THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE
OTTAWA, Wednesday, March 21, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, to which was referred Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, met this day at 4:15 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade is today meeting to examine the subject matter of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, insofar as it relates to international obligations.
Before I turn to the guests we have today presenting before us, I’m going to introduce the senators. I’m Raynell Andreychuk, from Saskatchewan, chair.
Senator Greene: Stephen Greene from Halifax.
Senator Ataullahjan: Salma Ataullahjan from Toronto.
Senator Oh: Victor Oh from Ontario.
Senator Cormier: I am René Cormier from New Brunswick.
Senator Bovey: Patricia Bovey from Manitoba.
The Chair: Appearing before us today are government officials from Global Affairs Canada. We have Mr. Mark Gwozdecky, Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security and Political Affairs; and Mr. Kevin Thompson, Director General, North America Strategy Bureau.
We thank you for coming. We had asked for witnesses from Global Affairs Canada who could cover the agreements. Most notably, there are three conventions, but it affects many others. So we were hoping that we would get the varying officials from Global Affairs who could discuss the agreements in depth and the political consequences of the actions that the government has taken, as that is what we are empanelled to do.
This is, in essence, a study, and we have until the end of the month of April to file our report — no later than May 1 — on the consequences of Bill C-45 vis-à-vis international obligations, and that term is rather broad. So we may have to hear from you and we may have to follow up. That’s sort of a forewarning. I’m told that the two gentlemen here, as opposed to about 20 that I was expecting, can handle all questions. I think we should test them after they give their presentation.
It is a broad field, and I think it’s important to understand that the effects of Bill C-45 may go beyond those three international conventions, because there are children and our international obligations involved. How do we approach them, how might we be violating any of these consequences by virtue of Bill C-45 and how will the government handle that?
So we have asked for the minister to come for any really political questions, but I think we’ll start with you. It’s brave of you to come and start this whole process. We appreciate you’re our first witnesses on this study.
Mr. Gwozdecky, I will turn to you to make the presentation, and then — you’ve been before us before — so you understand that we will put questions to you.
Welcome to the committee. The floor is yours on Canada’s international obligations and how they may be affected by Bill C-45. Welcome.
Mark Gwozdecky, Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security and Political Affairs, Global Affairs Canada: Global Affairs Canada is responsible for coordinating Canada’s overall international engagement to address the world drug problem, in partnership with all of the federal departments that have a mandate under the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, including Health Canada, the Department of Justice Canada and Public Safety Canada.
The international community has long recognized that addressing the consequences posed by international drug trafficking and problematic substance use is a shared responsibility. Global Affairs Canada’s efforts are grounded in recognition of the fact that criminals do not respect national borders. Transnational organized crime groups and international drug traffickers pose serious threats to security, stability and the rule of law. The substances they traffic can also pose serious risks to the health and well-being of our citizens.
The Government of Canada is committed to working with its international partners to combat international drug trafficking and mitigate the negative consequences that stem from problematic substance use.
International cooperation to address the world drug problem is based on three UN drug conventions. They are the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs; the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances; and the 1998 UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
Together, these three conventions have as their ultimate goal protecting the health and welfare of humankind. I’ll return to that concept in addressing Canada’s approach.
In addition to the conventions, the international community meets regularly to discuss emerging trends and threats with respect to the world drug problem and to prescribe measures states should take to respond. These discussions occur on a regular basis but are also subject to regular review every five to ten years by the international community.
The most recent global consensus on addressing the world drug problem was reached in April 2016, at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Addressing and Countering the World Drug Problem, also known as UNGASS. This meeting culminated in the UNGASS outcome document, which reaffirms the world drug problem as a complex and multifaceted challenge requiring a balanced and comprehensive response, incorporating public health and human rights considerations.
The UNGASS document also recognized that the world drug problem manifests itself differently across the globe, that a one-size-fits-all approach is unrealistic and that states need sufficient flexibility to adjust their policies according to national circumstances and priorities. Together, the drug conventions, the UNGASS outcome document and other UN drug policy documents guide international cooperation on the world drug problem.
The Government of Canada is committed to implementing the UNGASS outcome document’s operational recommendations, which are well-aligned with the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, including measures to support prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement, all grounded in a strong evidence base. Canada is also guided by the UNGASS outcome document in its international engagement with other states on the world drug problem. I will speak briefly to our ongoing efforts in this regard.
Canada is a long-standing and valued member of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, known as the CND. Since the CND was created in 1946, Canada has maintained its status as an elected member of the commission for 66 out of the CND’s 72 years, and in April 2017, was elected for another four-year term. Canada is an engaged and committed member of the CND, and we regularly share information in this forum on new and emerging threats and expertise in addressing the challenges that stem from problematic substance use.
Canada is also deeply committed to capacity-building to strengthen the international response to drug trafficking and problematic substance use. Global Affairs Canada is responsible for administering the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program, or ACCBP for short, which works to strengthen states’ capacities to respond to the threat of drug trafficking, among other crimes. Currently, the ACCBP has $17 million worth of operational programming with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, with an additional $2.7 million of project funding under development, primarily in the Latin America and Caribbean region. While these projects are not solely focused on combatting drug trafficking, in building the capacity of beneficiary states, we are enabling them to better manage and respond to drug trafficking and other security threats.
Canada is also committed to regional cooperation. We regularly engage our partners in the hemisphere to share expertise, exchange experiences and information, and build capacity through the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, or CICAD. We also work trilaterally with the U.S. and Mexico to support discussions in the North American Drug Dialogue to combat threats to the continent, including those stemming from the ongoing opioid crisis. Through these regional forums, we have made tangible progress in establishing a shared understanding of threats in the hemisphere and furthering joint initiatives to address drug trafficking and strengthen our institutional responses to problematic substance use.
These are just some of the efforts Global Affairs Canada undertakes to support international cooperation on the world drug problem, and Bill C-45 will not change that commitment. Canada will continue to cooperate with our partners to combat international drug trafficking and mitigate the harms of problematic substance use.
Our partners appreciate Canada’s contributions to the drug control framework. However, given that Canada will be the second country in the world to legalize cannabis at the national level, there is, understandably, interest from our partners.
Bill C-45 proposes a strict regulatory framework for the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis and strong penalties for those who break the law, with the aims of restricting youth access to cannabis and deterring criminal activity. These objectives are consistent with the overarching goal of the conventions and of our collective international efforts, and that goal is to protect the health and welfare of our citizens.
As Minister Freeland acknowledged in early March 2017, during Senate Question Period, the government recognizes that Canada’s proposed approach to cannabis will result in Canada being in contravention of certain obligations related to cannabis under the UN drug conventions. However, Canada will remain a strong supporter of the international drug control framework and is committed to working with treaty partners. Legalization of cannabis does not change this commitment. At this time, Canada does not intend to take any treaty actions. We will continue to work with our international partners to advance the objectives of the drug control framework.
Through our international engagement, we have made clear that the reality in Canada is that, despite nearly a century of strict criminal prohibition supported by substantial law enforcement resources, cannabis use is widespread and relatively commonplace, and is easily available across Canada. The failure of the current approach to adequately protect the health and safety of Canadians, especially youth, has resulted in Canada having among the highest rates of youth cannabis use in the world, and has allowed criminals and organized crime to profit from its sale.
In summary, through Bill C-45, the government is responding to the domestic public health and safety challenges through a strict regulatory approach in a manner consistent with the overall objectives of the conventions, namely, the protection of the health and welfare of our citizens. This is a domestic response to domestic challenges. The Government of Canada’s goal for cannabis is to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth and to prevent organized crime from continuing to profit from the illegal cannabis market. The government does not advocate legalization as a solution for other countries and remains committed to the international drug control framework, including through the exchange of information and intelligence on drug threats, sharing expertise on problematic substance abuse, and supporting capacity building to strengthen the international response to the world drug problem.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Gwozdecky. I’m going to ask a clarification point.
You are saying that if Bill C-45 passes, you will take no action on the three major conventions that you talked about in asking for any reservation or change to the convention. So you will continue as-is with the three conventions?
Mr. Gwozdecky: Yes. We are examining the experience of other countries and the reaction that our legislation will produce in our partners, and we will maintain an approach of looking for the best way to align our new posture with that of the conventions. There have been other countries, as I mentioned, at least one other, that has gone as far as the Government of Canada intends to go, and that’s Uruguay. They took no action under the treaty and continue to operate in good standing inside the international drug control framework. Other countries have different approaches. I can go into more detail later. Some took different approaches, but there doesn’t appear to be, as I mentioned, a one-size-fits-all approach to the situation that we face.
The Chair: So, again, are we violating any of the sections of the three major conventions by virtue of Bill C-45? I think that’s the question. It’s a legal question. We signed on legally. Canadians live by conventions. They expect others to adhere to them. We need to know whether there are any violations by virtue of Bill C-45 and what possible actions you will take.
Uruguay has indicated that they are not going to be preoccupied with that, if I understand correctly. I don’t want to misquote them, but that’s what I’ve read in the press. That’s not been canvassed. We want to be fully compliant with our conventions. That’s why the legal question.
Mr. Gwozdecky: We believe that Canada’s approach is fully compliant with the overarching goals of these conventions, which is the health and safety of our citizens. We will be in contravention of a subset of the provisions of the conventions that pertain to cannabis. However, I should remind you that in at least one of the conventions there are 124 substances that are to be controlled, and cannabis and cannabis variations are a very small component of that. Of those other substances, many of them are very dangerous and need to be strictly controlled, more so than cannabis, of course.
And we believe that we will remain fully compliant with all of those provisions, and fully engaged in the partnership that we have in the international community to ensure that there’s a proper regime around those more dangerous substances.
The Chair: Just so I can get my members involved, I presume you went through your legal department for the analysis. You could perhaps provide us which sections that you’ve identified are not in compliance and state that you won’t be taking further action, if I understand you, to be in compliance.
Mr. Gwozdecky: We can provide you with the portions of the conventions that are pertaining to cannabis, where we will be in a technical state of contravention. What I’m trying to get at is that these conventions are much bigger than cannabis.
The Chair: We appreciate that, but I think we need to know the facts and the consequences of Bill C-45. That’s what we’ve been tasked to do, so I can’t avoid it. Whether it is, in your opinion, minor or major, that’s not the issue. Does this bill affect the conventions, and as I understand from you, yes, they do.
We’re not going to get into the quality of that. So it would be helpful if we knew which ones you believe — you used the term “technical” — were not going to be in compliance so that we’re fully apprised in a very accountable and transparent way. We’re going to have to report. That was our task. I would appreciate getting that.
Mr. Gwozdecky: Indeed.
The Chair: My follow-up question is that in this analysis, you went to your legal department. Did you talk to Justice at all? Are they involved in the analysis of whether or not you’re in compliance, particularly with Bill C-45?
Mr. Gwozdecky: Yes, indeed. Beyond Justice, our partners from Health Canada and across Global Affairs, those who have an interest in this matter.
The Chair: I have many more questions, but I’m going to allow six questioners at this point.
Senator Ataullahjan: On March 19, the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence heard evidence on the issue of Canada-U.S. borders, and some serious issues of concern were raised about the implications that Bill C-45 may have for Canadians crossing the border into the U.S. For example, potentially being banned from entering the U.S. for life where there’s an admission to using marijuana legally in Canada.
My question is whether Global Affairs has undertaken any analysis on how Bill C-45 may impact the movement of Canadians across the border once the bill comes into force.
Kevin Thompson, Director General, North America Strategy Bureau, Global Affairs Canada: Thank you very much, senator. I’d be happy to answer your question.
Canada and the United States cooperate very closely on border and security matters and our respective border agencies— the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency— have very strong existing relationships. The legalization of cannabis will not change the relationship between our border agencies. We remain very committed to working with the U.S. government to upholding the laws governing the cross-border movement of cannabis to ensure that there continues to be a smooth flow and movement of people and goods at our shared border.
I’ll answer your specific question about prior use, but I do want to put some contextual facts on the table. One is that this is really an issue involving both northbound and southbound traffic. Legalization of adult recreational use in the U.S. occurs in about 10 jurisdictions, so nine states, and the District of Columbia. One in five U.S. citizens now has access to legal cannabis for recreational purposes.
Moreover, if you just look at the border states, four of the 11 border states between Canada and the United States, with a possible vote in Michigan later this year, have legalized the use of recreational cannabis for adult use.
There are approximately 29 U.S. states that have legalized cannabis for medical marijuana purposes, so 10 of the 11 border states have either legalized marijuana for recreational use or for medical purposes.
We are very much aware of some of the concerns that have been expressed about Canadians travelling to the United States and being asked about their prior cannabis use at the border and that this has resulted, in some instances, in Canadians being rendered inadmissible to the United States.
This is certainly one of the issues that we have raised and are raising with U.S. authorities through the various mechanisms that we’ve established to address this issue with the United States, and there are several mechanisms. One is a working group that has been established between the CBSA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, and a second is an ongoing dialogue that we have with the U.S. embassy here that is a multi-departmental dialogue with the U.S.
It’s important that Canadians realize that for those who wish to enter the United States, they must adhere to the local laws when they’re seeking entry. The fact is, Canada is proposing to change its law; the U.S. is not proposing to change its law. Under existing U.S. law, border agents have the ability to ask questions about prior use. We’ve been told by CBP as well as other members of the administration that the U.S. does not intend to change its posture or its current practice in relation to these sorts of questions, but they do not intend to dramatically modify the type of practice that they currently have.
I just want to put into context some of the concerns about inadmissibility. There were approximately 13 million Canadians who crossed at land borders in 2017. The number of Canadians who, according to CBP statistics, were rendered inadmissible was about 6,800, or the number of processed, attempted entries into the U.S. It may have been multiple individuals, but of the 13 million trips into the United States, about 6,800 decisions of inadmissibility were made. That’s approximately 0.05 per cent of the travelling Canadian public.
We think it’s important to view this issue, which is a very real issue and an issue of concern for those Canadians whose entry into the U.S. has been blocked because of these questions. I think it’s important to see it in its broader context.
Senator Ataullahjan: You’re saying 6,000 people. To me, 6,000 is a huge number. What would your advice to those Canadians be, cross at one of the four border states that have legalized cannabis? Is that what you’re saying? What would you say to these people who would like to go to the States, then?
The Chair: We should get clarification that the border is a national issue in the U.S., not a state issue.
Mr. Thompson: That’s true.
The Chair: As long as we get that straight on the record.
Mr. Thompson: That’s true. Entry into the United States is governed by U.S. federal law, right.
I should just say the 6,800 figure, in terms of inadmissibility, covers all inadmissibility decisions, not inadmissibility decisions for cannabis use. That includes previous criminal decisions on a range of different things such as incomplete paperwork for going to work in the U.S. We were unable to get from U.S. CBP accurate statistics on the number of Canadians who have been deemed inadmissible for cannabis use. We suspect that that’s a very small percentage of the overall 6,000 figure.
Senator Ataullahjan: It’s a small percentage now because it’s not legal. If it’s legal in Canada, it might not be a small percentage. There might be more people willing to admit that they smoke cannabis.
Mr. Thompson: The way that we’re dealing with this issue is we’ve got a fairly robust engagement with CBP. I do note that on Monday, the former CBP commissioner, during his testimony during the National Security and Defence Committee hearing, did say:
. . . in this day and age in our two countries I would not see that as a particularly efficient use of very finite resources in customs and border protection.
And this being the systematic asking of all Canadians, “Have you smoked marijuana before?” CBP has indicated that there’s no intention at this point to change its current practices.
We continue to work very closely with the administration to underscore the objectives of this legislation. There are a number of states in the United States that have legalized marijuana ostensibly for the same purposes — protection of youth and reduction of organized crime — so we’re very hopeful that, as this process moves forward, we will continue to have very strong engagement with the U.S. and any problems that arise we’ll be able to deal with.
Senator Cormier: My question is for Mr. Gwozdecky. In your opening statement and your answers, you referred to three major UN drug control conventions. Has the government identified other international legal obligations or political commitments that might be impacted by the passage of Bill C-45? In particular, will the bill impact any of Canada’s international obligations or commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or any other multilateral treaty or agreement? Where impacts have been identified, what remedial measures will the government take to address any inconsistencies and ensure that Canada is in compliance with its international commitments?
Mr. Gwozdecky: Thank you, senator. Indeed, we have done the research and we don’t believe that there will be any negative impacts in terms of our compliance with these other conventions or legal arrangements. In fact, you mentioned the rights of the child. The purpose of the Canadian legislation is to better protect our children and our youth, so we feel like this legislation will actually be supportive of our commitment to protecting the rights of our children.
As I say, we’re not aware of any other negative impacts that this legislation might have on our other international obligations.
Senator Oh: I have a follow-up question on Senator Cormier’s question.
Does the federal government intend to withdraw formally from the United Nations Drug Control Conventions, or is the federal government planning to violate our international obligations when Bill C-45 is adopted?
Mr. Gwozdecky: Thank you, senator. The drug conventions regulate the movement of a vast range of drugs and substances.I mentioned that there were at least 124, of which cannabis products are a very small subset, and many of these are for medical and scientific use. Withdrawing from that framework would be an excessive and unnecessary response and would also be detrimental to both Canada’s and the international community’s interests.
Legalization of cannabis does not change our commitment to meeting the goals of the international drug control framework and protecting the health and safety of citizens, nor does it change our approach to working internationally to ensure that there is a proper drug control ecosystem out there.
I should also add that we are in constant discussion with our partners internationally, and many of them do not wish for Canada to withdraw from these arrangements. They value the contributions that Canada brings. They wish for Canada to remain a party because of our contributions and the role that we play, so we’re looking at all of the options available to us, but we believe that withdrawal would be an excessive, unnecessary and detrimental step.
Senator Oh: In your opening remarks, you said that U.S. border crossing officials are not changing anything to adapt to the Canadian adoption of Bill C-45; is that correct?
Mr. Thompson: Yes. In the discussions that we’ve had so far with the Americans, the U.S. has given us no indication that they are going to change current practice. They do have under their existing law the discretion to ask questions about prior use. They do have a range of discretion to ask about whether people are in possession of cannabis. They’ve indicated to us that their existing practice will not change.
Senator Oh: So do you foresee a large number or a surge of Canadians who are not allowed to enter the U.S. if they are asked whether they have used marijuana or cannabis in the past 21 days?
Mr. Thompson: We don’t foresee that there’s going to be a major surge. Like I say, the CBP has that power now, and as the numbers show, their officers do not ask on a systematic basis whether Canadians have smoked marijuana. I’m sure there are instances where individuals try to cross into the United States, and there may be some suggestion that they are in possession of cannabis, so a CBP officer will ask questions to try to elicit that sort of response.
But at this point, that’s a law enforcement issue, where they are trying to prevent cross-border trafficking in cannabis. They will continue to use their discretion in a way that helps to reduce the number of instances of cross-border trafficking.
Senator Oh: I don’t get it. You just mentioned earlier that we are the number two country in the world for young people using cannabis, so the number crossing into the U.S. would surge. Why would the number stay the same?
Mr. Thompson: So currently we have very high usage rates among our youth, and the number of inadmissible Canadians is a very small percentage of those who travel to the United States. We don’t have reason to believe that that will increase significantly in the event that this legislation is passed.
Senator Bovey: Thank you for being here and thank you for your thoughts and knowledge on all of this.
We’ve talked about conventions. I want to move to treaties. As you know, our NAFTA is under negotiation now, and we have a number of trade treaties with a number of countries. Do you anticipate any of Canada’s international trade treaties being affected by this? Are any of our treaty agreements linked to Canada’s participation in the UN drug control conventions?
Mr. Gwozdecky: Thank you, senator. I can assure you that no, legalization of cannabis will not violate any of Canada’s obligations under the NAFTA, under the World Trade Organization or under the CETA, the European trade agreement. As with the implementation of any measures implicating international trade, consideration needs to be given to ensuring consistency with Canada’s existing international obligations. So we’ve made that consideration before we proceed.
With regard to NAFTA, I can tell you that the legalization of cannabis has not been raised in the context of the NAFTA negotiations.
Senator Bovey: Is it fair to conjecture, then, that Canada’s trade and import or export of medicines will not be impacted by any of this, or do you think the treaties regulating international controls and trade medicines will be affected? I guess I’m now moving from the broad to the medical side.
Mr. Gwozdecky: There will be no changes to the import and export of cannabis as a result of the new legislation. As is currently the case, the import and export of medical cannabis will continue to be permitted under very limited circumstances, subject to the authorization of Health Canada and consistent with our obligations under these international drug conventions. The unauthorized import or export of cannabis will remain a serious criminal offence.
Senator Greene: Thank you very much. Most of the questions that I had have been asked, but is the Canadian Embassy in Washington and its consulates around the U.S. involved in any outreach or communications plan with regard to cannabis in Canada with their American audiences?
Mr. Thompson: Yes, the Canadian embassy is involved in discussions with the administration. To this stage here, there have been minimal discussions with members of Congress. In fact, we recently did an inventory of the number of times this issue has come up in discussions with congressional members and it has come up twice over the last 12 months. One raised by a congressman who has spoken very much in favour of legalization and one was raised by a congressman who wanted to know how the legalization squared with our broader strategy for opioids.
In terms of our broader consulate network within the U.S., we are preparing a communications strategy to ensure that not only the members of the administration but also the people at the state level, at the local level within the United States, are aware of the legislation and, importantly, are aware of the continued prohibition of the cross-border movement of cannabis.
Senator Greene: In the meetings that you’ve been having with Americans and the outreach done by consulates, et cetera, what are the two or three main issues or flags that pop up in your discussions with Americans? What are they concerned about?
Mr. Gwozdecky: Let me add my perspective. The kinds of discussions and contacts that take place between Americans and Canadian officials are varied, and there are a great many of them. I have direct contact on a regular basis with my counterpart at the Department of State, and my colleagues in other government departments in Canada have their own dialogue. The main conversation issue that I have with my counterpart is urging them to give us clarity in terms of the posture of the CBP agents; that is, how they will interact with Canadians crossing the border. The more clarity we can get in terms of the kinds of questions that Canadians will be asked, the kinds of expectations for Canadians when they want entry into the United States, that kind of clarity, will help us as a government develop the education programs and campaigns that will be conducted on an ongoing basis so that Canadians are educated about what their risks are and what the requirements are and what they should know if they want to have untroubled entry and exit from the United States.
Senator Housakos: Thank you, gentlemen, for being here today.
Has Foreign Affairs been asked by this current government to do an analysis or bring back information to this government on partners in other nations in the world that have a different model of approach to dealing with marijuana use? For example, Norway has been proven to have the lowest usage of marijuana amongst young people. Has Foreign Affairs done any analysis or study or reported back to the government on different models outside the current one that’s being proposed?
Mr. Gwozdecky: I’m confident that we have done a considerable amount of research in that regard. There are many different models, as I alluded to earlier, around the world of governments that have taken different approaches. The UNGASS, the UN General Assembly Special Session, has repeatedly reaffirmed that there needs to be a differentiated approach and that governments need to adapt their policies and postures according to their own national circumstances.
In developing the Canadian legislation, we have looked at what others have done and we’ve tried to look at what best approach would apply to the Canadian reality. That is why the legislation takes the shape it does today.
Senator Housakos: So Foreign Affairs has proposed to the commission that studied the legalization of marijuana to the government? They’ve proposed to them an analysis by Foreign Affairs of other models around the world; is that what you’re saying?
Mr. Gwozdecky: I’m not specifically familiar with the approach taken, but I do know that my colleagues in the departments of Health and Justice, in developing the legislation, benefited from a wide array of information and research, including benchmark studies of what other countries have done.
Senator Housakos: So you’re saying Foreign Affairs has done that analysis and has that information?
Mr. Gwozdecky: Foreign Affairs has contributed a great amount of analysis and information to the drafters of the legislation, yes. That includes what other country models are and how they have operated and the lessons learned.
Senator Housakos: Would that information be readily available to be shared with the committee?
Mr. Gwozdecky: I’d be happy to make available to you information of that kind.
Senator Housakos: I would appreciate that.
My second question concerns the claim that we’ve heard continuously from the government, which has been reiterated here today by yourselves, that Canada has the highest usage of marijuana amongst young people. Is it possible for you also to provide what source and the methodology used? Clearly, Foreign Affairs shares that view. Those are statistics that have been quoted by ministers before the Senate as a whole, and the government continues to make that claim based on a UNICEF report from 2013, which UNICEF claimed was a report from Justice Canada and was subsidized by Statistics Canada, but there seems to be some ambiguity of that study. Again, I see Foreign Affairs officials using that same figure. I was wondering if Foreign Affairs can provide this committee with the source of the methodology of the analysis that leads your department to reiterate the claim that we have the highest usage among young Canadians of marijuana use around the world.
Mr. Gwozdecky: Senator, thank you for that question. I’m not in a position to give you that kind of answer. As an employee of Global Affairs, my mandate is international. So the information that we use that you’re requesting is of a domestic nature. It would be our domestic partners and agencies who would be responsible for developing those statistics and that set of information. That could be made available to you so that you could review it and assure yourself of the validity of that information.
Senator Housakos: Can we source that out through the appropriate departments, chair?
The Chair: I think that’s the point. We’ve heard it’s UNICEF, but it was Canadian-based. Would that be Justice? Would that be Statistics Canada that we should go to in order to find out more about the report? All we get is the conclusion.
Senator Housakos: The officials shared that statistic again today, so I figure it was substantiated by the department.
The Chair: It’s very helpful in other work we’ve done with Statistics Canada to find out what was their objective and the results. Because if you just get the results, you’re not quite sure what it’s based on. Therefore, there’s a question mark over it. If we can get the details with Statistics Canada, we did it with trade and it was very helpful to know what they were getting and the results we could then actually use it very helpfully. If you could tell us who —
Mr. Gwozdecky: I believe the source of that information would be our colleagues in Health Canada and Statistics Canada. Some combination of the two is probably responsible for producing that kind of information.
Senator Housakos: My last question has to do with the Canada-U.S. border services. As you know, successive governments have been working very hard on the strategy of thinning out that border and making it as accessible as possible for both the exchange of people, trade and commerce. Of course, we’ve taken steps to add more pre-clearance available to Canadian citizens on the Canadian side and on the American side, vice versa.
Will you agree with my premise that it makes it a lot easier to continue to cooperate in thinning out that border if there is compatibility between both sides of the border on issues as important as this one, for example, when it comes to drug trafficking, when it comes to drug use?
The Americans have a very rigid criminal code vis-à-vis the marijuana legislation and now we’re going to the other extreme on the other side. So it’s nice to be told and reassure this committee that there shouldn’t be any incompatibility in terms of what we’ve experienced over the last few years with our cooperation on the border, but some of us on this side are a little bit skeptical. What impact ultimately will it have on the NEXUS program? NEXUS is a close cooperative operation between Canada and U.S. border services, to the point where we share offices between our customs officers and U.S. officers. You’ll have two countries, two customs officers that are trying to become as emulsified as possible over the last few years in order to thin out the border, and on this critical issue, they will have two diametrically opposed operative manuals. How do we overcome that compatibility? I’m concerned what impact that will have on our current NEXUS program.
Mr. Thompson: Thank you for the question, senator. There invariably will be differences between our customs and our entry requirements between Canada and the United States. I would use firearms as one example. There are differences between Canada and the U.S. in terms of the possession or the entry into another country with firearms. But we’ve been able to work together collaboratively. Our border agents have been able to work together collaboratively to deal with those issues of misalignment.
But I would say one thing. We were very much aligned on the central principle that both the import and the export of cannabis across the Canada-U.S. border will remain prohibited. So CBSA and CBP will be working very closely to ensure that that prohibition is respected. So we’re very much aligned on that central tenet. One of the questions another senator asked previously was what are some of the concerns that the Americans have raised. Well, one of the concerns is what will we do proactively to ensure that Canadians do not try to enter the United States in possession of cannabis. We will have a public education campaign to ensure that Canadians and Americans continue to be aware that even though there is legalization in Canada, that the movement of cannabis across the border will continue to be prohibited. In that sense, the two customs agencies very much have the same manual.
Senator Housakos: You didn’t answer the question in regard to my biggest concern, which is NEXUS. Right now, we have tons of people on both sides of the border that benefit from the use of the NEXUS program, which gives us almost uninhibited and quick access to the U.S. side as Canadians, and vice versa, and that is probably the most homogeneous program right now between the two border services.
What impact will it have? Where we have an incompatibility on such a criminal issue, what impact might that have on the NEXUS program when the Americans realize Canada has actually done this and now we have to deal with it? Will it have an impact on the current NEXUS program?
Mr. Thompson: Senator, it’s CBSA that administers the NEXUS program in Canada. They indicate that for the purposes of continued membership in the NEXUS or the FAST program, loss of the membership privileges will be determined if the applicant is in violation of the program requirements. So the CBSA will advise its CBP partner when that membership is either denied or revoked. Each of the individual customs agencies is responsible for the administration.
Under the current NEXUS program, Canada and the U.S. are each responsible for determining their own eligibility. The reasons for the rejections are not shared between the two countries because of privacy laws. NEXUS card cancellations and rejections initiated by CBP officers can be appealed through the U.S. redress process and there’s a similar redress process in Canada.
I think we have to take into consideration that the NEXUS program is the highest secured traveller program that we have with the United States, and it’s intended to make travel facilitation easier for those Canadians who pass that high level. So there is no right to a NEXUS program. There is no right to participate in the FAST program.
At this point in time, we will continue to obviously monitor very closely any impact on the NEXUS or the FAST programs, and we’ll be working very closely with CBP to analyze and monitor the trends over time.
Senator Cools: I would like to thank the witnesses for coming before us, but I must tell them that I’m not persuaded by what I’m hearing, and I would like to say that this particular change in public policy bothers me a great deal. For the largest reasons, I do not see the necessity of it.
Having said all of that, I would like to remind colleagues here that we’re talking about a psychoactive narcotic. So we’re not legalizing the use of chocolate or something that’s very commonplace and of no danger. I’m using the word “psychoactive” and people may not know what I mean here, but a psychoactive drug is one that starts to go off to the chemistry of the brain and rearranges reality for people. You remember back in the 1960s there were lots of deaths from LSD and that was a psychotropic drug, but at the same time it was psychoactive. I think we should bear this in mind. We’re not talking about a simple little thing here; we’re talking about a narcotic. I don’t see how this substantive change in Canadian public policy is not going to affect our relationship with the United States of America.
Some years ago, a group of us members — I was the only senator, but the others were members of the House of Commons— somehow or the other had been approached for a very exclusive meeting with an individual from the United States of America who was very high in the business of regulating drugs. He informed us, in no uncertain terms, that if Canada went down the road of legalizing marijuana, the United States would do everything it had to do to protect their young people from marijuana. Those were strong words for a person who was a guest to us, but it sort of was seared into my psyche.
I don’t know if you want to comment on all of this, but I do not see how a profound change of kind that is anticipated here and intended cannot have a result in our relationship. Maybe you’re extremely skilled in the business of fraternity. That may very well be. Diplomacy is something I respect highly, but it is going to change. Every time a person crosses the U.S. border and they produce their Canadian identification, it is going to have a different reaction than it did before. Nothing can change and remain the same. Thank you. Go ahead.
The Chair: Do you want to respond to that or do you want to pass that on to the minister?
Mr. Gwozdecky: I’d be very happy to pass that on to the minister, senator. I didn’t hear a question there, but I heard a very strongly worded comment. I’m very happy to pass that along.
Senator Cools: Please do. It’s a large question that we have before us. I’m struggling as to whether or not I can vote for this legislation myself.
Senator Ngo: I think all the questions have been asked, but I’m going to raise a few questions as I haven’t heard the proper answer from Mr. Thompson and Mr. Gwozdecky.
According to the testimony from a lawyer in the United States who appeared in front of the National Security and Defence Committee, Canadians who admit they have used marijuana can be banned for life from entering the United States. He said that the United States will continue to deny entry to Canadians who admit to having smoked marijuana or to having marijuana in their possession, even if cannabis becomes legal in Canada.
You said that during the border crossings last year about 13 million people have been asked. If Bill C-45 becomes legal, children between the ages of 12 to 17 can have 4 grams legally in their possession, and those above age 18 can have more. Do you think that a family who crosses the border with kids aged 12 or 17 years of age -- adult adolescents in their car -- won’t be asked these questions, if marijuana becomes legal in Canada, by the United States' border agents? That family will be denied entry and will be given a life ban. A kid 12 or 13 years old can have 4 grams in his pocket without knowing it. They can be charged. What do you think of that?
Mr. Gwozdecky: You’re making a very serious point, senator. I can start by saying that every Canadian, whenever they travel, should be aware of the national laws of the country that they are seeking entry to. We need to continue and enhance a national campaign of educating Canadians on what is expected of them and what are the requirements and what are the risks if they choose to enter the United States carrying a prohibited substance according to U.S. federal law.
What I can tell you is that we’ve got no indication from the United States, as my colleague has mentioned, that they intend to change their posture in terms of how they interact with Canadians at the border. To date, they are not asking the question, “Have you ever consumed cannabis or marijuana in your life?” But they do have the right to do so. I suspect they will continue this practice, which is if they see obvious signs in a vehicle or on the person of somebody that there is drug paraphernalia or there’s a smell emanating from an automobile, they have the right to pursue a line of questioning that individual. That probably is a practice that will continue. Canadians will need to be aware that they should be taking precautions when they attempt to cross the border. They should not carry cannabis. They should not have obvious signs of cannabis consumption on their person, because they can be questioned. That right will be a right that the U.S. border protection agency will continue to have, just as our border officers have the right to question individuals where there are uncertainties that crop up in the course of their entry into Canada.
Senator Ngo: I’m still not very happy with that, because once it becomes legal, naturally everybody crosses the border to enter the United States, from ages 12 to 17 to above age 18. The United States will automatically think, “Okay, that kid might have 4 grams.” They can do a search. Children ages 13 and 14 may have no intention to have it, but if they have something like the dust of cannabis in their pocket, or whatever, they can be charged— children who are 13 or 14 years of age.
Mr. Gwozdecky: Senator, I should remind you that our legislation will strictly control cannabis consumption and keep it out of the hands of children. So it would be illegal in Canada for a 14-year-old to be in possession of cannabis, let alone trying to transport that across an international border. So the scenario that you’re indicating —
Senator Ngo: Are you sure? Because in Bill C-45, kids between 12 and 17 are allowed to have 4 grams in their possession.
Mr. Gwozdecky: No.
Senator Ngo: Whether or not they smoke it, I don’t know, but they’re allowed to have 4 grams.
Mr. Gwozdecky: Senator, Canadian citizens, residents under the age of 18, will not be allowed to possess or consume cannabis under the new legislation. I think what you’re referring to is they may not be subject to prosecution if they are found to have an amount of 4 grams or less. But the intent of the legislation, to the extent possible, is to keep cannabis out of the hands of our youth, to address the problem that we currently have, which is this high rate of youth consumption of cannabis.
The Chair: I think maybe you should review the legislation as it’s being presented. You may wish to add to your testimony on some of these sections of Bill C-45. There is a capability of children having it, and that is different from what we are dealing with today. There’s also the capability of sharing it in a way that hasn’t been before. I think we’re getting into specifics. You may wish to review and add to it; otherwise, we’ll just take your testimony as it is. Okay?
Mr. Gwozdecky: If I may, senator, the best source of detailed answers to your questions would be the departments that are the sponsors of this legislation, Health Canada. I don’t sit here purporting to be an authority on the legislation clause by clause. That’s my understanding. If you want a detailed answer, it would be our colleagues at Health Canada that could give you that.
The Chair: I think my researchers are giving me clause 8.1(c) of Bill C-45. You’re responding to it, so I think there’s a responsibility that you may wish to come back in relation to the question that Senator Ngo has put to you.
Mr. Gwozdecky: Senator, if there was any inaccuracy in my answer, I will most certainly correct that. I’m here as a representative of Global Affairs. I’m more mandated to speak to the international dimension, and these domestic ones are not necessarily within my expertise.
Senator Ngo: I have a follow-up, please. This one comes to the international area now.
We have some countries, like Malaysia or some countries in Asia, and if you possess cannabis, you can be charged with the death penalty. You say you’re preparing education and so on. What about those travellers to other countries without knowing the customs, traditions and their law, who can be charged by the criminal court of that country? Because if you possess cannabis or something like that, you can be charged with the death penalty, such as in Malaysia.
Also, how do you anticipate legalizing marijuana will impact international students coming to Canada?
Mr. Gwozdecky: Senator, Global Affairs maintains what we call a travel advisory function, which is for every country in the world. We publish it and it is online available for every Canadian and we encourage every Canadian to consult our travel advice before they travel to a country. Today, it includes information about risks that might be experienced by Canadians when travelling abroad. It includes everything from criminality to the penalties that you refer to. That advice is very important for Canadians to follow and a real risk exists that Canadians travelling with certain narcotics are subject to, and that risk will obviously exist in the future even under our new legislation. The function of Global Affairs is to provide advice to Canadians when travelling to help them avoid these situations of risk.
Senator Ngo: My second question was regarding international students.
Mr. Gwozdecky: I’m not entirely sure how to respond to that. An international student living in Canada would be subject to Canadian law, and as long as they abide by Canadian law, there should be no issue. So perhaps you want more—
Senator Ngo: The question I’m asking is how legalizing marijuana will impact those students. In their own countries, they’re not allowed to smoke. Now if 21-year-old students come to university in British Columbia, they’re allowed to smoke pot, buy 1 gram or 2 grams and they can smoke it.
Mr. Gwozdecky: Senator, the legislation doesn’t compel adult Canadians or visitors to Canada or students to consume cannabis. It makes it possible, permissible and legal to do so. So the same freedom that a Canadian adult would have to consume or not to consume would apply to an international student.
The Chair: I think the question is not a legal one. Students come here and they develop a way of life, which may include some addiction to use and then they go home. Are they in more jeopardy? What are we going to do to forewarn them? It’s the same issue. Global Affairs has been struggling with this for years. We have Canadians, especially young people, who go somewhere else and they still think that they can do what they can do in Canada. So that’s why we’ve had a lot of education to say if you go to a country where they have an absolute prohibition, you may pay with your life. But we had a lot of education.
So what I find a bit contradictory with what you’re saying is that, on the one hand, you told me that under international conventions that this is the low scale. There are all these other narcotics and drugs of all kinds on our international conventions, and this is the least, in your opinion. Yet if Canadians go with the idea that it’s okay — and young people really don’t read the fine print of all the good information that you give — and if we keep saying that it’s on the low end, they’re going to think it’s a trifling thing when they go to other countries and they’re going to find out it’s not trifling.
My question to follow up is: What education are you proposing? Have you started any sort of campaign? Is a campaign underway now, or will it begin once the legislation comes in? Will it educate the public that marijuana may be easily dispensed around here, but don’t try it elsewhere? Do you have a program? I guess that is what I’m asking.
Mr. Gwozdecky: Senator, thank you for the question. I’m not aware of actions that were taken in that regard. I’d be very happy to consult with my colleagues and provide that information.
As you know, education is a provincial responsibility, so in terms of our international education practices, we work with the provinces to recruit international students. You’re quite right, one of the things that we will wish to ensure is that international students and their families and parents are aware of the circumstances that they could be putting their children into as a result of this new legislation. So the education will need to be a two-way street. Canadians will need to know how to behave when they seek to travel abroad, and likewise, foreigners, especially foreign students, will need to know the kind of laws that exist in our country.
I would say that this would not be the first time that foreigners have to adapt to a different set of local laws. In the case of drinking, for example, alcohol is prohibited in many countries. In Canada it is not, so foreign students from those countries where alcohol is prohibited are in a situation currently of having to adapt to that, and their parents are having to make decisions based on those kinds of considerations.
The Chair: There is a responsibility, though, federally, around passports and travel. And when Canadians run into difficulties, consular services need to be provided. So it isn’t just a provincial responsibility.
My question is, is there any contemplation of giving education tools to Canadians who travel, which we’ve done over the years, adapting to it? Are you doing anything to adapt to Bill C-45?
Mr. Gwozdecky: Forgive me, senator. I thought you were referring to international students coming to Canada.
The Chair: I like the answer anyway. It covers another area.
Mr. Gwozdecky: In terms of Canadians travelling abroad, we will very much adapt our travel advice and our other communication products for Canadians so that they know the risks they face when they travel abroad and they can adapt accordingly.
The Chair: Is there any development, or are you going to do it once the law passes?
Mr. Gwozdecky: I will need to consult with colleagues to give you the accurate information in terms of the specific products that we have in mind.
The Chair: And you can respond in writing?
Mr. Gwozdecky: Yes.
Senator Bovey: As one who has been involved with international students coming into the country and our students going out of the country, I think for many international students coming to Canada, it’s not just the potential new addition of marijuana; it is alcohol that’s new for many. Eating habits are new situations that students have to adjust to. Coed residences is another I’ve dealt with foreign students.
I think this is another thing to add to education that’s already out there for students wanting to come to Canada, especially from specific parts of the world. With our students going overseas, I can tell you that when they apply overseas, if they’ve got mentorship — I would hope they do — at the universities they’re studying at here, that’s part of what we work on with them before they go.
I wonder, Madam Chair, if it would be an interesting idea to have somebody from Universities Canada, for instance, to come here and talk about the kind of provisions with Bill C-45 they would be making for our students going overseas and international students coming here, because I know application rates are increasing for international students.
The Chair: That’s why my question is every time we make a change, we have to make sure we’re educating.
Senator Bovey: I think someone from Universities Canada would be helpful. There are a number of people who could potentially come.
The Chair: We’re under a time crunch so we will see what happens.
I have a few questions that I want to put. They don’t have to do with legality but have to do with international relations.
We have been at the vanguard for decades of trying to get international norms, and the drug conventions were part of that. We didn’t want the drugs going back and forth, so we’ve always been at the vanguard of international cooperation. Multilateral is very important to us, but we have resisted. Even though I’ve suggested to the department sometimes we should put a reservation on a convention, the feedback from Global Affairs is, “No, we don’t want reservations because if all these countries who we’ve brought and encouraged to come into a convention start putting in exemptions, you water down the convention.”
This will be quite a shift for Canada to be saying that we have conventions and we’re going to do it. You’re putting the emphasis on the fact that national differences and national circumstances should be taken into account. But if we start using that as an excuse not to fully agree with the convention, are we not inviting other people to do the same and they can use national circumstances in any way? As I say, Canada has led for full compliance of conventions and trying to dampen down this excuse of using national circumstances.
I can tell you about conventions I’ve been involved with and all the others when we say it would be better. Article 2 of the OAS is one. We could have put in a reservation, a very serious one, and it would have gotten us into the inter-American convention. We said no, because we don’t want to put a reservation in.
Where does this change come? Have you contemplated what it might do dimensionally for international norms, particularly in this very fragile world where we have those people who really don’t like our international norms? We know the countries we’re talking about, who have done a complete shift to disregard international norms like state sovereignty, and so on.
How have you taken that all into account at Global Affairs? Therefore, it’s a bigger issue for me than it is just this convention. It’s how Canada has approached convention and treaty making.
Mr. Gwozdecky: Thank you. I think that’s one of the key questions here. You’re quite right, Canada is committed to an international rules-based order. We’re committed to the idea of norms in international affairs governing the behaviour of states.
You were asking about the political side of the question, not the technical, legal aspects. I would go back to the fact that the international community understands that not every convention is the same and that it is an evolving system. The member states of the drug conventions, when they meet frequently, as they did in UNGASS, they recognized that drug conventions should not be an inflexible set of norms, that they are evolving and that they should evolve according to the national circumstances and priorities of countries. The drug problem manifests itself differently around the world and different approaches will need to be taken.
So explicitly inside the political discussions of the drug control bodies, there is recognition that flexibility is required because norms evolve. It wasn’t that many decades ago that women could not vote, but that norm evolved fortunately over time to become more progressive. I would suggest that in terms of the approach to the global drug problem, again, there will be recognition that flexibility is required and that some countries will take different approaches to respond to the overarching goal.
I would remind you here that our partners abroad believe that the number one priority is to safeguard the health and well-being of mankind. That is our goal, not strict compliance with every technical aspect of the conventions— although that is important— but the overarching political goal is health and safety. We believe this legislation will respond in a positive way to that overarching objective.
The Chair: You’ve given a defence of this change in a way that I’ve heard from countries that might be termed fragile states when in fact they subsidize state and non-state actors using drugs and the movement around the world. It’s the same defence. How can we then approach internationally saying that what they’re doing is wrong but what we’re doing is right?
Mr. Gwozdecky: Senator, I would repeat that the actions that Canada is taking are consistent with the approach that the membership of the drug conventions has established, which is that flexibility is necessary to adapt to different circumstances. As long as the goals are consistent with the overarching objective, which is health and well-being, we believe that we will be making a positive contribution. I can assure you that our partners around the world are telling us that they want Canada not to withdraw from these conventions but to continue to operate in them because they value the contributions we bring, and we value the international framework that exists around this multitude of substances, many of which are very dangerous and need stricter controls than others.
The Chair: One of the other concerns that the international community has, one with the other, is if you’re going to make changes, will you forewarn us? Were there any discussions with any international bodies, or treaty officials, or other states about moving this way at Global Affairs.
Mr. Gwozdecky: Firstly, I can assure you, senator, that the world has been very interested in the new policy of the current government. It was publicly announced in the campaign. It was publicly made as a commitment. The world noticed, without much help from Global Affairs. But I can assure you as well that we have been engaged in an ongoing conversation with our partners around the world about the new legislation, the new approach that Canada would be taking, and that conversation continues.
In terms of the treaty bodies themselves, there is this mechanism called the International Narcotics Control Board. They’re the technical body associated with the drug framework. They are in regular contact with us. In fact, we hosted a visit of the INCB in October 2016. They were interested in what the new approach was and how we would seek to implement it. The conversation is ongoing at all levels, and we have been very open and transparent about what we’re trying to do and, at the same time, our ongoing commitment to the international drug framework.
The Chair: Just on that, you’ve used the phrase “health and well-being” quite often and that’s what you’ve transmitted to other countries. Is there a definition you’re using of health and well-being, or is this just a term of art that you’re using and then point to the legislation?
Mr. Gwozdecky: Senator, the term that I was referring to was the health and welfare of mankind. I should be explicit. That comes from the preamble of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. I’m not sure there is a formal legal definition of that; I could look into it.
The Chair: No, perhaps I didn’t state it properly. You were saying that that’s how you justify it in there. So what is the Canadian source that we are, in fact, by utilizing Bill C-45, contributing to the health and welfare of mankind? What was the justification out to the international community? That’s what I’m trying to get at.
We’ll have our national debate of Bill C-45, but if you have been approached by or have approached other countries and say that Bill C-45 will contribute to the health and welfare of mankind by this maneuver, what definition have you used? Or do you? Do you simply say Bill C-45 is going to contribute and you don’t have to justify it further? Is that it?
Mr. Gwozdecky: No, most certainly we seek to convince our partners of the value of this new approach, and we believe that reducing the consumption by Canadian youth of cannabis is a positive contribution to the health and well-being of our population. We believe that reducing or eliminating the proceeds of the cannabis market to organized crime and to criminals is a positive contribution to the health and well-being of our country, and these are the arguments that we bring when we have conversations internationally about our new approach.
The Chair: If I can catch Mr. Thompson’s eye, I have a final comment and then there’s a follow-up.
Mr. Thompson, the question that I want to put to you is that we’re hearing a lot about cannabis in many forms and its retention both in the atmosphere— spores, et cetera— and within a car, for example. We’re going to be crossing the U.S. border. Has there been any information shared about the residual— you may not be using it today, but you may have in the past.
How are Canadians going to know how long the effect of cannabis stays with them for purposes of border crossing? It may be in their car, on their clothing, et cetera. We’re not quite sure yet about all the technologies around cannabis. We’re just exploring that now.
Mr. Thompson: Unfortunately, I’m not an expert on the science behind cannabis retention. What I can say is we’ll have a public education campaign to ensure that Canadians are aware of both the prohibition against moving cannabis to the U.S. border as well as the sort of things that they can expect when they try to enter the United States.
This is certainly an issue that I can take back to the people who are designing that education campaign and encourage them to address this so that when Canadians are approaching the border and there are, for instance, sniffer dogs or whatnot, they don’t find themselves in a situation where they are pulled away from primary into secondary.
The Chair: Thank you. I think that would be helpful. I would hope they’re working on it now, but if not, I think you should alert them. I think we have time for Senator Ngo to follow up on something and then we can close.
Senator Ngo: I’d like to follow up on your questions. Under the international law and international convention, with Bill C-45 like this, does this put Canada at odds for possible UN Security Council seats?
Mr. Gwozdecky: Thank you, senator. I cannot speak for what other countries might do with regard to this legislation. We believe that many countries will see Canada as taking a progressive step in terms of evolving the norms around cannabis use by our approach to strict regulation to keep it out of the hands of children, strict approach to ensuring that criminals and criminal networks aren’t benefiting from this trade. We believe many countries will see the very positive value in that, and that this is a progressive step that might contribute to them thinking that we would be a worthy voice around the Security Council table.
But there will undoubtedly be countries that might have a different view, and that is their sovereign right. All I can say is that from Canada’s perspective, we believe that this legislation is the right thing for the Canadian circumstance, given the challenges that we face, and we hope that over time other countries will see the benefits that we derive from that.
Senator Ngo: So you think that Canada is not at all at odds?
Mr. Gwozdecky: I can’t predict, senator, what other countries might do when the time comes to vote. There will be many considerations that they will have when they consider Canada versus another country. This may be one of those considerations, and this might be a positive attribute that they see in us, and they might not. But I believe that this legislation isn’t going forward with a view to winning a Security Council seat. This legislation is moving forward because of a belief that this will be beneficial to the health and well-being of Canadians.
The Chair: I think we’ve come to the end of our questions. Thank you for endeavouring to answer all of them from many areas. It is a very difficult topic. I think it’s one that will affect more Canadians. To me, education is key because while we’re engaged in this discussion with you, I wonder how many Canadians are involved with it. I think it will impact all of us. Looking and reflecting on the international aspects is critically important to a country like Canada. We very much depend on our multilateral relationships, so thank you for coming before us.
If you can follow up on the few points we’ve asked, and if we need more information, we’ll be back to the department requesting it and trust that you will respond. We have a very short time frame. We’ve been put under pressure, and we may have to put you under pressure. That’s a bit of a warning that our turnaround time is very short.
So thank you for coming, responding and opening our debate and reflection on Bill C-45 as it impacts our international relations.
Senators, I have two issues. One is that the Venezuela response from the government was circulated to you earlier this week. We will be looking at it from steering and seeing whether we want to respond again to the government. It’s there for your reading.
The other thing is that we are having a meeting tomorrow. It’s in room 257 East Block. We made the trade with Legal and Constitutional Affairs because they have an overabundance of witnesses who will not fit into that room, and we do give to each other. I want to warn you it’s in the other building and I’ll check how many of you show up here, including myself. We often do that in a rush. If you can be reminded, it’s in 257. Thank you.
(The committee adjourned.)