortunate consequences.
I will read from a story in the Winnipeg Free Press, published in April 2017. The title of the article is “Child-porn collector pursued 'dark fantasies', court told”. This man, Andrew Harrison pleaded guilty last week and was given a one-year jail sentence and three years of supervised probation as part of a joint recommendation from the Crown and defence lawyers. Investigators eventually tracked the IP address. He was convicted of child pornography, I believe.
However, the interesting part that is relevant to the bill is the following. Members of the Internet child exploitation unit also charged Harrison with bestiality after finding two videos of him involved in a sexual act with his dog, the court was told. However, that charge was stayed last week because it did not meet the new definition of bestiality, requiring penetration, as set out by a recent Supreme Court decision, according to the Crown.
This is one other case, but I do know anecdotally, from talking to stakeholders in the animal welfare community as well as others across the country, that there has been speculation that law enforcement officials have not been laying or attempting to lay charges related to bestiality that do not involve penetrative acts since the Supreme Court ruling, because they knew these charges would not pass the test set by the Supreme Court. This is why it is so important for us to pass this legislation. I frankly wish it had been done sooner, or in the context of some of the government's other justice legislation, but here we are today.
The other thing I want to lay out here is that the government had the opportunity to put this legislation in its previous bill and, therefore, to also study the terms laid out in this bill. What I do not want to see happen is the government not responding to legitimate questions from colleagues in this place around the definition and how it might apply to activities like animal husbandry or whatnot, because it failed to put this legislation forward earlier in this Parliament.
Again, I point to my Liberal colleague, the member for Beaches—East York. It is a rare day I can be found complimenting a Liberal in this place, but my colleague had a large piece of comprehensive legislation on a bunch of different animal welfare issues. He reduced that bill significantly through amendments to a few very tight issues. One of them is the bestiality provision, which we have in my private member's bill. Now the government, late in this Parliament, is trying to rush this through. It is therefore incumbent upon the government and the minister to answer these questions to ensure that the intent of the legislation, as she has described it is, is applied in fact.
Going back to why this is important and not an issue that should be ignored, there is a strong connection between abuse of animals and abuse of people. A provincial government of Australia website says:
Research has established a strong connection between abuse towards animals, and abuse towards people. When a person abuses an animal there is a risk that they may also be abusive towards other people in their lives. Children who experience abuse towards animals, or abuse within the home, are also more likely to abuse animals or perform acts of violence towards people later in life. They repeat lessons learnt in the home: to react to anger with violence, and to perform this violence on more vulnerable individuals. Animal abuse can take the form of physical violence, torment, neglect, or threats to safety – be it to household pets, wildlife, or farm animals. It is often used by the abuser to demonstrate power over other family members, and promote an environment of fear, vulnerability, and isolation. It commonly occurs alongside other types of abuse within the home.
There are other bodies of research that clearly show the link between the abuse of animals and abuse of people. Through the debate here today, in both aspects of the bill, the bestiality change, as well as the change to animal fighting, which I fully support, we have to acknowledge that we cannot turn a blind eye to the severity of this problem, because it escalates.
I personally think we have a responsibility to ensure that the rights and welfare of animals are protected, but we also have to understand that case law shows that it is a problem, despite the fact I have seen some articles recently saying that it is not. Moreover, research shows that by we in Parliament, by not taking action on this, might precipitate broader abuses leaning toward violence against people in our country, which is why it should not have taken two years for us to get to this point. However, here we are.
I want to thank people in the stakeholder community for their efforts on this because that community has been asking for this change for a long time. I also want to thank the over 8,000 Canadians who signed the petition seeking legislative change in this regard. There has been considerable pressure on the government from a variety of organizations across the stakeholder gamut. The Canadian Federation for Agriculture has spoken in favour of the bestiality change. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association also issued a letter to the Minister of Justice to implore her to remedy this legislative gap.
To my colleagues who have raised concern about the animal husbandry component, I have been assured by officials as well as members of these communities that they do not see any potential implications given the definition in case law. However, to the stakeholders who have written in support of it, we need to be very clear about the intent of this debate to say that this legislation was not put forward, and certainly not in my private member's bill, to prevent legitimate animal husbandry activities. Instead, it is designed to prevent the abuse of animals by humans undertaking sexual acts for their gratification by abusing animals.
As the Supreme Court case of R. v. D.L.W. demonstrated, violence against animals and violence against people are not distinct and separate problems. Violence against animals can be a strong predicator of violence against humans and the relationship between these acts of violence is known as the violence link. Very simply put, if a person wants to hurt animals, they are also more likely to hurt another person as well. I have gone into that in some detail today. I just want to reiterate this.
While the bill addresses the definition of bestiality, I have concerns that there are elements missing in Bill C-84, as it does not currently give judges the ability to ban bestiality offenders from owning animals in the future, something that is a standard for other animal cruelty offences under the Criminal Code. That means that someone who is convicted of committing a bestiality offence is legally allowed to own animals. However, someone who is convicted of animal cruelty is not allowed to own animals. A reasonable person can see why this is a problem endangering animals as well as humans, and I would like to see an amendment to the bill, possibly at third reading that could make this small change.
I also want to address critics of the bill who view it as a slippery slope. Again, some of my colleagues have raised the issue of animal husbandry. The concern is that perhaps farmers and other husbandry workers could somehow be criminally implicated by this small change in law. This law as well as my private member's bill ensures that contact with animals for sexual purposes is prohibited, and the key word here is “sexual”. Sexual offences appear in the Criminal Code in a number of different places, including the context of sexual interference, section 151; invitation to sexual touching, section 152; sexual exploitation, section 153; and most importantly, the section 271 offence of sexual assault.
To my colleague who was asking questions of the minister, this is my analysis. The word “sexual” has been clearly defined in case law. The leading Supreme Court case is R. v. Chase, 1987, 2 S.C.R. 293. Chase it makes it clear that contact will only be sexual in nature if it is objectively clear to a reasonable observer that there is a carnal or sexual context to it. To my colleague who raised this question earlier and asked the minister for evidence from case law, I would direct him to this case. The person's motive is also relevant and if they are motivated by sexual gratification, that would be considered in determining whether or not the contact is sexual. In other words, the key question that would be grappled with is whether or not the sexual nature of the activity were apparent to a reasonable observer.
To apply this to the issue at hand, it is abundantly clear that artificial insemination of cows or other animals in farming or science would in no universe be interpreted by the courts to be done for sexual reasons, one would assume anyway. Rather it is done for animal husbandry reasons or scientific reasons. There is no element of sexual gratification in either situation. Artificial insemination of animals is an accepted activity that occurs across a variety of sectors, and no reasonable person would view it as anything other than economically or scientifically motivated. I would also point out that the current law that requires penetration would apply to practices like artificial insemination already if we are interpreting it without the case law looking at intent.
Again, to my colleague's question of the justice minister, she could have expanded on that. I would expect her, if she is going to appear at our committee, to look at that particular definition and perhaps get more information to colleagues who might have concerns about that. In fact, there has never been a case that has used the existing law in this matter, using the current bestiality provisions to prosecute a farmer for the artificial insemination of an animal, given that the current definition deals with penetration.
It might also be helpful to make an analogy to the care given by a doctor or even a veterinarian. Doctors frequently have contact with a patient's sexual organs, and touching is not done for sexual purposes but for medicinal purposes. Similarly, a veterinarian who examines an animal's sexual organs would never be deemed to be engaged in sexual contact with the animal but contact for the purpose of veterinary medicine.
This is a very uncomfortable discussion to have, but sometimes hard discussions are needed, and we cannot shy away from having them. However, I am glad to see the bill finally in front of Parliament so that we can give police more tools to deal with dangerous sexual criminals.
The other component of the bill that I support is the ban on animal fighting. Some of my colleagues have had questions about the definition of animal fighting and the situations it would pertain to. At first glance, the proposed legislation is pretty clear in its intent to prevent animal fighting in a very specific context, and not with a broader set of non-specific definitions.
The reason this is also important to my NDP colleague's comment of a bare minimum in updating animal cruelty and animal welfare legislation in Canada is that this is another instance where animal abuse or cruelty can have broader societal implications for humans. For example, we know that dog fighting, in fact, most animal fighting, has been linked to gang activity or organized crime and illegal gambling. Therefore, if somebody does not want to look at the animal cruelty components of the proposed legislation, they should at least, at a bare minimum, look at the fact that this particular activity is known to have broader implications for crime in Canadian society. It is one of these rare situations where we have consensus among a broad variety of stakeholders that this is something Parliament should be passing and undertaking.
Some colleagues raised concerns with me that it might affect rodeos in Canada. I do not take it to read that way, but perhaps the Minister of Justice, the parliamentary secretary or officials could speak to the intent of it as well, which might get rid of some of the concerns that my colleagues have in that regard. As a member of Parliament from Calgary, I do not see rodeos as places where animals are fighting each other, or fighting to the death. That is not the case, and so I would not see that as the intent of this proposed legislation. However, perhaps the minister could clarify that to ensure that there are no unintended consequences from the bill.
Also, because I believe this may have come up, perhaps my colleague from Beaches—East York might want to speak to the fact that some of those concerns were raised during the committee study of his bill. Even though his bill was defeated in this place, the intent of that proposed legislation was to be specific and to deal with a specific problem. However, one of the approaches my colleague from Beaches—East York took in that somewhat frustrating journey with his private member's bill was, to my understanding, to try to update the animal welfare legislation by drilling down towards specific problems and then come up with specific legislation so there would be no broader impact on Canadian agriculture.
The feedback I often get from colleagues or stakeholder communities is whether this would affect medical research or someone's ability to run a ranch. I certainly do not think that is the case.
View Rosemarie Falk Profile
View Rosemarie Falk Profile
2018-06-18 12:14 [p.21123]
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-45, the cannabis act, a bill that would have a profound impact on our Canadian society.
The Liberal government's plan to legalize recreational marijuana has created a lot of uncertainty and unanswered questions. It is pushing this legislation forward without giving it the due diligence it requires. That is why it comes as no surprise this legislation has been sent back to us with so many amendments.
The priority of the government should be the health and safety of Canadians, but through legislative process, it has been clear that the Liberals are rushing to fulfill a political promise. At the outset, the Liberals set an arbitrary deadline to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, and the rush to legalize this harmful drug continues. This is despite concerns that have been raised from scientists, doctors, and law enforcement officials.
In this legislation, the Liberals have included a section outlining its purpose. The stated purpose of the cannabis act is to protect public health and safety, particularly that of young people, and that its purpose is to restrict access to cannabis for young people and to discourage its use. It also states that it sets out to reduce illicit activities and the burden on the criminal justice system. It states the goal of providing access to a quality-controlled supply of cannabis. Lastly, it wants to enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis.
Unfortunately, the legislation before us does not and will not achieve these goals. It is important to consider why this legislation does not achieve its stated purpose. We often hear from those in favour of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana that it is just a harmless drug. That is a myth. There is scientific evidence that marijuana is not a harmless drug, especially for young people. To quote the Canadian Medical Association:
Children and youth are especially at risk for marijuana-related harms, given their brain is undergoing rapid, extensive development.
Our understanding of the health effects of marijuana continues to evolve. Marijuana use is linked to several adverse health outcomes, including addiction, cardiovascular and pulmonary effects..., mental illness, and other problems, including cognitive impairment and reduced educational attainment. There seems to be an increased risk of chronic psychosis disorders, including schizophrenia, in persons with a predisposition to such disorders. The use of high potency products, higher frequency of use and early initiation are predictors of worse health outcomes.
The health effects I just described are very serious. They come at a high cost to Canadian taxpayers, and an even higher individual cost to the person experiencing any of these health problems. Knowing this, the recreational use of marijuana should never be encouraged. This is particularly critical when it comes to young Canadians. A young person's brain continues to develop until the age of 25. Although provinces are able to set a higher age, the cannabis act recommends the age of 18 as a federal minimum. That means the Liberals are recommending legalizing marijuana for individuals seven years before their brain finishes developing.
Medical professionals have testified that increased use before the age of 25 increases the risk of developing mental disorders by up to 30% compared to those who have not used marijuana before the age of 25. I would argue that what one permits, one promotes, and knowing what one allows, one encourages. Knowing the medical facts we know, it is irresponsible to allow an 18-year-old to legally smoke recreational marijuana. The Liberals are normalizing drug use and knowingly putting Canada's young people at a disadvantage.
A concern was raised during the study of this bill at the House's health committee that by setting the age at 18 for legal recreational use, there was a greater chance it would land in the hands of even younger children.
The point was raised that children 16 or 17 years old are more likely to be around 18-year-olds than, say, a 21-year-old. This means that the legislation as it is could increase the likelihood of a minor using marijuana. Let us not forget that this legislation actually allows children aged 12 to 17 to possess up to five grams of marijuana. That is the equivalent to 10 to 15 joints. If the message the Liberals are trying to send to the youth is that they should not use marijuana, they have missed the mark. The legal quantity of marijuana possession for children aged 12 to 17 should be zero. Zero sends the right message.
A public education and awareness campaign would also help send the right message. A campaign of this regard should be implemented before the legalization of marijuana and not after. While Health Canada is putting together a program, there has been no indication that it will be rolled out before the legalization of marijuana, and there is no requirement of sorts. There are no provisions in the cannabis act for public education. If not rejected, this legislation should at least be put on pause until a public education plan is rolled out. It also should not be rushed ahead when provinces, municipalities, police forces, and employers are not ready to implement it.
The belief that legalizing recreational marijuana use will eliminate the black market is also flawed. That outcome is dependent on a wide variety of factors, many of which are being left up to the provinces. The fact that this act legalizes home grow plants is actually more likely to result in an increase in the size of the black market. This bill allows individuals to grow four plants per dwelling, with no height restrictions on the plants. Four plants could yield up to 600 grams of marijuana. That is a large quantity and it could easily be trafficked. A network of home grows could easily contribute to organized crime. There is also the question of how the four plant policy will be enforced.
In addition to the impact on the black market, the home grow provision in this legislation also raises other concerns. When marijuana plants are grown in homes, marijuana becomes even more accessible to young Canadians. There is also no ability to control the quality of the marijuana that is grown in someone's home. This directly counteracts a stated purpose of this legislation.
The impact of marijuana plants on a home could be very significant. It is a known fact that the moisture from marijuana plants can create mould and spores in the structure of a home. This can impact the structural security of a home. It can also result in air quality that is harmful to a person's health.
There is also the concern that there is a 24 times greater incident of fire in residences growing marijuana. This creates even more danger for individuals living in apartments and multi-unit dwellings. This legislation also creates a unique concern for landlords.
I have raised many concerns with the legislation before us. I did not even get to the very valid concerns of many Canadians who are concerned with the odour of recreational marijuana use, or the issues of second-hand smoke and drug-impaired driving. Employers are also concerned with marijuana use in the workplace and its impact on workplace safety.
The cannabis act is irresponsible legislation. It fails to meet its intended purpose. It does not keep marijuana out of the hands of children. It does not keep profits out of the hands of criminals. It does not address the many concerns that have been raised by scientists, doctors, and law enforcement.
The cannabis act is being rushed through to fulfill a political promise, and doing so sacrifices public health and safety.
Conservatives will not support the Prime Minister's ill-conceived plan to legalize this harmful drug. Canadians deserve better.
View Rosemarie Falk Profile
View Rosemarie Falk Profile
2018-06-18 12:28 [p.21124]
Madam Speaker, I am not sure if the member opposite listened to what I had to say.
The way this legislation is written, children aged 12 to 17 can be in possession of it. This is alarming. We do not have a public health campaign out there right now teaching children or talking about it with children, that this is potentially harmful and dangerous for them. I do not see how the government would protect children when the legislation is written as it is and the Liberals have refused amendments from the other place that would address this.
View Martin Shields Profile
View Martin Shields Profile
2018-06-18 12:48 [p.21128]
Madam Speaker, one of the things we hear coming out of Colorado, and I read the news media and we can take it for what it is, is that about 50% of production, marketing and selling is still done by the criminal side.
Colorado is finding the same thing around pricing of contraband cigarettes, and in Canada we have a huge share of the market in contraband cigarettes. The government talks about taking it out of the hands of criminals, but then I read that Colorado says that 50% is still handled by the criminal element in the market, that they can cut prices and sell it as they choose, all outside of government control.
Taking it out of the hands of the criminal element does not seem to be working in Colorado. How is it going to be different here?
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
2018-06-18 12:50 [p.21128]
Madam Speaker, today I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Provencher.
I am here today to speak against Bill C-45 and its legalization of cannabis. This bill is supposedly intended to protect youth, regulate the industry, and eliminate the black market. Not only would it not do any of those things, it would also prevent Canada from upholding several of our international treaties, something very dear to me as a former diplomat, and would likely cause additional tension with provincial governments.
Doctors and other medical professionals have found that the brain continues to develop until the age of 25 and that marijuana use before that age will actually increase an individual's risk of developing mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety, by up to 30%. For this reason, one of the principal intentions of this bill was to keep marijuana out of the hands of children. This legislation would be unsuccessful in that regard for two reasons.
The first reason is that the legislation would allow possession for minors, children aged 12 to 17. I have a son who is seven years old, and the thought that he would be able to possess cannabis five years from now is terrifying to me. They would be allowed to possess up to five grams of marijuana, which is approximately 10 to 15 joints. There is also no provision to prevent them from selling or distributing cannabis to other 12- to 17-year-olds. The amount minors are allowed to possess should be zero so that we can send the right message on the dangers for youth. Youth should not be using it and therefore should not be allowed to carry it. Again, the thought of this being anywhere near my young son frightens me.
The second reason is that this bill would also set the age of 18 as the federal minimum. The Canadian Medical Association and other medical professionals recommend increasing the age at which a person can legally consume marijuana to at least 21. Although under the age of 21 there is potential for mental disorders, as previously mentioned, they also recognize that if the age is set too high, people will continue illegal consumption.
If we want to keep marijuana out of the hands of children, 18 is too young an age. Typically, 16- and 17-year-olds hang out with 18-year-olds. The majority of us in the House have certainly been to secondary school.
Another goal of this legislation was to help eliminate the black market for marijuana. Having worked in Central America and Latin America, the black market for narcotics is very well known to me and concerns me very much.
This is extremely unlikely to happen, because it is dependent on many factors. Factors such as pricing, distribution, production, and packaging are not included in this bill. They are, rather, left to the provinces to legislate. Additionally, allowing people to grow marijuana at home would only increase the size of the black market, as Canadians would be permitted to grow yields of up to 600 grams in their homes. Such a large amount of marijuana can easily lead to trafficking and make it extensively harder to enforce.
We heard this from Joanne Crampton, the assistant commissioner for federal policing criminal operations in the RCMP, who stated:
organized crime is a high priority for federal policing, in particular, for the RCMP. We target the highest echelon within the organized crime world. We're very cognizant...and realize that the chances of organized crime being eliminated in the cannabis market would be.... It's probably naive to think that could happen.
She said it is “probably naive”. This is yet another goal of this legislation that would not be achieved.
This legislation is also being rushed through Parliament without necessary debate or consultation. We have heard repeatedly from municipal and provincial governments that they will not have the necessary time or resources to adequately respond to the impact Bill C-45 would have on both Canadians and our communities.
There are numerous organizations and associations that have asked to push back the arbitrary deadline. For example, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police asked the government to extend the deadline. I think “asking” is a subtle word. I would say that “begging” would be more appropriate.
Over 68,000 police officers in Canada will need specific training in the wake of this monumental legislative change, and a few months is not a realistic time frame within which we can do this. If police are not prepared to deal with the legalization of marijuana due to inadequate training, this may lead to poor decisions and result in bad case law for any new legislation. This is important, because law is based upon precedent, and we are going into a time when these precedents will be set for the future.
We need our law enforcement in Canada to have the proper ability and resources to uphold the law. Police will require final legislation from all levels of government before being able to begin their planning and training. The government should have provided police forces with clearer direction in this regard. Provinces, municipalities, police forces, and our indigenous communities have made it clear that they are not ready to implement this legislation and that more time would have allowed for adequate consultation to develop a successful framework.
There will also be major international implications from implementing this legislation. The legalization of marijuana does not comply with three United Nations treaties: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Might I add, as a former diplomat, that I cannot see how this could not possibly affect the Vienna Convention as well in regard to consular matters.
We also know that this could cause additional tension with our southern neighbours, the United States. Officials at United States' border crossings have been asking individuals whether they have consumed marijuana, and if the response is yes, these individuals have been denied entry by our next-door neighbour. This will be problematic when individuals' legal marijuana use in Canada results in their consistently being denied entry into the United States.
At the health committee, we heard that the former mayor of Grand Forks, Brian Taylor, was barred from going back to the United States due to a “relationship with marijuana”. A relationship: those are pretty strong words.
By the way, Grand Forks is a beautiful place. I went there as part of my honeymoon. I loved it there. It sits near a river. There is a presidential museum there, which we had the opportunity to visit.
Getting back to the bill, not having a solution to this problem may cause additional tension in the context of already hostile NAFTA negotiations. This is a serious issue that is still unresolved.
This legislation is also likely to cause jurisdictional problems here at home. Quebec and Manitoba have taken a strong stance against home grown marijuana, but the government will force all provinces to allow home growth, contrary to a unanimous amendment from the Senate.
Provincial governments will bear much of the burden of this legislation when it comes to regulations on distribution, production, and enforcement, so it is only fair that they have discretion in this area. This is yet another case of the federal government forcing its policies on provincial governments, much like it is trying to do with the carbon tax. It is very similar indeed.
The bill is extremely worrisome, as it contains some major issues. The Standing Committee on Health heard from many witnesses on Bill C-45, and the government keeps failing to implement their recommendations. These concerns are from respectable establishments, such as the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Some significant and well-known organizations in the nation are saying that they are not ready, that this legislation is not ready, and that they require more time.
I always say that we will be the official opposition that holds this legislation to account through enforcement, through distribution, and through education.
If my Liberal colleagues across the floor truly cared about the well-being of Canadians, they would not be putting this legislation forward in its current form. We need to stand up for the safety of all Canadians and vote against Bill C-45.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2018-06-05 23:22 [p.20333]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be joining this debate at this late hour on behalf of my constituents of Calgary Shepard, and I want to thank the member for Peace River—Westlock for the intervention he made and for his exposition on the problem of human trafficking in Canada. It is usually a crime and an activity that we think about in the context of international human trafficking.
I know that oftentimes when looking at the International Justice Mission and other not-for-profit organizations that are trying to fight against international human trafficking, it is easy to forget that it happens right here in Canada as well, and it is a problem in our communities. I know that there was a former member of this House, Joy Smith, who did quite a bit of work on the subject. She will be putting out a book on it very soon.
It is a problem here, and we should think of it in the domestic context. Whenever we make changes to the criminal justice system, we should be ensuring that issues like human trafficking are not reduced and that we do not send a signal to individuals in our communities that they will possibly face a lighter sentence at the end of the day for this type of activity if they are convicted of it.
I asked a previous question about Bill C-75. I listened attentively to many interventions and speeches in the House, and I listened to the member for Mount Royal when he went through a list of potential issues that the justice committee could look at, if and when this particular piece of legislation is sent there. I thought he did a very good job of presenting some of the issues that different members of the House had brought forward.
I listened attentively to the member for Eglinton—Lawrence as well when he gave the government's position and presented what the government believes is the upside of the bill. Obviously his role here is to present the best possible case on this particular piece of legislation, and not to present the potential defects or downsides of the bill. That is all right, because that is really the job of opposition members and those individuals who have differences with the content of the bill.
It has been said that some of the portions of the bill are specific to how offences will be treated in the lower courts. What I am talking about is how some offences will be hybridized and how most hybridized indictable offences will be punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less. It will increase the default maximum penalty for two years less a day of imprisonment for summary conviction offences and extend the limitation period for summary conviction offences to 12 months. Several members of the opposition, members of the Conservative Party, have discussed how this hybridization, this transferring to offences that would carry a lower sentence that a person could face if convicted, is the wrong way to go.
I believe deeply that the list of offences, 27 of them, that could be reduced in terms of the maximum time a person could face in jail is the wrong way to go. I have a few of them that I am going to mention. I will not read the whole list. They include obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman; concealing the body of a child; infanticide; impaired driving offences causing bodily harm, including impaired driving causing bodily harm; blood alcohol over legal limit—bodily harm; failure or refusal to provide sample—bodily harm; and abduction of a person under the age of 16 and 14.
The list goes on, but this gives a feel for the types of offences that are being modified or are proposed to be modified in this piece of legislation by the government.
Thus, I have a difference of opinion. I think the House should be setting a pretty high bar on what prosecutors and judges can consider in punishing those individuals that they convict of the offence. I do not think two years less a day or two years and under is the right way to go.
We have heard from others, and I address these issues as a layperson. Of course, as I said, I am not a lawyer. I say this often at committees. I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant. I am not bothered by considerations of 20 years. I just look at it as most Canadians would look at it. If individuals are alleged to have committed a certain crime, what is it that they are going to be facing? I look at it as an outsider looking in on the judicial system.
When I look at an offence like concealing the body of a child, I think that is quite serious. I think a person convicted of such an offence should face many, many years in jail as a deterrent, as a form of punishment, and also as an opportunity, I think, for rehabilitation in jail. I have said it before in this House, and I said again just a few days ago that I believe our prison system should be focused more on rehabilitation. There is a patchwork of success in the United States. Every single state there has a different system when it comes to rehabilitating their prisoners, and that is the case in the European model as well. I do not know if we have struck the right balance in Canada, but it is something that absolutely is worth looking at.
It has been said in the House that prosecutors and judges will be able to decide what type of offence they will go after, whether they will go for an indictable offence or a summary conviction in these types of cases.
I believe the House should indicate what the minimum sentence should be for these types of offences, and I do not mean the minimum sentence on these cases. I simply mean the up to 10 years in jail should be the upper bar. It would be our direction to prosecutors and judges on the seriousness of the offence being considered by them instead of this hybrid model.
This legislation is over 300 pages long. I just want to go back to that for a moment as well. Those of us who are not practised in law, who do not have a deep background of many years of service on the justice committee, will obviously struggle to consider the finer points of what will happen.
We set the Criminal Code. We in the House determine the contents of the Criminal Code, but provincial governments operate the provincial courts. They appoint a lot of judges themselves. They operate the courthouses. They have quite a large role to play in that administration.
Police officers enforce the law, but they do not run the judicial system in the courts. Those two are separate. One sets policy and one is the administrative arm of the activity.
Our provincial governments are stressed. They are stressed with respect to the public treasury. They have a difficult time financing public services, but they also have a difficult time finding new judges. The federal government has struggled with this as well.
There have been federal judiciary vacancies. Forgive me for using an older statistic, but as of April 1, there were 59 vacancies. Appointing more federal judges, appointing more provincial judges, and ensuring courthouse space is available will allow for faster prosecution of criminals and alleged criminals. Those who will be proven innocent will be let go.
As right as that is, we need to ensure people have appropriate access to our judicial system. It is not just about judges, it is not just about having the right laws; it is also important to have the necessary court space for cases to be heard.
I mentioned yesterday in the House that Calgary had a gang problem, not just the FOB gang but many others. The FOB gang leader was let go just a few weeks ago, partly because of the Jordan decision, partly because he could not get his hearing on time, and partly because he could not appear before a judge. Delays were built in by his lawyer, who did his job in defending his client, but he could not get his client in front of a judge to be prosecuted for his alleged crimes. He was out on bail as well, and this is another issue.
We have a revolving door for career criminals. This is a serious issue in our communities. These people commit new crimes, especially organized crime.
One charge that will be modified under the proposed legislation is participation in a criminal organization. I have serious problems with this. We should be doing more to ensure career criminals are put away. Part of that involves ensuring they face up to 10 years in jail. It is the multiplicity, the series of criminal acts, that sends them back to jail.
The arresting officer in the case of the FOB gang leader arrested him on a lower charge. There were litany of other offences for which he was going to be charged. The issue was finding him, stopping him, and arresting him so he could face justice. That is the problem.
I do not see the right focus in Bill C-75 at this time. I just do not see us going after the right things. The government claims that this legislation would give us better access to the judicial system, that it would improve things, that it would speed things up.
I love Yiddish proverbs. I always use them in the House. Here is another one “Better an honest slap in the face than an insincere kiss.” It is an older Yiddish proverb but it is quite a good one. I would rather the Government of Canada just come clean. I know it is an unusual Yiddish proverb, but the government should just come clean. If the goal of the legislation is to give lighter offences for certain types of criminals, then the government should just say so, and do so. If the goal of the legislation is to download to the provincial courts, then it should just say so, and do so.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2018-05-31 19:57 [p.20033]
Mr. Speaker, I thoroughly enjoyed your reading of the amendments and I think you did a splendid job getting through them all. I hear a member opposite saying “on division”. These are two of my favourite words spoken in this Parliament. I will want to see those recorded votes when they happen.
I am rising today to speak to Bill C-47, which is a bill that would implement an international arms control treaty. In preparation for speaking on this bill, I went through past interventions given by other members in which they contributed their thoughts as to the impact that the bill will have on their constituents. I went through the intervention from the member for Portage—Lisgar on this particular bill, and that is where I would like to begin.
I am going to refer to the bill as the companion bill to Bill C-71, which is a piece of firearms legislation that the government has introduced as well. I do not think we can look at either of the bills separately. I look at the bills as logically following one from the other. They have the same idea behind them.
In the intervention, the member said:
At best, despite amendments, we are in a place where Canadians...cannot trust the government on firearms...Despite earlier attempts through Bill C-47, the government has failed to recognize the legitimacy of lawful firearms ownership and has moved to create all sorts of unnecessary problems and red tape for responsible firearms owners.
We see in the companion bill to Bill C-47, which is Bill C-71, that in fact the government is making lawful and legitimate firearms ownership more complicated, more complex, and more difficult for Canadians.
Firearms ownership allows Canadians to hunt and participate in sports like sharpshooting, and to prepare for biathlon. This is a part of our inheritance and heritage that Canadians enjoy. There are Canadians who have been doing these types of activities for generations in Canada. It is a great part of our Canadian history and it is part of our dual national history. Both French Canadians and English Canadians have been participating in these types of activities and have contributed to the growth of Canada's lands in a dominion that formed our great Confederation.
Another member said about Bill C-47:
Most critically, it effectively recreates the federal gun registry by requiring the tracking of all imported and exported firearms and requires that the information be available to the minister for six years. Given that those are calendar years, it could be up to seven years.
Firearms groups and individual owners have repeatedly expressed concerns about the implications of [those six years]. They want a strong system of arms control, but they point out that in fact we already have one.
We know that many of the provisions that are being proposed in this ATT are already being done. There is nothing really new here. We know there is already tracking and recording, and more of it is being done right now. The Canada Border Services Agency and Statistics Canada collect information on all items exported from Canada and classify these items using categories negotiated by the World Customs Organization. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves why we are implementing a treaty that will simply add onto red tape and the bureaucracy that we already have here in Ottawa.
The previous member I spoke of also went into some of the details. Both the ATT and its companion bill, Bill C-71, do not mention organized crime and will, in fact, do nothing to stop gangsters from obtaining firearms in Canada and using them in their illicit activities, because people who do not obey the law today and who participate in gangsterism and gang activities will not obey the law either way. They are earning their living through illicit activities like counterfeiting and human trafficking, so they will not be interested in caring about the contents of Bill C-47 and its companion bill, Bill C-71. This is simply more bureaucracy and more red tape being imposed on law-abiding Canadians, who of course are going to try their best to obey the law.
An argument that could be made too on Bill C-47 is that it is actually going to impose restrictions on the Department of National Defence, which is traditionally exempted from the export control system so as to be able to provide military aid or government-to-government gifts, such as the loaning or gifting of equipment to another government or a potential ally that we are supporting.
In spending this past weekend at the spring session of the NATO organizations meetings in Poland, I was able to hear from other member states that are looking forward to receiving more support from the Canadian government, Ukraine and Georgia. Our allies in the Baltic states are all hoping to see Canada step up and provide more support. They are satisfied with what we have done up to now, but they want to see more of it, so how does it make it simpler for us to add the Department of National Defence to the list of those who have to comply with this export control treaty?
In fact, it will make it more complicated and more bureaucratic. There will be more red tape involved in trying to support our allies in NATO, and it does not help in any way. That is in article 5 of the ATT.
There are other countries we could be supporting as well. We may want to provide them with additional support. I remember that in the past two and a half years the Canadian government said it would support the Kurdistan Regional Government's fight versus ISIS. I am privileged to chair in this House the pro-Kurdish group, the Parliamentary Friends of the Kurds. I have spoken to many Kurdish leaders, both in Canada and outside of Canada, including Syrian leaders and others, who at one point were promised they would be able to obtain Canadian weapons to support the fight versus Daesh. Those weapons eventually never came.
Would it have made it simpler to impose more red tape, more arms controls on people we are supporting publicly and encouraging to take the fight directly to terrorist organizations like Daesh, which were trying to set up a proto-state? No, it would not. That is my concern with treaties such as this one, which I will be opposing and happily voting against.
There is a Yiddish proverb that goes, “Uphill we always climb with caution, downhill we dash, carefree.” I am afraid we are dashing carefree down this hill. There is the perception that more government, more red tape, and more bureaucracy makes us safer, makes our communities better, and achieves some type of vague public policy goal whereby more government equals greater safety for Canadians. Tell that to rural Canadians. Tell that to people who live just south of my riding, who are afraid enough at night that they turn off their porch lights so people do not know their homes are there. That way, they do not have to deal with Calgary gangsters coming out to rural communities to commit crimes, to invade their homes and steal their property because it is easier than doing it in the city because there are fewer police officers in our rural communities. It is just a fact of life that there are fewer people and fewer police officers. It is simple logic. It just happens that way.
I hear the member for Foothills saying it is in his riding, and there are many members with ridings next to each other. My kids actually go to school in his riding. This is something rural Canadians have to deal with. How would Bill C-47 help them? It would not. It would not make life any easier for them, and neither would the companion bill, Bill C-71.
Law-abiding Canadians are going to keep abiding by the law. They are going to obey the law. We can count on firearms owners to do just that every single time. Therefore, why are we dashing carefree down that hill, expecting that more government, more bureaucracy, more red tape at the bottom of the hill will somehow keep us safer? They can introduce all the rules they want in the world, and it still will not help.
The Speaker is giving me the sign that I have one minute left, and here I was going to read to the chamber the list of states that have neither signed nor acceded to the ATT and the states that have signed but not yet ratified the ATT. It would have been riveting reading for the members of this House to understand exactly the number of states that are not participating in this treaty. Many of those who will not be participating in this treaty are arms dealers and many of them share weapons among themselves. They are not regimes that can be expected to obey any type of international law in the near future. For the most part, these are regimes we do not count among our friends, either. The governments that will obey this agreement are law-abiding, lawful western governments, and this measure would be restricting their ability to support their allies overseas.
I will be happily voting against this bill—it is a bad bill—as well as the companion bill, Bill C-71, and I look forward to the debate in this House.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2018-02-09 13:29 [p.17018]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-371, the prevention of radicalization through foreign funding act, introduced by my colleague from Parry Sound—Muskoka.
Organized criminal and terrorist networks are constantly evolving to find new ways to finance their crimes. New opportunities for criminal networks to exploit things like funding chains and programs offered through non-governmental organizations are constantly surfacing and it is our job as legislators not only to recognize this pattern but to shut them down. Today I would like to talk about some of the gaps in our current law and what it means for Canadians and why I think this bill is a step in the right direction.
There are numerous scenarios that currently allow terrorist organizations to infiltrate Canadian networks. These are often wealthy foreign influencers who funnel funds from their propaganda machines into Canadian charities and institutions. Imam Syed Soharwardy told the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence that this problem has been largely ignored, stating:
The money comes in different ways, in secret ways. Money comes through institutions. There are two organizations in Canada. Basically they are U.S. organizations that are operating in Canada. One is called AlMaghrib Institute, the other is called AlKauthar Institute. Both work in universities, not in mosques. Both give lectures. Both organize seminars. They are the ones who brainwash these young kids in lectures.
These are not amateur actors. They know where to find impressionable kids and how to pull them in using complex programs for recruitment through Canadian institutions like those based in education and faith. Richard Fadden, national security adviser to our ex-PM, and a former director of CSIS, explained that a major difficulty for managing this crisis in oversight is that money is coming from individuals and NGOs and not just foreign governments, which makes it more difficult to track. We know that between 2009 and 2014, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada identified 683 terrorist financing incidences, and yet we have not prosecuted any of these. Listed entities noted as operating are the Tamil Tigers, Hamas, and Hezbollah. A colleague on the Liberal side stated that there is no real need for improvement right now. However, there has not been a single charge in the 683 incidences of money coming in to terrorist organizations. It is clear the government does not take this issue seriously.
What happens when the funding network goes unchallenged or unchecked, and what does it mean for radicalization? Groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, and Daesh have developed complex campaigns that seek out gullible audiences around the world, and any funding that these organizations get, whether through criminal activity or collusion with foreign governments, goes toward growing their network, enhancing their capabilities, and spreading their message to indoctrinate people beyond their borders.
Let us be clear here. Canada has been directly threatened by terrorist groups. Calls to action from these groups for domestic fighters have been made. These groups have a vested interest in using the funds they make and collect abroad for international recruitment because their existence goes as far as their message will carry it. Daesh alone has the participation of over 100 Canadians so far that we know of, and with the advancement of digital communication and the increasing use of the Internet, that number will continue to grow. A National Post story cited in the Senate committee report stated that it takes about 30 seconds to create a Twitter account and connect to somebody in Syria and then Facebook's algorithm suggests similar sites and friends with the same interests. These connections are used to establish contacts, create shell organizations, and nurture relationships with newly radicalized groups. Because this funding is being funnelled into existing local institutions, they can recruit en masse, making it a much more lucrative investment for time and resources.
This bill seeks to apply a framework that stops this from happening by setting out a schedule of foreign states and, by extension, for individuals and entities that suppress religious freedom, impose punishments for religious beliefs, or have engaged in or facilitated activities that promote radicalization. As an added protection, there is a built-in review and appeal process that ensures accountability and transparency throughout the process of assessment. This spurs a further need with regard to foreign funding and especially why we are not doing more to enhance transparency and accountability in funding that Canada looks after and puts toward incoming and outgoing funds from Canada.
The most glaring example right now was the Liberals' decision to return funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, an organization that is known to be infiltrated and used by Hamas. UNRWA, while operating as a non-governmental organization, has provided facilities directly to terrorist organizations that commit crimes against children, women, and the population as a whole. It even allows Hamas to build tunnels underneath schools for launching rockets at Israel. I have to ask why this is right. Why are Canadian taxpayers funding an organization that is contributing to violence against innocent people?
Let us talk about the main source of illicit funding coming into Canada and across the world: Saudi Arabia.
The following is from a Robert Fife article on the Saudis. It reports on a task force report on terrorist financing by the Council on Foreign Relations, which included former White House counterterrorist czar Richard Clarke and David Cohen, the CIA's former director of operations.
...Saudi Arabia is funding radical Islamic extremism in...Canada, where the Saudis have contributed millions of dollars to a mysterious...centre in Toronto....
“Saudi Arabia funds the global propagation of Wahabism, a brand of Islam that, in some instances, supports militancy by encouraging divisiveness and violent acts against Muslims and non-Muslims,” the report said.
“This massive spending is helping to create the next generation of terrorists and therefore constitutes a paramount strategic threat to the United States” [and other neighbouring countries].
Saudi Arabia has spent hundreds of millions of dollars...around the world, including in Canada.
The article goes on to cite an official Saudi report that stated that the Saudis have donated millions in Canada, including for the Salaheddin centre, which runs “a mosque and private elementary school where the Khadr family and other...radicals linked to [Al Qaeda] belong, and where the organization's website preaches against Jews and Christians.”
Here is a delightful statement from that website, which is funded with help from the Saudis:
Why do we hate the Jews? We hate them for the sake of our Lord, we hate them for the sake of Allaah because they slandered Allaah and they killed and slandered His Prophets.
Here we have Saudi funding coming into Canada promoting hate.
I want to chat more about the Saudis for a moment. Saudi attacks in Yemen have led to over 4,000 civilian casualties, hitting homes, hospitals, and schools as well as civilian factories, warehouses, and other protected sites. Its forces have admitted using banned cluster munitions.
Saudi law allows flogging, stoning, executions, and brutal jail time for supporting demonstrations or for merely harming the reputation of the kingdom. Women must obtain permission from a male guardian to marry, divorce, travel, get a job, or have elective surgery or any other health care treatment.
Here we have Saudi groups poisoning minds in Canada and around the world, and the response from the Liberal government is to happily bring in blood oil on the east coast of Canada at the same time it shuns Alberta oil by killing off energy east.
More than 122,000 oil workers have been without jobs in Alberta since the price of oil collapsed, and Alberta's unemployment rate sits at a 22-year high, yet here we are knocking on Saudi Arabia's door for access to a resource we have plenty of at home.
Why are we pouring funds into countries that act in direct violation of rights we strive to uphold and that commit violence and discriminatory practices against women, minority groups, the LGBT community, and all demographic groups the Liberal government claims to support? I suppose saying that we are promoting human rights is easier than actually promoting them, yet here we are.
We need to preserve the integrity of our local institutions, such as our churches, our mosques, and our schools, and ensure that they and the people who rely on them are protected. We need to cut off this funding at the head. We know it is happening. We know who is doing it. We are not doing anything to stop it.
The bill is an essential way for governments to ensure that radical groups are not able to use local and domestic institutions as a means of growing their networks and committing atrocities around the world.
We need to ensure accountability and fiscal transparency in the foreign funding coming into Canadian schools and places of worship.
I thank my hon. colleague for bringing this private member's bill forward, and I will proudly support it.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2018-02-01 14:48 [p.16648]
Mr. Speaker, one prime objective of our whole new regime on cannabis is to stop the flow of illegal cash to organized crime. That includes on the selling end of the equation, and it certainly includes on the investor end of the equation.
Under our proposed regulations, security clearances will be mandatory for individuals who occupy key positions in any organization, as well as background checks on significant investors who hold more than 25% of any particular company.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2018-02-01 14:49 [p.16648]
Mr. Speaker, the regulations that will be promulgated under this new legislation will indeed require security clearances. In addition, the Minister of Finance recently reached an agreement with his provincial and territorial counterparts to ensure that we know who owns which corporations, which will help prevent Canadian or international companies from facilitating tax evasion, money laundering, or any other criminal activity.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2018-02-01 15:05 [p.16651]
Mr. Speaker, as we have said repeatedly, under the regulations that will flow from this legislation, security clearances will be mandatory for individuals who occupy key positions in any organization as well as background checks on significant investors who hold more than 25% of a cannabis company.
In addition, the Minister of Finance and his provincial counterparts have come to an agreement to demonstrate how we will all know what corporations are owned by whom.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2018-02-01 15:06 [p.16652]
Mr. Speaker, our concern with respect to organized crime has been a motivating factor behind this legislation from the very beginning. We want to stop the flow of illegal cash to crime organizations and we certainly want to make sure that none of that cash is invested in Canadian cannabis operations.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address Bill S-5 this afternoon. Bill S-5 is not about the legalization of marijuana, but I am going to talk a little about that anyway. The member for Winnipeg North, clearly holding up a lot of the government here today, will enjoy this in particular, I think.
The comparison between the way the government proceeded under Bill C-45 and what is happening with Bill S-5 is interesting and instructive. The reason I want to, later on in my speech, talk a little about the issue of marijuana legalization is that there is a bit of a gap when we hear members talk about the need to have clear information and the importance and value of plain packaging, but a member of the NDP cannot even answer my direct question about whether he supports plain packaging for marijuana. These comparisons are interesting. The push on tobacco, on the one hand, and then some of the messages with respect to marijuana, are clearly very much in tension with each other.
The other point I want to make in relation to the bill is that the government has spoken about the great work it has done, which happens from time to time in this place, but Bill S-5 originated in the Senate, so perhaps it is another opportunity to underline the fact that the Senate perhaps acts more independently than the government would actually like it to. When we have a bill coming out of the Senate that the government says reflects the work of the government, clearly it raises some questions about the actual independence level of the so-called independent senators the government is appointing.
I was going to move unanimous consent on something, but I will not anymore.
The issues that are dealt with in the bill are vaping and plain packaging for tobacco. The member for Winnipeg North appreciates my restraint, I am sure.
The bill speaks first about having plain packaging for tobacco. Members have probably heard, from different sides of this question, about the merits of this as a strategy for reducing the amount of smoking. For example, there are some people who argue that there has been a reduction in smoking as a result of plain packaging initiatives in some countries. However, in some of those cases, we can also see a long-term trend in the reduction of smoking in those countries anyway, so it can be difficult to establish a clear cause and effect if there was a reduction in levels, but it was consistent with a general social trend of a reduction in smoking.
The same argument could potentially be made about contraband. If we see an increase in the use of contraband after plain packaging, some might ask if that is part of a trend or something new. In general, as we try to make policy and respond to evidence, we have to, as much as possible, distill what seems to be caused by a change in policy and what might be part of an overall long-term effect. These are questions that, as we support the bill through to committee, I hope to see studied in detail, because it is not enough to have a good intention, obviously. We need to be able to demonstrate the link between the intention and the impact the policy would have practically.
One of the concerns we have heard about the proposal to have plain packaging is an increase in contraband. There are already very high levels of contraband tobacco. Over 50% of cigarettes in Ontario, for example, are contraband, and there is some evidence, although I know it is disputed by others, that plain packaging increases contraband. That creates all kinds of risks in terms of people being aware of what is in them, and obviously, the impact on health associated with that, and the greater risk of cigarettes getting into the hands of minors, and so forth.
I think there is a legitimate debate about plain packaging. It is not necessarily helpful when members characterize anyone who has legitimate questions about plain packaging as being put up to it by the tobacco industry. There is a legitimate discussion there, and I hope the committee will explore this in the spirit of that legitimate discussion. I myself remain relatively agnostic on the question. I am interested to see where the discussion on plain packaging goes.
On the issue of vaping, I have heard from constituents who have attested to the benefits for them in terms of smoking cessation. They have been able to make progress in cessation, as a result of access to vaping products, that they had not previously been able to make. I appreciate that feedback from constituents. It is something that I very much take note of as I consider the legislation in front of us.
What this bill seeks to do is regulate vaping. Certainly members have recognized the benefit of vaping, of having the information out there, and of further research. In particular, this part of the bill marshals strongly in favour of sending it to committee. There are different elements of this bill, some of which are more legitimately contentious than others. This bill deals with these two very distinct issues.
I think members know that the member for Cariboo—Prince George was in the hospital recently. I understand that he is doing very well now and is watching these proceedings. He had asked someone to highlight a particular story he had noted about a teen baseball player whose stepmother is calling for stronger vaping regulations after his death. This was someone who fell in the context of vaping and subsequently passed away. It raises again the importance of studying the issue of vaping and the impacts, as this bill does, and of exploring opportunities around regulation.
I want to send our best wishes to the member for Cariboo—Prince George and also to note this article he discovered and wanted to see raised.
I will go on to the issue of marijuana, because, as is well known, the government is proceeding with its plan to legalize marijuana. Members have heard the talking points on this. I almost slipped into saying them myself. To “legalize” and closely “regulate” is what the government always says. On the other hand, if we look at the kinds of regulations it is proposing and the arguments it is making in the context of Bill S-5, and we compare them to Bill C-45, it becomes quite clear that it is failing on this issue of close regulation, even when it comes to its own standards. I want to talk about some of those specific issues in terms of how we compare the agenda being advanced vis-à-vis tobacco and the discussion on marijuana.
First of all, we should acknowledge that while there is a great deal of public health information about the risks associated with tobacco use and a lot of information encouraging cessation from using tobacco, there is a general lack of information and advertising on the risks associated with marijuana. It has become clear to me, in some of the conversations that have happened in this House, that while one would never hear members say that they doubt evidence about the risks associated with tobacco, and there is agreement here that the use of tobacco is not good for one's health, on the issue of marijuana, there are members who really have downplayed the risks. Of course, we have a Prime Minister who has himself talked about his use of marijuana when he was an elected official while at the same time he was initially voting in favour of tougher sentencing with respect to marijuana. He then obviously changed his position. Perhaps he had some reckoning with something he was doing at the same time he was an elected official. Those kinds of messages obviously put out misinformation and confusion, in the minds of people.
I see that there are health claims being made about marijuana that are not backed by science and that are very much at odds with the kinds of claims we might hear made about tobacco. A lot of people may not know that use of marijuana, especially by young people, even relatively occasional use, can be associated with higher rates of certain mental health challenges later in life. The carcinogenic effects of marijuana are, of course, well established and, generally speaking, the carcinogenic effects of smoking marijuana are stronger than the carcinogenic effects associated with smoking a cigarette. Of course, people smoke them differently—they would not necessarily smoke a pack of joints in quite the same way—but the point is that the carcinogenic effects, pound for pound, are much stronger when it comes to marijuana. These are things that members are not always taking note of in their discussion around marijuana and, again, when it comes to the misleading health clams that we see sometimes made around marijuana.
I had a particularly jarring experience of this, which was captured by TVO. The member for Beaches—East York and I participated in a show that TVO put on—Political Blind Date, it was called—where we went to different facilities and learned about different sides of a question. We went to a facility in Toronto that has subsequently shut down, called Queens of Cannabis, where we were greeted by a so-called wellness expert who had no medical training of any sort, who was telling us about the alleged benefits of infusing one's children during pregnancy with THC. Obviously this is not something with any evidentiary basis, and yet it was the kind of health claims that were being made. We see some of these false claims being made and propagated with regard to marijuana in a way that, generally speaking, we do not see happening with respect to tobacco. There are not so-called wellness experts out there who are claiming to tell us about the benefits associated with using tobacco.
Recognizing that, the urgency of having clear, strong public health information associated with the risks of marijuana should be noted by members and should be well considered, and yet we do not have any requirements in this legislation for plain packaging on marijuana products. If members think that tobacco products should have clear warning labels, and I agree that they should, then why would the same not hold with respect to marijuana? If, as some have argued, plain packaging is beneficial for reducing the smoking of cigarettes, then why would not the same principle apply in the case of marijuana? It is strange to me and I have a hard time understanding, on the one hand, the approach to tobacco and, on the other hand, the approach to marijuana.
The government members have also talked about how, if we legalize and strictly regulate marijuana, so they say, it will be kept out of the hands of children and the profits will be kept from organized crime. I can almost give the speech from their side, I have heard the line so many times. However, when it comes to tobacco we see, as members have said today, how very often people start smoking when they are underage. It is very common that young people still access tobacco products when they are underage, and there is still a great deal of contraband tobacco that benefits organized crime. Therefore, how do we square the claims that the government is making with respect to marijuana with the information that the government members are talking about? For instance, I think it was the member for Winnipeg North who talked specifically about the age at which people often start smoking tobacco. If nothing else, the government should be considering promoting a reduction culture around marijuana as it legalizes it, but it is not even doing that, at least not in the same way that it is trying to do so with respect to tobacco.
The situation with contraband tobacco makes a point that was lost in the debate around marijuana, which is that just because a product is legal does not mean organized crime cannot be involved in that industry and benefit from it.
In reality, organized crime does not just sell illegal products. It can use illegal methods to sell legal products. Organized crime can benefit from exploiting instances of regulation or taxation, which provide it with an opportunity to operate outside of the legal sphere even while selling a product that is legal. In the case of tobacco, it is regulation and it is taxation.
I think all members are supportive of the idea of having taxes on tobacco, but when those taxes are in place, a reality is that they create an opportunity that might not otherwise exist for organized crime to be involved in that industry. That is simple, basic economics.
When it comes to marijuana and the federal government and other levels of government talk about taxation, regulation, and age restrictions, all of these dynamics will ensure that organized crime is still involved. It is a reality that organized crime is not being shut out of the picture. Those risks will continue to be in place for young people to access it.
If we look at the history of organized crime, frankly, this is true. Organized crime has benefited in certain instances when products are illegal, but it has certainly not ceased to operate when said products are legalized. Organized crime made a lot of money during alcohol prohibition, but it certainly did not go away or cease to make a lot of money after alcohol prohibition ended.
The other issue that we need to note is flavour. The last government addressed the issue of flavoured tobacco products, but the present government is open to moving forward in the future on edibles and on questions around flavouring in marijuana. There is not the same approach, with respect to the risks of flavouring and the impact associated with it when it comes to marijuana, as the approach when it comes to tobacco, and that is quite interesting.
The particular issue, as well, with marijuana is that it is just much easier to grow than tobacco, from what I have been told. The Liberal government would allow home grow. People are not growing four tobacco plants in their home regularly. Am I right?
The risk with the marijuana discussion, again, is that an environment has been created in the bill where we are going to have flavoured products, where we do not have clear health information, and where we do not have those same warning labels. As a result of allowing home grow, we will have the continuance of an illegal market, the continuance of a situation where it will be relatively easy for young people to access marijuana.
I want to make this point as well. The government has argued with respect to its marijuana legislation that the current approach is not working. If we define success as the complete elimination of marijuana use, then we could say that the current approach has not achieved complete cessation. However, nothing is going to achieve complete cessation. We have not achieved it on smoking and we have not achieved it on very hard drugs either.
Over the last 10 years we have seen a substantial reduction in marijuana use, and the numbers bear that out. I presented them in questions and comments in discussion with the Minister of Justice. If the goal was to reduce use and therefore reduce the risk, then the approach that was being taken to marijuana was not perfect—there were certainly opportunities to improve; our party favours the ticketing option—but it is quite clear that success was being achieved in terms of reduction.
To summarize, we are supportive of sending the bill to committee, of further studying the issues around plain packaging as well as vaping. I encourage stakeholders as well as my constituents to keep us informed about their perspective and proposals they have for potentially improving the bill.
It is important to highlight how the government's approach to marijuana legalization is very much exposed by this bill, and how the lack of proper safeguards and procedures in Bill C-45 is evident in comparison to Bill S-5.
View Rachael Harder Profile
View Rachael Harder Profile
2017-11-21 16:18 [p.15389]
Mr. Speaker, before I begin speaking to Bill C-45, I would like to highlight for those who are watching today that the Liberals took the opportunity to move time allocation on this important bill. In essence, that means they cut down the debate. They are actually refusing to hear from the members on the opposite side of the House today because they want to rush it through and get it to a vote. Why is it they want to rush it through and get it to a vote? Because they have party preparations to put in place for July 1, 2018. That is unfortunate. It is degrading to our parliamentary process to not have the opportunity to enter into a robust debate with respect to the topic at hand on behalf of the Canadians who have elected us to represent them here.
With that said, when I talk about Bill C-45 and the legalization of marijuana, I am not talking about its legalization for medical purposes, I am not talking about the legalization of marijuana in a way that is well-researched, thoughtful, or has taken into account the different factors that need to be considered, I am not talking about a bill that came out of a lengthy consultation process or a scientific endeavour, I am talking about a bill that was incredibly rushed in nature. It really did not take scientific evidence into consideration. It did not take the insight of law enforcement agents, health care practitioners, or experts into consideration. Really all it does is rush through this piece of legislation at a rate that is unnecessary and with a deadline that is arbitrary. That is of course, July 1, 2018.
I have heard from many people who are very worried about this legislation. Many have spoken out at a national level, including aboriginal leaders, law enforcement agents, health experts, municipalities, provinces, and of course concerned citizens from all across the country. Some of the things that they are saying are that they are concerned about children accessing marijuana easily and the age at which they are legally able to acquire it, the lack of education programs, the timeline and the fact that it is very rushed, the costs to the municipalities and provinces, and the fact that they really do not feel they have been given adequate time to respond. I am hearing from law enforcement agents much the same about the costs and the timeline. As well, they are bringing up drug-impaired driving. Then there is the issue around taxation. Therefore, in this time that I have, I would like to address some of these issues to a greater extent.
When it comes to children, I believe the government should take them and their future very seriously. That is part of what this place is about. There are 338 of us who have been elected to make decisions on behalf of Canadians from coast to coast. Yes, we make those decisions for today, but we also have to be aware of how those decisions will impact those who would come after us tomorrow.
Unfortunately, this legislation is ill-drafted in terms of its legal age of access, which is age 18. If we were to talk to the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Paediatric Society, or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, they would all say that the age of 18 is too young, that the human brain is developing until the age of 25, and that the use of marijuana impedes the full development of the human brain. Therefore, they have called for the legal age to be 25, and then said that perhaps age 21 would be a good negotiating point. That amendment was brought forward at committee. Of course, the Liberals shut that down. Therefore, it begs the question of whether the government is acting responsibly by setting the age at 18. The government also said that it would take the next generation seriously. It said that it would be the party that wants to keep marijuana out of the hands of young people. However, by setting the legal age at 18, and allowing four plants to be grown in our homes, which I will talk about momentarily, it is really not looking that seriously at keeping it out of the hands of young people.
Not only that, I heard from a group of young people who I meet with on a monthly basis to advise me on different topics at hand. We talked about the legalization of marijuana, and they said this, “If we legalize marijuana”, and of course we are going down that road, “and we do it according to the mechanisms that are at play here without education”, which there is none of right now, “it will normalize it and young people will think it is just okay, that there are no negative repercussions to the use of marijuana.” The young people I am listening to are telling me they are quite concerned. They are concerned for themselves, for their peers, and are very concerned for their younger siblings and what they might fall prey to. I think that is definitely worth considering.
A further point we need to consider related to child access is definitely education. In their budget, the Liberals did promise a considerable amount for education. They said $9.6 million over five years. In my estimation, that is not enough. I do not know if they are going to be able to afford an adequate education campaign with that amount of money over five years. Nevertheless, it is money put aside. It is money that was promised to this cause, and the Liberals did commit to a “robust”, which is the Prime Minister's word, campaign with regard to educating young people.
To date, we have seen nothing. There has been no action, nothing, just a broken promise. We see them talking out of one side of their face saying that education is very important and we want to keep it out of the hands of young people, but then out of the other side, they are actually not willing to move the dial and invest money in getting an education program up and running, which of course means that we are actually setting young people up for experimentation and for the normalization of drug use among our children.
I have yet another concern. This proposed legislation would allow for four plants to be in every household. Let me amuse the House for just one moment. I did a little research, and one plant equals 1.2 kilograms or 1,200 grams of marijuana, which is how much that would produce. If there is 0.66 grams in each joint on average, which is what my research told me, then one plant would actually produce 792 joints. However, we would be allowed not one but four plants, and four plants would actually produce 3,168 joints. Now at 3,168 joints—and on average people smoke about three joints a day, which is what my research told me—then four plants in a household would produce 1,056 days worth of joints. I ask the House if that sounds like a personal amount. I am just curious. This would leave plenty to sell and plenty to use, and those plants would be right in a person's home.
I am not speaking out on this on my own. Law enforcement agents are also very concerned about this, and they are begging the question of why we would allow four plants in a home when we are legalizing marijuana and people can go down the street and get it a store.
My next point is with regard to law enforcement agents. They came to the committee and told us their concerns, and there are many of them. One is that they are concerned about the deadline of July 1. They are telling us that they will not have their men and women in uniform trained to deal with this. They are saying that the wait list for training is super-long and the cost is extravagant. Not only that, but agents would have to be sent to the United States to access that training. In essence, they told the committee that they needed more time and more than double the number of police officers who are certified to conduct roadside drug-impaired driving testing.
This should concern us. I do not want to be on the road. I do not want my nieces, nephews, brother, sisters, parents, or anyone else on the road when there are individuals out there who are impaired, and that is normal. I am not okay with that. Again, we need that robust education program put in place so that people understand. Also, we need law enforcement agents in place so that they can actually enforce the law.
The officers who came to committee also said that we can expect about a six- to 12-month gap between the legislation coming into effect when people legally have access to marijuana and the point where the police are actually caught up and able to enforce. This is a six- to 12-month gap, and they said that this will allow organized crime to “flourish”. So much for keeping organized crime down.
I also want to draw to members' attention the costs and consequences that this proposed legislation would mean for municipalities and provinces. We are talking about a cost for our law enforcement agents. We are talking about a cost with regard to putting policy in place. We are talking about insurance costs for private employers and policy costs at that level as well. We are talking about costs with regard to just different legislative pieces that have to be put in place, and all of the consultations and legal work that have to be done around that.
All in all, the point I wish to make today is that the Liberals are rushing through with the bill. They are choosing to rush this proposed legislation through based on an arbitrary deadline that carries absolutely no weight or essence in the House. They could stop it. They could halt it. They could adequately consult. They could be responsible and listen to the experts who have spoken on this proposed legislation. Right now, the government is choosing to act irresponsibly, and I highlight the word “choosing”. They are choosing to put inadequate legislation in place over this country.
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