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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:56 [p.29453]
Mr. Speaker, I will be proposing an amendment at the end of my speech. Please let me know when I have one minute remaining.
I would like to share with the House a few important quotes.
First, I will go over the topic I just raised in my question to the hon. member for Yellowhead. In Canada, administrative segregation is a scourge. It has been overused for many years and was an issue well before the current government came to power.
During the previous Parliament, two of our colleagues, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who was the critic, and the former member for Alfred-Pellan, Rosane Doré Lefebvre, who was the deputy critic, asked many questions about the inquest into the tragic circumstances surrounding Ashley Smith's death. I invite all parliamentarians who wish to speak about that case to read that file.
It is horrifying to see that this teenager, this child, was killed. The findings of the inquest attest to the negligence and abuse in the prison system. The Correctional Service of Canada has to take responsibility for its role in this tragedy.
It is all the more troubling when we consider that members of her family, namely her mother and her sister, if I remember correctly, came to testify before the Senate committee. Senator Pate, who was doing amazing work on this file long before being appointed to the Senate, had invited them to testify. In their testimony, the family members said they were disappointed and furious with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety, who were supposed to make improvements to ensure that the circumstances surrounding Ashley's death never happened again. They invoked her name and her memory to justify their approach, but in the end this approach will not help resolve the situation at all.
Since the Liberals took office, two courts and the Supreme Court have granted extensions and the government has requested a stay because the legislation before us has not yet passed. The courts found what we have known for a long time, namely that excessive use of administrative segregation is unconstitutional.
That pronouncement is deeply disturbing. We know of numerous cases of abuse. Incidentally, those cases of abuse are not exclusive to federal institutions. However, given our jurisdiction and the limited time we have left, we cannot delve into the many troubling cases that worry us, including the one that happened recently in Ontario.
It is important to bear in mind that the remedy the government is proposing is no remedy at all. In fact, it is quite the contrary. The reason so many stakeholders, and in certain cases, the loved ones of victims of the abusive use of solitary confinement, have deplored this is that all we have is a rebrand. It is solitary confinement under a different name.
As is unfortunately too often the case with the government, we have to propose amendments and make changes to bills, pointing out there are a few things that might be better. Experts agree that the courts will continue to find this practice, even if under a different name like structured intervention units, to be unconstitutional. I will come back to this with some quotes I pulled up earlier, which I want to share with the House.
Bill C-83 was one of the first bills that came before our committee and was opposed by all the witnesses. Rarely had I seen this until quite recently, although there have been a few since then. I am sure Liberal members could pull out a couple of quotes to say that corrections officers think this would be an okay approach. However, the witnesses were opposed to this approach, because a variety of things were not in place that needed to be.
One of the Senate's proposed amendments is to require judicial approval for an inmate to be held in solitary confinement. This is nothing new. Justice Louise Arbour conducted an inquiry into riots at an institution in Saskatchewan. She noted that the overuse of segregation has an impact on inmates.
Judges sometimes impose sentences of imprisonment as part of their duties and authority. However, when segregation is overused, this means that institutions, their managers and, ultimately, the Correctional Service of Canada are altering the judge's decision. They are modifying the sentence handed down by the judge. This was Justice Arbour's argument, which is why she advocated for the use of judicial supervision.
What is particularly troubling to me is that I proposed an amendment, now Senator Pate has proposed an amendment and these amendments are being rejected by the government. My understanding, after hearing the parliamentary secretary's speech earlier tonight, is that it would cause an increased workload on provincial courts. Ultimately, the sad and tragic thing about that argument is that the only reason it would cause an increased workload is because of the abusive use of solitary confinement as so many individuals are being subjected to the practice when they should not necessarily be.
Focusing on women offenders in particular, I presented an amendment at committee to end the practice completely in women's institutions. Why? The figures demonstrate two things. One is that the number of women in solitary confinement is infinitesimal. The practice is not necessary for maintaining security in our institutions, which is obviously the primary reason it is used most of the time. The second is quite simply that pregnant women, women with mental health problems and indigenous women are the women most often negatively affected by the abusive use of solitary confinement. There is certainly an argument to be made about that, but at the very least, it should be with judicial oversight.
In fact, the argument might also be made that Senator Pate's amendment goes too far. I do not think so, which, as I said, leads us to support the amendment, but there are other routes as well. I proposed an amendment that sought a longer period of 15 days before judicial oversight would be required. It is certainly a much longer and wider threshold than what Senator Pate is proposing. That was also rejected.
The fact of the matter is that the issue we are facing here is quite contradictory. I want to go back to another issue that was raised by the parliamentary secretary about the burden we would be putting on provinces. The parliamentary secretary mentioned the burden on provincial mental health hospitals and institutions. That is one of reasons I wanted the Senate amendments. Members will forgive me for not recalling the exact amendment, but this was being proposed.
We look at the same Public Safety department, through the work of my provincial colleague in Queen's Park, Jennifer French. It has fought the Ontario government for years over the fact that it has contracts with Public Safety Canada to detain, in some cases with dubious human rights parameters, immigrants who have sometimes not even committed crimes and have uncertain legal status in our country. When that is the purview of the federal government, these individuals are treated very poorly.
I do not have the title with me, but I would be happy to share with them a great report in the Toronto Star two years ago, if I am not mistaken, on some of these individuals. One individual, for example, in the U.S. was apparently accused of stealing a DVD, but was never found guilty in court. He came to Canada, was working through the process for permanent residency and due to a variety of issues, he is now being detained in a provincial prison under poor circumstances, without the proper accountability that a normal detention process would have. Even though that is the responsibility of the federal government, there are issues like overcrowding and such, and that is through subcontracting that the federal government does with the provinces.
Why am I talking about a completely different case? I am simply trying to demonstrate the government's hypocrisy.
The government has no qualms about working with the provinces. In some cases, it even forces them to implement legislation and various mechanisms related to our legal and correctional systems. Now, the government wants to use the provinces as an argument to continue violating inmates' rights.
As promised, I will share some quotes. I want to share two of them with the House.
First of all, I want to go to the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling granting the second extension, in April. Certainly my colleagues who are lawyers will not appreciate me selectively quoting. It is always a dubious and dangerous game, but I will do so for the sake of expediency. The court said this:
Extensive evidence is put forward outlining the legislative process, the steps necessary to implement the Bill [Bill C-83]including cost, staff training, infrastructure, public consultations.... But this court remains where we were when the first extension was argued: we have virtually nothing to indicate that the constitutional breach identified by the application judge is being or will be addressed in the future.
It is pretty clear from that quote and that extension, and not even the initial judgment ruling that the practice was unconstitutional, that this is an issue the bill will not resolve.
I sort of opened the door to this at the beginning, and I did not quite finish that thought, but I did want to come back to it, because I just mentioned the second extension.
Bill C-56 was tabled in 2017, the first attempt by the government to deal with this, because it was, after all, part of not one minister's but two ministers' mandate letters, the minister of justice and the Minister of Public Safety. As I said, it was a debate that began in the previous Parliament and even before through a variety of public inquiries and the like.
Finally, we get to Bill C-83, which was tabled late last year. Here we are now, at the eleventh hour, having it rammed through, because the government, quite frankly, did not do its proper homework. It is problematic, because here we have the Liberals asking for extensions and having to go now, in the last few weeks, to the Supreme Court, of all places, to get an additional extension. The thing is that the witnesses at committee were not consulted. No one was consulted except the officials in the minister's office, and they all came to committee to tell us that.
I would like someone to explain to me how this could be an issue when the Prime Minister included it in his 2015 mandate letters for the ministers responsible. A bill was introduced in 2017, and two decisions by two different courts, the B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, were handed down in late 2017 and early 2018. Then Bill C-83 was introduced in late 2018. Then not one, not two, but three applications were filed for an extension to implement what the courts had requested.
That is interesting. I have a great deal of respect for my colleague from Oakville North—Burlington. Earlier, when she asked the member for Yellowhead a question, she stated that it might be more beneficial for correctional officers if we were to pass the bill so as not to have to impose the will of the courts upon them.
Personally, to defend human rights and prevent people from dying in our prisons due to excessive use of administrative segregation, I would like the courts' restrictions and terms to be imposed. Of course, that is what we wanted to see in the legislation.
On a similar note, I would like to come back to the UN rules concerning segregation, which are known as the Nelson Mandela rules.
They cover a number of factors: the number of consecutive days in administrative segregation, the number of consecutive hours in administrative segregation and the number of hours spent outside the cell. Viewers might see that last point as problematic, but when inmates are outside their cells, they are not frolicking in wildflower meadows. I hope my colleagues will forgive my humorous tone when talking about such a serious issue. All that means is outside the cell used for administrative segregation. The rules also mention the importance of meaningful human contact.
Now I would like to read the quote I read a small part of when I asked the parliamentary secretary a question.
Dr. Adelina Iftene is a law professor at Dalhousie University. I will read the full quote and I ask for colleagues' indulgence. She said:
The government claims that these units don’t fall under the definition of solitary confinement because the amount of time prisoners would be alone in their cells is 20 hours versus 22 hours. While that falls within UN standards, the amount of time prisoners would have meaningful contact with other human beings–-two hours per day--does not. The UN standards state that meaningful contact of two hours or less per day is also considered solitary confinement. The government simply cannot argue that its proposed regime is not segregation. Passing a bill that does not include a cap on segregation time and judicial oversight will lead to another unconstitutional challenge.... Refusal to pass the bill with amendments would be a sign of bad faith, disregard for taxpayers’ money and for the rule of law. It is disheartening to see such resistance to upholding human rights at home by a country that champions human rights abroad.
That drives home the point that the window dressing may have changed, but the store still carries the same goods. Please forgive my use of such a light-hearted expression. The system is the same, and it still has harsh and sometimes fatal consequences for people.
Some people argue that there are public safety reasons for this and that some of these inmates have committed horrible crimes and deserve to be punished. However, by far most of the people subjected to excessive use of administrative segregation struggle with mental health problems. That is a problem because these people are not getting the care they need for either their own rehabilitation or to ensure public safety objectives are achieved and they stop posing a threat to communities and society. Excessive use is at odds with our mental health and rehabilitation goals, and that is bad for public safety. I would encourage anyone who says this measure will improve public safety to think again because there is a situation here we really need to address.
I have a lot more that I would like to say, but my time is running out. As members can see, this problem has been around for years. Many stakeholders gave inspiring testimony, despite the sombre issue and our discouragement with regard to the government's proposals and inaction. What is more, what the Senate has been doing when it comes to some of the bills that were democratically passed by the House is deplorable. I am thinking of the bill introduced by my colleague from James Bay and the one introduced by our former colleague from Edmonton, Rona Ambrose, on sexual assault. That being said, Senator Pate has done extraordinary work. She has experience in the field. She used to work at the Elizabeth Fry Society. She knows what she is talking about, much more than anyone in the House. I tip my hat to her for the amendments that she managed to get adopted in the Senate. I support them.
Accordingly, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Jonquière:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Abolition of Early Parole Act, be now read a second time and concurred in.”
View Robert Kitchen Profile
CPC (SK)
View Robert Kitchen Profile
2019-06-11 18:18 [p.28950]
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House today to debate Motion No. 225, veterans homelessness in Canada, which has been put forward by my colleague, the member for Bay of Quinte. This member and I have worked together here in Ottawa for a number of years, and since the 2015 election, we have been on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs together. It has been a great privilege to work with him. We spent many hours discussing many important issues and what we can do to assist our veterans. I commend my colleague for his work in putting together this motion and for his time on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. It has been a pleasure to work with him.
Also, I would like to acknowledge and thank the many Saskatchewan members of Parliament who are speaking to this motion today and recognizing how we, in Saskatchewan, have had to deal with veterans homelessness, not only in urban centres but also in the rural communities we represent.
I would like to take a moment to read the text of the motion that we are debating today. It reads:
That, in the opinion of the House: (a) the government should set a goal to prevent and end veteran homelessness in Canada by 2025; (b) a plan to achieve this aim should be developed by the government and be presented to the House by June 2020, led by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and supported by the Minister of Veterans Affairs; and (c) this plan should include consideration of whether a National Veterans Housing Benefit similar to the highly successful U.S. Housing and Urban Development – Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (HUD VASH) Program would fit the Canadian context, complementing the National Housing Strategy.
I add to that the amendment we just heard, which proposed using the word “co-led” instead of “led”. I do not think we will see that as an issue in our discussions, at least from my point of view.
I truly believe that all members on all sides of this House are in favour of ending homelessness among veterans. If my time on the veterans affairs committee has taught me anything, it is that when it comes to veterans, almost every politician is willing to put aside partisanship for the greater good of serving those who have served us. While we may have differences when it comes to what that service looks like, ultimately we all want the very best programs and services for those who have fought for and represented Canada.
With respect to this motion specifically, I truly and wholeheartedly support the intent behind it, and it is only the effectiveness of the measures contained therein that I take any issue with. We want to provide the best possible service to our veterans who are struggling with homelessness, and we want to ensure that we are using the most appropriate avenues to accomplish that goal.
Veterans each have their own unique story, with their experiences shaping who they are and where they are today. We need to understand that while a group of soldiers may share a common experience, how they deal with that experience is different from one individual to the next. What rolled off the back of one soldier may have affected another soldier deeply. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the issues our veterans face, and that is certainly the case when it comes to veterans homelessness.
One thing that we have repeatedly heard at the veterans affairs committee is the importance of a community. The best people to help veterans are their fellow veterans, because only they can begin to understand what their brothers or sisters in arms have been through.
We had many community outreach groups appear before the committee and outline the outstanding efforts they have made from coast to coast with the goal of ending veterans homelessness.
Veterans Affairs Canada, or VAC, has provided information about its programs and services to approximately 200 of these community outreach organizations that work with the homeless in more than 50 major cities across the country. This includes key information on how to contact VAC. VAC is also currently involved in outreach initiatives with veterans groups and community organizations to find and assist homeless veterans. I am glad to see that this is happening, and I encourage VAC and the minister to ensure that supporting these organizations remains a top priority going forward.
I would like to touch on some of the great work already being done in this country with respect to community outreach for veterans. As I said, we heard from many grassroots organizations that are taking a community-based approach to finding and assisting veterans in need with housing, social benefits, mental health assistance and much more.
One of these organizations, which has testified at the veterans affairs committee more than once, is VETS Canada. VETS Canada does an annual tour of Canada's major cities, where volunteers walk the streets in order to identify homeless veterans in need and point them towards the appropriate services.
It also provides emergency transition housing in Halifax, Vancouver and Ottawa. That is just a fraction of what it does. In fact, the chair and co-founder of VETS Canada advised the committee that about half its referrals each month come from VAC case managers. That is how effective this organization has been in getting veterans the help they need. It is truly incredible to see what people can do if they are willing to put the time and effort toward a common goal, which VETS Canada so clearly has.
I would also like to highlight an organization that we all know very well: the Royal Canadian Legion. Its Leave the Streets Behind program provides emergency housing as well as financial assistance to homeless and at-risk veterans. It also works in partnership with the organization I just spoke of, VETS Canada, as well as other community-based groups, to serve veterans that require assistance. I am not sure if many Canadians are aware of the full scope of the Legion's work, outside of its annual poppy campaign in the fall, but it maintains a national network of support, allowing it to address matters that come to it at a local level. It is modernizing and adapting to the needs of today's veterans and has assured us that it will continue to do so into the future.
Other areas that homeless and low-income veterans can access are VAC's veterans emergency fund, the Royal Canadian Naval Benevolent Fund, the Canadian Forces personnel assistance fund and the Montreal Old Brewery Mission sentinels of the street program, just to name a few.
One of the issues we have unfortunately heard about repeatedly in the discussion on ending veterans homelessness is that some veterans simply do not want to be found. There are a number of reasons for that, many of which a person who has never served would not understand. Veterans tend to struggle with issues that the majority of the population never will, such as PTSD from traumas that were personally experienced or things like a brain stem injury from being forced to take a medication with harmful side effects, such as mefloquine.
When people are stuck in the cycle of failing mental health, it can be extremely difficult for them to seek help. Many times, they will choose to self-medicate by using drugs or alcohol to cope with the mental turmoil they are experiencing. Homelessness is directly tied into this, as in some cases, veterans will lose everything, including their families and homes, because their mental health has deteriorated to the point where they cannot manage the demands of their day-to-day lives.
Even if veterans do seek help, they are sometimes turned away, as they do not meet the qualifications. For example, some veterans who are using medical marijuana are turned away from support programs that would otherwise help them, despite the fact that they are using marijuana under the advisement of a physician, as medication. The medical marijuana may be helping them cope and helping them get off the many neuropsychiatric medications and opioids they are on. However, they end up being removed or disallowed from participating in programs that are meant to help them, resulting in a continued cycle of homelessness.
Another thing we heard about, which was very interesting, was pets. I think that most of us here know how therapeutic it is to spend time with pets. They are constant companions who provide reassurance and comfort. People can pour their hearts out to animals and not worry that they will love them any less. However, it becomes a bit of an issue when we look at veterans homelessness, as the majority of facilities that provide emergency housing will not allow pets. Most people would not think this would be a barrier to housing, but it truly is. Time and again, I have heard that veterans are willing to give up their beds in a shelter or emergency transition home so that they can have their dogs at their side. This is a small facet of all the details that need to be considered when formulating strategies to end veterans homelessness.
I would encourage the government to listen to its own Advisory Committee on Homelessness when it comes to a proven method of reducing homelessness in Canada. The advisory committee's final report on the Conservative's Housing First policy stated:
A key learning in the national implementation of Housing First is that the Housing First model must be adapted to local conditions (like funding, community size, local housing type and availability), and must be tailored to meet the unique needs of different populations (such as youth, women, veterans, Indigenous Peoples).
I could speak to this for hours, but unfortunately, I am limited in time. I am proud of the work that is going on in Canada, separate and apart from any federal government initiative, with respect to combatting homelessness among veterans. While I do not think that the national housing strategy referenced in the text of the motion will actually be the catalyst for ending veterans homelessness, I am happy that the issue is getting the attention it needs.
Our veterans gave us so much and served our country with respect, honour and dignity. They deserve the same in return, and it is our job to ensure that they get it.
View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
View Luc Berthold Profile
2019-05-28 10:06 [p.28107]
Mr. Speaker, the official opposition members of the committee wrote a supplementary report.
We agree with the report as a whole. We supported the production of the report, which we fully agree with. However, we produced supplementary opinions because we believe the report should go further, particularly to reflect a lot of testimony with regard to the urgency of the problem, as well as the need for action on several fronts, such as public education, social media attacks, and the harmful impact that government decisions can have on farmers' mental health and stress levels.
Furthermore, the committee had an opportunity to take a stand on a measure that has been a direct cause of significant stress for Canada's farmers. I am referring to the carbon tax. One of the recommendations in the report is to scrap it immediately to remove a stress factor for farmers across the country.
Again, I will reiterate that the official opposition supports the report produced by the entire committee. We simply wanted to suggest some additional ideas.
View Diane Lebouthillier Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, we recognize that living with a disability can have a major impact on the daily lives of those affected and their loved ones. That is why we put in place measures to make the disability tax credit more accessible, especially by simplifying the form and allowing nurse practitioners to certify their patients' forms.
The government reinstated the disability advisory committee, which was dismantled by the Conservatives in 2006, in order to give people with disabilities a strong voice in their dealings with the agency. We look forward to the committee's recommendations.
View Georgina Jolibois Profile
NDP (SK)
Mr. Speaker, this week is CMHA Mental Health Week, and I want to “get loud” about mental health care in northern Saskatchewan.
In my riding, getting the help one needs can be complicated. Mental health workers are hired by tribal councils, by reserves and by the Athabasca and Saskatchewan health authorities to work in clinics and hospitals, always motivated by the fact that they are helping the elders and youth in our communities to live better, one day at a time.
Talking about what one is going through can be hard, but it is only through sharing one's experience that one can get help. We all deserve to feel good and to live with dignity, and mental health care workers in northern Saskatchewan are helping their communities do that every single day.
I thank all the mental health workers across northern Saskatchewan.
I also want to wish a happy birthday to the Petit triplets from Buffalo Narrows, who are celebrating their 52nd birthday today.
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
NDP (QC)
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
2019-04-12 13:48 [p.27071]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the NDP caucus to express my support for Bill C-417. I will be brief, because I know everyone wants to see this bill sent to the other place as quickly as possible.
This is a truly common-sense measure, as recognized by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which recommended that the government bring in such an exception for jurors so that they can access mental health services. In many cases, jurors go through traumatic experiences as a result of difficult deliberations. It can be really tough to be part of a jury, to reach a consensus and a final decision, and to come through all that without any lasting effects, any remorse or anything weighing on one's conscience. Offering this support is crucial. Existing legislation prevents jurors from accessing such services and disclosing information relating to jury deliberations, which of course are secret.
It makes sense to let jurors talk to health care professionals who, in any case, are bound by patient confidentiality and cannot disclose anything they hear during their appointments. That would reassure everyone with regard to the importance of the confidentiality of jury deliberations.
It goes without saying that we support such an initiative and that we are asking the other chamber to pass this quickly. It is clear that the senators do not seem to be in any rush on other files, which is unfortunate, because they have in their hands a number of other bills that had the unanimous support of the House. It seems that this bill will also have unanimous support, so we hope that the Senate will study and pass it quickly.
I do not want to take up any more time, because I know that there is not much time left before the end of this 42nd Parliament. I sincerely hope that my colleagues will be brief and that we can move this common-sense bill forward to help those who are having a difficult time dealing with their role and their obligations as jurors.
View Peter Schiefke Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Peter Schiefke Profile
2019-04-10 15:34 [p.26937]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, petition E-1925, which was initiated by Wendy Atto Doran, from Île-Perrot.
This petition recognizes that there are tens of thousands of older Canadians currently caring for adult children with severe autism or other physical or mental disabilities.
That is why this petition calls upon our government to work with parents and caregivers to provide them with funding opportunities for affordable group homes and residences that can provide appropriate and continued care to aging Canadians coping with severe autism and/or other physical and mental disabilities.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am here today to talk about Bill C-93, an act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis.
The first thing I want to tell the government is that we think this is pretty reasonable, but there are “buts”. We think most Canadians are okay with erasing records for simple possession of cannabis. We agree on that, especially when it comes to young people. A lot of young people get caught when they are just trying marijuana. They might be in a park, the police happen to be there, and they end up with a record for something that is really just a youthful indiscretion.
Of course, there are also adults who have tried marijuana or used it while it was illegal. After he was elected, our own Prime Minister admitted to smoking cannabis while it was still illegal. As we see it, that is not very good, considering what one represents once one is elected and becomes a federal MP and then the Prime Minister. Still, he admitted to smoking while it was illegal. That is not a good example to set for Canadians.
However, we understand that for younger people, minors or youth, this can fall under the category of youthful mistakes. What we are accepting with Bill C-93 is the clearing of the criminal records of people who were convicted of simple possession once in their lives. We are not talking about people who were caught many times, like 200 or 300 times, or people who have a criminal history or other offences on their criminal records. In the case of a one-time conviction for simple possession, we can accept that it was a mistake and grant a pardon.
Although we are prepared to support the idea of Bill C-93 at second reading, we would need to study the bill in detail in committee, because much of it is unclear. There is no preamble and no clear explanation of the goals of the bill or who could benefit from it and why. That is why the committee study will be important. It will be vital to dig into the details and get down to the nitty-gritty to figure out what is not being said. It is often the unspoken elements that require clarification.
Let us talk about the costs involved, for example. It is estimated that about 500,000 Canadians have criminal records for simple possession. The cost of applying for a pardon is a little over $600. If you multiply those numbers, it comes to $315 million, so that is how much would normally be paid by those taxpayers who have a criminal record. The government wants to make it free. This means that Government of Canada resources will be used to process the files of these individuals, who would normally have to pay for it themselves. If they were paying, that would cover the cost of processing these records, which amounts to roughly $315 million. That is not insignificant. We in the Conservative Party are wondering why other taxpayers should have to pay indirectly for these individuals to apply for a pardon.
It is typical of the Liberal government to believe that money is no object. The Liberals never consider taxpayers, who pay a lot of money in taxes. They never say “no”, and they throw money around left, right and centre. We have been watching them do this for the past three and a half years. This comes as no surprise. To us Conservatives, however, these are important considerations.
I want to come back to Bill C-45, which is one of the things that led to Bill C-93 currently before the House. Bill C-45 is the notorious marijuana legalization bill, which was introduced in a hurry to fulfill an election promise. However, it raised a great many questions that have never been answered. The government says it consulted experts and received information. We know that is completely false—or perhaps its did not really listen to the feedback given in those consultations. Police forces had all kinds of concerns, as did the medical community. Issues were raised but were never taken into consideration. Landlords also had questions about cultivation and use inside apartment buildings. Those issues were never resolved, and this creates uncertainty.
Given the way Bill C-45 was passed and expedited in order to fulfill the famous election promise and pander to young voters who voted Liberal because of it, we think that there will always be questions, especially since the government did not want to listen to law enforcement and doctors, among others. Even if I started out by saying that we are prepared to support Bill C-93, we must still thoroughly examine this bill, because we do not want the Liberals to pull a fast one, as the expression goes.
First of all, the legalization of marijuana was supposed to reduce the proceeds of organized crime. The parliamentary secretary spoke about it in his speech. Sales of marijuana alone by organized crime are estimated at $7 billion. The Liberals said they were legalizing marijuana to take this money out of the pockets of organized crime and put it in the government's coffers. However, this was a false argument and a public relations exercise. We know that organized crime continues to sell marijuana. It even copied the labelling of products sold in legal stores in developing its packaging. This law did not stop organized crime from continuing to do business.
Furthermore, since it is now legal, no one is afraid of getting arrested, which is kind of odd. People are still using illegal drugs and organized crime continues to profit. The concerns we raised while we were debating Bill C-45 have now proven to be valid.
Again, we do support the spirit of the bill, but we want to study the bill in committee to be sure that the final version is very clear. This is my first term as a member of Parliament, but I have been learning quickly. I learned rather quickly that the Prime Minister is not to be trusted. Recent events are proof of that. The Prime Minister raised a lot of hopes, but the promises turned out to be snake oil. He made promises to everyone, but at the end of the day, we now know they meant nothing. He claimed to be a feminist. He said that the status of women was important and that he would make it a focus of debate as much as possible. Everyone knows what he did with the three female MPs who now sit as independents.
The Prime Minister also mocked Stephen Harper, saying he did not take the needs of indigenous people into consideration. He said that he cared about indigenous people and he was going to fix the situation. Last week, however, we saw young indigenous women turn their backs on our Prime Minister here in the House. Indigenous communities in Canada heard all the lofty promises that were made, but the Prime Minister kept breaking those promises.
Getting back to the legalization of marijuana, I would remind the House that the Prime Minister was in such a hurry to fulfill his election promise that he did not listen to the municipalities, law enforcement, employers and scientists. The Conservatives are often accused of not believing in science, but the first to ignore scientists were this Liberal Prime Minister and his team. They keep shaking their heads, but they ignored scientists from across Canada regarding the problems associated with marijuana.
The government also promised to create a legal framework for derivative products and set standards for the sale of edibles and concentrates such as hashish within 12 months of legalizing marijuana. That was six months ago, and we still have not seen a plan to make that happen. This is yet another unfulfilled promise, and seeing as this session is about to end, it will probably be another broken promise.
It is easy to see why the majority of Canadians feel betrayed by this Liberal government. Much like Obama, the Prime Minister made a lot of noise but over-promised and under-delivered. All too often, we have heard the Liberals downplay the dangers of marijuana, and now that they have legalized it, future generations will think cannabis consumption is no big deal. Even my own children are now saying that it is legal and smoking it just to try it out is fine. That is not how it works though. It may be legal, but it is still very dangerous. Young people need to understand that it is hazardous to their health, not a harmless consumer product.
Experts say it is especially dangerous for young people, and everyone agrees.
In a Globe and Mail article published in April 2017, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Paediatric Society and other organizations representing front-line health care providers express their concerns about the ill effects of cannabis, especially for chronic smokers under the age of 25.
In this article, the experts say to please keep the public health focus front of mind as this legislation is unrolled. That is a direct quote from Dr. Gail Beck, the clinical director of youth psychiatry at the Royal Ottawa Hospital. She also says that lots of people think this is harmless.
I would like to read out this article to show the House that cannabis consumption really does have consequences. These are the words of experts, not politicians. The experts quoted in this article say that the medical profession in this country has long had misgivings about medicinal marijuana, namely that there is not enough solid evidence of pot's efficacy in treating chronic pain and other ailments to warrant a doctor's endorsement. However, with the advent of legal recreational marijuana, doctors have a different set of worries.
A major concern is the potential for marijuana addiction, in particular among teens and young adults. Christina Grant, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, says that one in seven adolescents who start using cannabis will develop a cannabis use disorder, which is significant.
Dr. Grant, a principal author at the Canadian Pediatric Society, released a statement last fall, saying that cannabis use crosses over into disorder territory when it begins to cause dysfunction in users' day-to-day lives, derailing their commitment to school or work and sowing conflict in their families.
Cannabis has also been associated with certain mental illnesses. We still do not know how the medication, depression and anxiety all connect. Science has not yet established a cause and effect relationship between the two. In other words, we cannot be certain whether people smoke cannabis because they are depressed and anxious or if they are depressed and anxious because they smoke cannabis.
Dr. Beck says there is stronger evidence that heavy use of cannabis can lead to psychosis, especially among people who have a family history of mental illness. However, the vast majority of the research involved people who use cannabis daily. The scientific literature is virtually silent on the mental health effects of occasional use.
Dr. Grant noted that we do not know the lower limit that is safe and there is no evidence to suggest that nothing will happen if a person uses cannabis once or twice.
There is good evidence that teens who smoke pot frequently suffer long-lasting damage to their still immature brains, including problems with memory, attention and executive functioning. Dr. Grant added that, for teenagers who use cannabis regularly, there are actually structural changes that are visible on MRI. She adds that certain areas of the brain are visibly smaller, there is thinning of a part of the brain called the cortex, which is very important in terms of thinking and planning and organizing.
The adult brain appears capable of recovering from chronic pot use in a few weeks. According to Dr. Beck, that is not what happens in young people. Citing concerns about the adolescent brain, the Canadian Medical Association, which represents the country's physicians, last year urged the federal government to ban the sale of marijuana to people under the age of 21 and to restrict the amount and potency of the drug available to those younger than 25.
Most of the health concerns associated with cannabis apply to heavy users. However, occasional tokers can wreak havoc if they get behind the wheel while high. For an occasional user to consume some pot and then get behind the wheel is a recipe for disaster.
According to Amy Porath, director of research and policy for the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, cannabis impairs our ability to safely drive a vehicle. It impairs our reaction time, our ability to multitask and to pay attention. Police across the country are currently piloting a roadside saliva test to see if it adequately detects cannabis-impaired drivers.
Whether it is tobacco or cannabis, Dr. Porath said, there are concerns with smoking anything. Smoking can cause coughing, wheezing, sore throat and tightness in the chest. It can also aggravate asthma.
That article was published before marijuana was legalized. Major concerns were raised in this 2017 Globe and Mail article, which looks at the problems with marijuana.
I am bringing it up again and members may be wondering why I am talking about this. It all comes back to the basic concept, which is the way marijuana was legalized. The government completely ignored experts, scientists and police officers. It completely ignored the proposals that the opposition made in committee. It also completely ignored the work of the Senate. Senators proposed a lot of amendments but the Liberals rejected all of them, just like they rejected the proposals of the official opposition.
That is why we are prepared to say that Bill C-93 might make sense. Given the way the government works, we would never go so far as to say that the bill is extraordinary and that we will vote in favour of it without any debate. That would be impossible because there are always grey areas, things that are unclear.
The Liberals know what they want. They have a course of action and a way of doing things. As for us, our duty is to examine the issues, ask the right questions and propose any necessary amendments.
We are therefore prepared to support Bill C-93 at second reading. However, it needs to be reworked in committee, and I hope that the government will listen to and understand the amendments that will be proposed. I am sure that the NDP will also propose amendments.
Unfortunately, we do not have enough information to immediately pass the bill in its current form. We need to go a little further, to dig a little deeper. After the committee does its work and the Liberal government makes some decisions, we will decide how to move forward. At this point, we have some doubts. We will see what happens, and then we will respond accordingly.
View Linda Lapointe Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Linda Lapointe Profile
2019-04-08 12:58 [p.26794]
Mr. Speaker, I paid close attention to my hon. colleague. Earlier, he talked about legalizing cannabis. We consulted people in my riding, and this was a major policy shift in Canada.
My colleague talked about problems associated with cannabis consumption and mental health as well. In his view, how will legalization and the government's direction on this enable researchers to do more research aimed at avoiding any links there might be to mental health?
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague.
I am trying to understand her question, but, as far as I know, legalization has not helped mental health. According to reports and comments we have been getting from medical professionals, some mental health problems are related to cannabis consumption.
As I said in my speech, people can now buy cannabis legally, but the black market is still flourishing and continues to supply cannabis to young people. Cannabis does not even make people bat an eyelid now. During our earliest speeches on Bill C-45, we said that legalization would make people think of cannabis consumption as no big deal, and that is exactly what is happening.
The goal was to implement measures to ensure that young people would not use it or would use it only once they reached legal age. That is not what we are seeing. With respect to mental health, I would encourage my colleague to check with the Minister of Health, who I am sure has more up-to-date information than I. What I have been hearing is that the situation has not improved.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2019-04-08 15:06 [p.26816]
Mr. Speaker, in addressing the mental health needs of the emergency workers who protect Canadians, there is always much more that we can do together. A national PTSI action plan, released today, will support prevention, early intervention, stigma reduction, care and treatment for all types of public safety personnel right across the country. It lays the foundation for better, more accessible treatments for PTSI. It is based upon a $40-million investment in research and a $5-billion transfer to provinces and territories to improve mental health services across the country. This is an issue we need to treat seriously.
View Stéphane Lauzon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, the well-being of our veterans is our number one priority, and our government is committed to moving forward on mental health. We have opened a centre of excellence on post-traumatic stress disorder, and Veterans Affairs Canada is working with more than 4,000 health professionals. It is also important to note that, thanks to the streamlined process we have put in place, the current approval rate is 97%. The opposition had 10 years to provide mental health support to veterans, but it was too busy axing essential services and trying to balance the budget at the expense of veterans.
View Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Profile
NDP (QC)
View Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Profile
2019-03-01 12:50 [p.26030]
Mr. Speaker, no matter how it is called, we are talking about the confinement of an individual. We are talking about a man or a woman who is deprived of all human contact for 22 hours a day. The proposed changes will make that 20 hours a day. It is not a big difference.
As my colleague said, these people often have mental health problems. Even if they are offered certain services, they have mental health problems. In addition, there will no longer be a limit on the number of days they spend in solitary confinement.
I would like to ask my colleague what effect that could have on people who already have mental health issues.
View Yves Robillard Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Yves Robillard Profile
2019-02-28 12:13 [p.25903]
Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to our judge advocate general, of whom we are very proud. We fully support her important work.
Under the direction of the new judge advocate general, we have already started to act on some of the recommendations of the Auditor General. For example, we are implementing a case management system to track and manage cases as they progress through the system. We are extending assignments for defence attorneys and military prosecutors in order to better serve the accused and the Crown.
Under the leadership of the judge advocate general, we re-established the military justice round table, which the previous government abolished. This recreated group will bring together representatives from the entire military justice system to find solutions to military justice challenges.
View Yves Robillard Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Yves Robillard Profile
2019-02-28 12:15 [p.25904]
Madam Speaker, our government is committed to the care, health and well-being of our military personnel and their families. We recognize that we need to continually adapt the way we care for people with mental illness. That is why the minister has asked the Standing Committee on National Defence to examine the issue of suicide and self-harm within the Canadian Armed Forces with a view to making recommendations to the government for dealing with these challenges.
These recommendations will build on other investments we have made in mental health, including in launching the joint suicide prevention strategy with the Minister of Veterans Affairs. The strategy would promote the well-being of CAF members and veterans and provide help in times of crisis.
Budget 2017 commits $17.5 million for a centre of excellence with a focus on the prevention, assessment and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health issues among military personnel and veterans. Taking care of our soldiers, our veterans and their families is a priority for our government.
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