THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL PEOPLES
OTTAWA, Tuesday, April 17, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 8 a.m. to study 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 the Indigenous peoples of Canada.
Senator Scott Tannas (Deputy Chair) in the chair.
The Deputy Chair: Good morning. I would like to welcome all honourable senators and members of the public who are watching this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples either here in the room or listening via the web.
I’d like to acknowledge, for the sake of reconciliation, that we are meeting on the traditional, unceded lands of the Algonquin peoples.
I am Scott Tannas from Alberta, and I have the privilege of chairing the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples this morning in the absence of our chair, Lillian Dyck.
I now would like to invite my fellow senators to introduce themselves.
Senator Pate: Kim Pate, Ontario.
Senator Boniface: Gwen Boniface, Ontario.
Senator Doyle: Norman Doyle, Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Deputy Chair: Today we continue our pre-study of Bill C-45 and what effects cannabis legalization may have on Indigenous communities.
This morning we welcome the Minister of Health, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, with the Honourable Bill Blair, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Health.
They are accompanied by officials from Health Canada and from the Department of Justice Canada.
Minister Taylor, you have the floor, which will be followed by questions from senators.
Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., Minister of Health, Health Canada: Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
Honourable senators, it is a pleasure to join you here this morning, and I also would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak about Bill C-45 and how the government has been working to address the interests of Indigenous peoples.
As you know, the proposed cannabis act represents a historic change in Canada’s approach to cannabis.
The Government of Canada is taking a comprehensive public health approach to the legalization and regulation of cannabis in order to better protect Canadians and minimize the harms associated to cannabis use.
With this legislation, we have applied the lessons learned from our considerable successes in taking a public health approach to the regulation of tobacco and in reducing the rates of tobacco smoking.
We are taking this public health approach because we know Canadians, especially youth, are using cannabis in high rates, despite the substance being illegal.
Surveys show that Indigenous communities report higher rates of cannabis use in the past year than the general Canadian population. Cannabis use is particularly high for First Nations youth aged 12 to 17 living on reserve and in northern First Nations communities.
The current system of prohibition has not been effective at deterring or preventing young people from accessing or using cannabis. Our goal with this important legislation is to do what the current system has failed to do — to prevent youth from accessing cannabis and to protect adults who choose to use cannabis by establishing strict product quality and safety requirements. We recognize that these changes will affect communities across Canada in many different ways. This includes, of course, indigenous communities.
Since 2016, we have been consulting with a diverse range of stakeholders, including Indigenous governments, organizations and communities. Today, I want to share what they told us and what the Government of Canada is doing to address the concerns they have raised.
Our government is deeply committed to a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous people. That commitment informs our work as we move toward a new cannabis framework.
Listening to First Nations, Inuit and Metis has been a priority. We have carried out comprehensive consultations over the past two years. Throughout this process, we have engaged with Indigenous organizations, groups and community representatives all across the country.
The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation consulted with national Indigenous organizations and Indigenous community representatives before providing its advice on the design of a new legislative and regulatory framework for cannabis.
In October 2017, my provincial and territorial counterparts and I met with Indigenous leaders at our annual meeting in Edmonton. Cannabis was among the topics that we discussed that day.
I personally reached out to the Assembly of First Nations, ITK and Métis National Council before launching our public consultations on the proposed regulatory approach. That was launched in November 2017.
In addition, I recently met with my counterparts in the Government of Nunavut, and Parliamentary Secretary Blair has met with representatives of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated and Inuit communities.
Just recently, Parliamentary Secretary Blair has engaged with representatives of First Nations communities in northern Ontario and will continue these discussions with other First Nations and Inuit across Canada.
This is an ongoing dialogue with everyone.
Officials at Health Canada continue to engage with many different Indigenous groups, both national organizations and individual communities, to share information and hear their perspectives on cannabis legalization and regulation.
For example, in November 2017, Health Canada brought together Indigenous groups, other governments, partners and stakeholders to discuss cannabis public education.
Indigenous communities, leaders and organizations have raised diverse views and objectives. These include the importance of public health supports, the need for culturally appropriate public education, and a strong interest in participating in the cannabis industry. Some have also raised questions about how the legislation would apply on reserve and on treaty and settlement lands.
I will speak more specifically on two issues that fall directly under my purview as Minister of Health: public education for Indigenous communities; and support for Indigenous communities who wish to participate in the legal cannabis industry.
Many of the communities and organizations we spoke with highlighted the need to protect public health through education. We want all Canadians to make informed and responsible choices about cannabis, and to be able to talk to their children about the risks of cannabis use. That is why our government is investing $100 million over six years in public education, awareness and surveillance activities.
Indigenous communities have unique needs. We heard directly from these communities that public education activities should be culturally appropriate and relevant to the people they are trying to reach. We also heard that Indigenous peoples should have the opportunity to lead the cannabis dialogue at the local, regional and national levels, and should have access to funding to lead public education activities themselves. That is why Budget 2018 included $62.5 million over five years for public education initiatives. This funding will support the work of community-based and Indigenous organizations as they educate their communities on the risks associated with cannabis use.
The Government of Canada is working closely with Indigenous organizations and experts to respond to the needs of First Nations, Inuit and Metis. Wherever possible, we are collaborating with Indigenous groups to support them in leading these culturally appropriate public education and engagement efforts. For example, the Government of Canada is providing funding to the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation to lead structured dialogue sessions on cannabis, all across the country. The information gathered through these sessions will inform the development of culturally appropriate public education materials for First Nations.
As we expand national and targeted public education efforts, we will continue to work collaboratively with Indigenous leaders and organizations to ensure that we are supporting them in educating their communities.
Another common theme that we heard throughout our discussions is that Indigenous peoples should have access to economic opportunities in the legal cannabis industry.
When we look at the current medical system, there are currently four licensed producers of cannabis for medical purposes and another fourteen applicants, known to be affiliated with Indigenous groups.
In New Brunswick, for example, the Listuguj First Nation has entered into a partnership with Zenabis, a federally licensed producer that has established a facility near the community and is providing access to employment and other opportunities.
Health Canada’s application process to obtain a federal licence to produce cannabis for medical purposes is rigorous to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
Understanding the complexity of this process, we developed a “navigator” system. This service refers Indigenous applicants to a licensing professional who can guide them through each step of the licensing process.
This service will help support participation of interested Indigenous peoples in the legal cannabis industry.
In conclusion, whether in a big city or in a small town, on a First Nations reserve or in a remote northern community — cannabis use rates across Canada are among the highest in the world despite it being illegal.
Prohibition has not worked. It is time for a new approach. Bill C-45 gives us the tools we need to manage this issue effectively. It will help keep cannabis out of the hands of young people and profits out of the pockets of criminals and organized crime. And, most importantly, it will help protect public health with strict rules and product quality standards.
For the past two years, we have reached out to Indigenous communities, national Indigenous organizations and the provinces and territories. We have listened to their concerns and are addressing the issues they have raised.
The proposed cannabis act builds on extensive consultation and engagement. It takes into account the concerns and interests of diverse Canadians, including Indigenous peoples.
As we elaborate this framework, we will continue to engage with all partners and stakeholders, including Indigenous communities across the country.
I am convinced that this bill represents the best approach to legalizing and regulating cannabis use in our communities. I am proud of this bill that is before you today, and I urge you to support it.
Thank you so much. I am pleased now to respond to your questions.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much, minister.
A couple of things: pardon my hair-trigger gavel. We have a number of senators who joined just as you were beginning your remarks.
Senator Martin: Yonah Martin, British Columbia.
Senator Ngo: Thanh Hai Ngo, Ontario.
Senator Raine: Nancy Greene Raine, British Columbia.
Senator Deacon: Senator Deacon, Ontario.
Senator McPhedran: Marilou McPhedran, Manitoba.
The Deputy Chair: We have three members of the departments who are joining us for questions: Mr. Eric Costen, Director General, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Secretariat, Health Canada. From the Department of Justice, Diane Labelle, General Counsel, and Stefan Matiation, Director and General Counsel. Welcome.
Senator Doyle: Welcome, minister. It’s good to have you here.
Our committee recently travelled to Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba and we didn’t hear a great deal about the cannabis bill, because we didn’t have it on the agenda at the time. We visited Prince Albert penitentiary, and we found that a high percentage of the people are there for drug-related offences, presumably also including cannabis-related offences. Some people advocate for — and some countries do — the treatment of drug abuse as a health matter, not a legal one.
Do you feel that Canada’s approach to drug-related offences and cannabis use and the like, so that people end up in prison, is treating it in the right way, first of all? I've always had a curiosity about that. Is it a drug-related offence or is it a health-related offence, for want of a better term? How do you feel about that?
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: Thank you very much for the question, senator.
First of all, regarding my personal views with respect to substance use or substance misuse, having been a social worker in my previous life before becoming a parliamentarian, I have to say that I’ve always treated substance use issues as a health issue.
I have worked with many individuals through my career who have dealt with addictions, and moving forward we have always treated these individuals in this area with respect to using a public health approach. We certainly have to look at the issues faced by these individuals, and we have to provide them with the services that they need.
That’s why I am extremely proud of the investments that our government has made in the area of public education and awareness and also in providing additional supports and resources to address the area of mental health and services.
Many of these individuals that we work with, we certainly have to recognize that they do suffer from mental health issues and we have to make sure that, moving forward, we provide them with the services that they need for them to effectively gain control of their lives.
Senator Doyle: You talked about consultation with Indigenous peoples. Some Indigenous witnesses and organizations who have come before us have stated that there has been insufficient consultation with them on the proposed legislation of cannabis. Some people mentioned that there should have been an education campaign before any of this came to pass.
Do you agree? Has there been sufficient consultation? We are hearing that there hasn’t been. I guess that would be the case in some areas, but overall, how do you feel? Are you getting complaints that there has been little or no consultation with certain First Nations groups?
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: There are two parts to your question, I believe, with respect to the consultation and also the issue of public education and awareness — starting it off early. With respect to the consultations we’ve done with different Indigenous organizations, communities and groups, I have to say we’ve had substantive consultations. I have a list of the different meetings and sessions we’ve had. I’d be more than happy to provide this list to the committee, if you have not received it yet.
We have certainly engaged with many groups and organizations over the past two years. I personally have, with many of the national groups and communities, and my parliamentary secretary, Bill Blair, has been very busy going from coast to coast to coast and from north to south in order to meet with different individuals to hear their concerns, thoughts and ideas on the issue of consultation.
Before I pass it on to Mr. Blair, perhaps to elaborate a bit more on the consultations and the groups he’s met with, I’d also like to speak on the other component of your question with respect to public education and awareness.
We’ve made it very clear from the beginning that we want to invest and make sure we put our efforts as much as possible in the area of public education and awareness. We base that on the recommendations the task force made, but also on the experience given to and shared with us from our friends to the south. If they had to do it over again, they had indicated to us that they would make sure that increased investments would be made at the front end to ensure that public education and awareness was put in place before the actual legalization of cannabis. That’s exactly what we have done; we’ve made significant investments, and rollouts have occurred with respect to those campaigns.
I’d like to turn it over to Mr. Blair. He could perhaps elaborate on the number of consultations that he’s done.
Bill Blair M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Health: Thank you very much. Senator, it’s really important to acknowledge that the process of consultation and engagement is a process and not simply an event; it’s not simply a matter of saying, “We’ve talked to these people. We’re done.” In my experience, it’s an ongoing process of engagement with communities, and that’s their expectation.
From the outset, with our task force, and subsequently with our senior officials and our government, we’ve been engaging and consulting with communities across the country. We’ve heard that they want to continue to work with us.
I’ll give you a really important example on the issue of public education. We have heard very clearly in our engagements to date that Indigenous communities want to participate, and they want to ensure that the education delivered within their communities is culturally appropriate and in the language spoken in those communities. That can’t simply be done from the centre. It has to be done in partnership with them.
It has been very clear in our discussions with them that they wish to continue to engage with us. That’s their expectation, and that’s our commitment.
Senator Doyle: I have one more concern that I have been hearing about. Many Canadian children, including Indigenous children, already live with parents who drink or smoke in front of them. Cannabis will now be allowed for home use by adults, so they can grow it and use it in their home.
I want to get your opinion on that. Surely that can’t be good for children. What do you think about those who bring that concern forward? How do you answer them and the fact that they will be allowed to use cannabis in the home? I guess a lot of people use it now in the home, but under this bill you can actually grow it in the home.
How do you respond to people who put that concern before you?
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: Thank you very much for your question. With the issue of home cultivation, once again, we’ve brought this legislation forward. We certainly focused on the recommendations that were brought forward from the task force. Again, that was brought forward as a result of extensive consultations they had done.
With respect to home cultivation, as I’m sure you’re all aware, we’ve put in place a maximum of four plants per household that would be allowed to be grown. That’s not four plants per individuals living in the household; it’s four plants per household.
The other thing we have to be very clear about is that we have put in the maximum of four plants, but provinces and territories can also lower that amount.
The other thing is that provinces and territories can also put in place other regulations if they so choose. I can only speak to you about the details of the Province of New Brunswick, my province. In New Brunswick, they’ve put some additional regulations forward. If homegrown cultivation is going to be permitted, they want to make sure it’s done in a closed, locked type of facility within the home.
So provinces can certainly put in place different requirements if they so choose.
With respect to the risk to children, I really have to trust that parents and Canadians will take the appropriate measures to make sure their children are going to be protected from any harmful substance, just as we have to protect children if we’ve got alcohol, tobacco or whatever other products in the home. I trust that Canadians will take the appropriate steps to make sure they are going to protect their children from the harms associated to this product.
Mr. Blair: I will also add that in every province and territory in this country, there will be an enforceable prohibition under provincial and territorial regulations for the possession, purchase and consumption of cannabis for any youth under the age of majority in that province. That will be enforceable now under provincial regulation.
Currently, the only tool available is to charge the child criminally and give them a criminal record, but we have introduced in this legislation a framework that allows for a more proportional way of enforcing that regulation. We’ve also retained serious criminal offences and created a new criminal offence for supplying this drug to children, recognizing the health risks to children.
The new framework for enforcing a prohibition, the new offence for providing this drug to children and finally a robust public education campaign about the risks to young people — the combination of those three things — are far more effective ways of protecting children from this drug than the current system of prohibition, which does not allow for regulation or that robust public education component.
Senator Boniface: Good morning. Welcome, minister. Mr. Blair, thank you for being here. I want to focus a little bit on the issue of organized crime, which I know, Mr. Blair, you will know a fair bit about. Many of us raise concern on the ability to address this issue, particularly in vulnerable communities. In this case, our interest is Indigenous communities.
Are there any special efforts being made in that regard that would target the issue of organized crime taking advantage of communities where policing is not as robust as a result of funding and other things? In what ways do you see being able to address that as you go forward with implementation?
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: To start off, significant investments to policing were made last year with respect to Indigenous services to provide them with more resources, not just with respect to cannabis but more generally. That is going to help with respect to the implementation of this act as well.
I would like to turn it to Mr. Blair, because he can provide you with a more detailed answer with respect to the organized crime element of it.
Mr. Blair: Thank you very much, minister. Senator, as you know, the current process of production and distribution of cannabis in this country is 100 per cent controlled by criminals. It’s a multi-billion-dollar business, estimated at between $5 and $8 billion a year in retail sales for criminals.
In response to that, first of all, as the minister already alluded, we are making significant investments, including an additional $113 million for the RCMP and CBSA to focus specifically on organized crime activities and border integrity issues. Frankly, the underfunding and under-resourcing of police in Indigenous communities have been a significant factor.
Additional money — significant monies — are being reinvested in the First Nations Policing Program to improve the quality of enforcement.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, all of the current offences for illegal production, illegal distribution, illegal import and export are being retained. All of the current enforcement and investigative authorities of the police are being retained in this legislation. Nothing is being taken from them. They are being given additional resources.
In addition to that, consumers in those communities are being given a legitimate choice. Almost a third of Canadians are making the choice to acquire cannabis from criminal enterprise currently.
We’re giving them an alternative, a legitimate choice, a safer and healthier choice, a choice of cannabis which has been produced under strict regulation and oversight, that has been tested and is free from adulterating chemicals of known potency so they might make healthier choices with respect to it. This is a choice which allows for a more socially responsible use of this drug, so that the money they’re spending on it isn’t going into criminal enterprise, which does nothing good in communities, but is reinvested in legitimate business in communities, which is subject to taxation and gives the government the opportunity to bring in public education campaigns, health campaigns, mental health services and rehabilitation and treatment services, which can all do much more positive things in the community than criminals currently do.
Senator Boniface: I don’t disagree with your comments. My concern, really, is the vulnerability of the communities. I appreciate there has been funding put into First Nations policing, but that was a long-negotiated agreement that was before this started, before this legislation came into place. So I would just caution around assuming that that is going to be one of the things that helps it.
My concern really is the experience in Colorado and others, from the discussions I’ve had. How do you take the organized-crime issue, hard-hitting on the front end? Hard-hitting on the front end is trying to buttress it in communities that they will see as weak in terms of law enforcement and such.
So it’s just a statement. I just caution around the assumptions made, particularly for Indigenous communities. It concerns me.
The second question I really had was around implementation and what you’re hearing from communities. I had some discussions with Indigenous leaders last week on the notion of whether or not we would see an adoption of dry communities like we see on the alcohol front.
From a health perspective, when you evaluate communities that have made that decision from an alcohol perspective to others that haven’t, are there any lessons we’ve learned that we could apply here, and is that information available to Indigenous leaders as they go down this road and make this decision?
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: Thank you very much for your question. That is certainly an area that we sometimes hear of.
I know that when I’ve met with different Indigenous communities and groups and leaders, some individuals have spoken to us about the issue of bringing in place dry-community types of legislation, if you will, for lack of a better word.
Other leaders have also told us that I’ve heard, that they absolutely aren’t going to be going down that road. They have done it for other intoxicants and they certainly feel that it just didn’t meet their needs back then and it certainly wouldn’t meet their needs now.
Moving forward with Bill C-45, one raison d’être, if you will, of why we’re going forward with it is that first of all, yes, we want to protect our youth. We also want to get the proceeds out of the hands of criminals, but also we recognize that prohibition is not working.
When we look at the rates of cannabis use within this country, it’s an illegal substance and yet we know that we are amongst the highest consumers when it comes to youth cannabis consumption amongst all the developed countries. So we certainly know the present approach is not working.
We also know within Indigenous communities as well, when we look at youth consumes rates, it’s even higher in some areas than non-Indigenous youth. So we certainly recognize that the current approach of prohibition is not working. When communities speak to us about these options or these conversations that they’re having, we’re moving forward with this legislation because we recognize that prohibition is not working. That is why we certainly want to put in place a process or system that is going to restrict access to kids, but also to regulate the product that is going to be on the market.
The Deputy Chair: The minister has to leave at nine o’clock. Mr. Blair and the officials are prepared to stay longer. So maybe as we’re framing our questions here we can try and get the quick ones we want the minister to answer and then we can carry on, if that’s all right.
Senator Martin: Thank you, minister. I have to leave at 9:00, and I appreciate this opportunity to ask the minister some questions.
Minister, in your comments you spoke in French, and the English translation regarding the development of culturally appropriate public education materials, it’s worded as “the consultations will inform the development of,” meaning it hasn’t yet been developed.
I was just curious. It takes time to develop curricula, especially culturally appropriate materials. The consultation process may have taken time over a long period, but the actual development of materials can also take time.
So my first question is: How much of this is ready? If it isn’t, what are your thoughts on the fact that the legalization may happen before any of these materials are fully developed and implemented? Because that, too, will take time.
I was just concerned about the timeline of what will happen beyond the consultation and the development of these materials and then the actual implementation and the effects that we want to have before, like the readiness of a community before we legalize the product.
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: Thank you very much. In my comments, absolutely, we’ve indicated that we are working with Indigenous groups. Specifically I had mentioned the Thunderbird organization, that we have established a partnership with them. They are in the process of consulting and will be developing as well.
But also we have to keep in mind that through Health Canada we have done a lot of public education and awareness that has started. It’s been since last year, actually.
If I look at the public education campaign that was put forward, the cannabis facts campaign, many individuals aren’t aware that that campaign actually started in March of 2017 and is presently still being rolled out.
Oftentimes I get the comment, “Minister, I haven’t seen that yet.” My response to that is that I guess my age group is not the target audience of these types of campaigns. So we are really going to reach the kids and the young adults as to where they’re at. These campaigns are very present in paid social media, like Facebook and Twitter and web banners. Those are the areas where we’re really targeting youth and individuals.
If I look at the target reach that we’ve attained so far, messages on Facebook and Twitter received views of over 7.9 million times, and the website banners were viewed over 47 million times.
Another very successful campaign we had as well was the Don’t Drive High campaign, and perhaps some of you saw that on TV or in different areas as well. That campaign was extremely successful and started in November 2017 and finished in March 2018, but that will be one that will be run again in specific time frames. For example, probably the pre-holiday period is a time that we’ve seen that has been very effective.
That campaign, specifically, the target age group was 16 to 24. Once again, we’ve also used TV ads for that, but we’ve also used social media and other mediums because we absolutely want to make sure that we reach the people in question.
Finally, we’re in the process right now of rolling out another phase of our campaign, which is called “your cannabis questions and answers” campaign. Phase one of that came out already, and we are in the process of rolling out our second phase with respect to that. Once again, the medium that we’ve used for that is paid social media; again, on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and the list goes on. When we look at the numbers of viewers we have reached, again, it’s in the millions.
Now, with respect to these campaigns, they’re in French and English, but we’re also in the process of developing, as we have indicated, culturally appropriate programs that also meet the linguistic requirements of the Indigenous communities.
But we also recognize that if we want to reach the youth, Indigenous youth and non-Indigenous youth, they’re also very in tune with these types of social media campaigns as well, and they certainly have access to these.
Once again, we continue to work with other different groups as well. We’ve made significant investments in working in partnerships with Drug Free Kids and other not-for-profit organizations, as we certainly want to make sure that we develop the best tools and the best public education to meet the needs of Canadians, wherever they are.
Senator Martin: Thank you, minister. So it seems, then, that the development of culturally appropriate public education materials is still in progress. I know that our children are on social media, and it’s very quick. You look at it for a couple of seconds or a few seconds at most, and they can be effective in some ways. I was sort of hoping to hear about what will happen when students are in schools and that kind of curriculum, where it’s much more sort of focused and guided by adults, with more time. The legislation is very complex. The impact of it will be multifaceted.
I don’t know if just a social media campaign, in a variety of ways, will result in what we’re looking for in order to ensure that the communities are prepared. I’m just wondering about the time that it will take for that to happen, whether everything has to wait until these things are fully implemented. The negative effects, if the readiness isn’t there, are something that we won’t be able to turn back. So I’m just very concerned about the fact that things are not quite ready, and we aren’t ready as a society, especially with vulnerable groups, if these are still being developed.
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: Thank you very much for your question. As we’ve indicated, many products have been produced and will continue to be produced. We have made significant investments. When we look at the $108 million over the next five or six years, we certainly recognize that significant investments are going to be made in order to develop significant products.
With respect to that, though, I have to say that, when we look at the tools that have been developed, they started off early 2017 because we certainly want to make sure that we provided enough time to put in place and to roll out the public education campaigns. I also have to elaborate a bit on one of the programs that we have partnered with, and that is called Drug Free Kids. Drug Free Kids is a campaign that has been developed, and we’ve been able to provide them with some assistance. That is a kit that has been provided. It’s not just a social media app or tool. I think social media is very effective with youth nowadays, but this Drug Free Kids kit is actually a kit provided to anyone, but also to parents or teachers or coaches or individuals who often will perhaps have those tough conversations with kids or perhaps conversations that we don’t always feel comfortable having. So it’s a really good reference guide and a bit of information to help parents or health care workers or mentors to have those conversations with kids.
Coming back to the social media campaign as well, I also have to add that this fall I was asked to look at a few campaigns that we were considering for a rollout. When I was looking at the campaigns that were before me, I had picked a specific campaign that I thought would be very effective. It would meet my needs.
From there, we did a focus group with respect to kids, the target age audience, and the campaign that I picked certainly didn’t meet their needs. It met my needs, so then I felt a bit old when they told me that. But we have to keep in mind that we have to get where the kids are at. When I look at the campaign that we’re in the process of rolling out the second phase of right now called “your cannabis questions and answers” campaign, this is actually a campaign where children, youth or young adults went into this little booth.
They were able to ask any questions that they wanted about cannabis, anything at all. From there, we had at our disposal different professionals who could answer those types of questions, or their questions in their words. Then, from there, when those questions were answered and also asked, we were able to tape those, and we’ve made little capsules of that. That’s going to be the next phase of our public education. So, if any youth has any questions with respect to any specific matter, that capsule will come out, and it’s going to provide them with the straight facts regarding cannabis.
So a lot of work has been done, and a lot of work will continue to be done. Again, as we’ve indicated, this is certainly not an event. As we roll this out, we have to make sure that we continue to evaluate to see exactly what is going to be needed, as we certainly want to address those needs. That will be ongoing.
Senator Pate: Thank you, minister, and the rest of you as well, for joining us.
I want to pick up on something that Senator Doyle raised, or that sparked me to think of this. One of the issues that we certainly know in the prisons, as Senator Doyle pointed out, is the number of people who are there for drug-related offences. You probably know that it’s more than double that when we talk about women in particular. There are provisions currently within the corrections legislation, section 29 in particular, that allow for people to be taken out of prison. Given your background, you would know the benefit of actually having them in treatment programs as opposed to in prison.
What kind of initiatives are being taken at the federal level to consult with provinces to ensure that there are robust treatment programs, not just for here but related to Bill C-46 in terms of the treatment options that might otherwise be available to individuals that currently really are only available to those who have significant means, either because their lawyer then advocates for them or they can pay for them privately.
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: I think I missed a part of your question there. My apologies.
Senator Pate: I’ll try to truncate it a bit. I’m curious as to the leadership that’s being taken and what you’re doing in terms of your responsibility as Minister of Health to ensure that provinces are putting in place appropriate health programs, and treatment programs in particular, and how you’re going to make those accessible to individuals, both through the current provisions that are in the Criminal Code, when we’re talking about sentencing options, but also when we’re looking at individuals who, pursuant to section 29 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, could have access and be out of prison instead of in prison.
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: I’m assuming that you are specifically relating it to Indigenous communities, Indigenous individuals?
Senator Pate: Not just Indigenous individuals, no. Those provisions apply to both.
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: With respect to our government, we’ve been very clear since we’ve formed government that the issue of mental health is absolutely a priority of ours, and significant investments have been made in that area. Through Budgets 2016, 2017 and 2018, we’ve absolutely made significant investments in that area.
With respect to mental health, as I’ve indicated, it’s a top property. In Budget 2017, we invested over $5 billion in that area. With respect to provinces and territories, we are in the process of signing the bilateral agreements when it comes to that. So far, I believe I’ve signed five bilateral agreements with provinces and territories, but we still have more that need to roll out.
With respect to the area of mental health, I have to say that, through my short time as a politician, over the past two and a half years, I certainly recognize that this is an area that touches the lives of Canadians, and it’s something that we all feel very passionate about. I believe that all of us around the table know someone who suffers or lives with a mental health issue. So significant investments need to continue to be made at that level. I’m pleased that our government has shown some leadership with respect to providing some funding, but, again, we also recognize that more work needs to be done in that area.
With respect to the area of our Indigenous communities, I’m very proud to say that, with the new department that has been created through the leadership of Minister Philpott, significant investments have been made in the area of mental health and addictions as well. In Budget 2018, we announced over $200 million, over five years, with $40 million ongoing after that for service delivery and culturally appropriate services to be developed for Indigenous communities as well. So, again, that’s a significant investment to ensure that individuals in Indigenous communities receive the services that they need. In Budget 2018, our government also announced an investment of $248 million over three years to include mental health and emotional services for individuals who were survivors of the Indian residential school settlement. So, again, we recognize that it is an area that we certainly have to focus on, and, as a government, it is certainly a priority of ours. As the Minister of Health, it’s certainly an area that I’m very passionate about and that we certainly want to continue to champion.
Senator Pate: That’s wonderful. Thank you. I apologize. I obviously wasn’t very clear in some of my questions. That’s all very helpful, but, in terms of, particularly, addiction issues — and, of course, there’s overlap and intersection of those issues — what kinds of cost-sharing agreements are being set up with the provinces around developing, particularly treatment programs that could be used in the current situation now, both as a treatment option instead of a prison sentence or to transfer people out of prison when the predominant issue is addictions and sometimes mental health, but particularly addictions? Because, right now, there are insufficient resources in many of those communities, and there could be cost-sharing agreements. There already are exchange-of-service agreements, and there could be better cost-sharing agreements around those issues.
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: With respect to the bilateral agreements that we’ve signed with the provinces and territories, we certainly have ensured that there are going to be some indicators that are in place because we certainly want to make sure that the monies that are going to be invested in this area are going to be spent in the specific areas. So through CIHI, they are in the process of developing indicators and then from there will be able to do an assessment to ensure that we can measure the outcomes that are there. I don’t know, Parliamentary Secretary Blair, if you have anything to add, but with respect to that, we certainly want to move forward in making sure that investments are made and that, as I’ve indicated, in the investments that we are making at the federal level, we want to make sure that the provinces are investing the money in the area of mental health services to make sure that it responds to the needs of individuals in those communities.
Mr. Blair: I can only share with you what I have heard. I have just recently come back from Iqaluit, for example, where I met with the Government of Nunavut. Clearly, they are concerned about the availability of addictions treatments in their communities, combined with mental health treatments.
As I’m sure you’re aware, the Government of Canada provides funding and works with those governments to provide those services, but the need is strong. That has been very clearly conveyed to us, and we’re working with them to see how those might be delivered.
I will tell you I also met with their finance and health ministers while I was there and they see the opportunity of the revenues that can be generated from a regulated industry to be reinvested into treatment and rehabilitation services. They see that as a great opportunity for them, and we’re working with them to see how we might maximize those opportunities going forward.
The Deputy Chair: I have a question for you, minister, with respect. I understand you are the lead of the consultation exercise on Bill C-45, and you’ve indicated you’ll provide a list of activities with respect to consultation with Indigenous communities. As Senator Doyle mentioned — and I would reiterate — we happened to be travelling on another file and met with a number of chiefs of some of the largest Indigenous communities in the country who indicated they had not been consulted at all. I don’t doubt your list.
We’ve heard this over and over, and our committee is being asked to put forward recommendations to the coordinating committee here and we’re considering some amendments specifically around Indigenous issues. A number of times we’ve heard from leaders who say consultation isn’t when the cake is baked and you put it in front of us and say, “What do you think?” and then make no changes. Consultation happens as you’re developing something.
I’m just wondering if you can point to anything that is in the bill today as it sits as a result of the consultation. Anything. Or, before or after, is it perfect? Does it line up perfectly with the consultations that you have had with Indigenous peoples?
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: Well, again I would have to say, for the first part of your question with respect to the consultation process, engaging with Indigenous communities started off very early on. As we have indicated, the task force that was put in place, chaired by the Honourable Anne McClellan, has really done tremendous work over that summer. They certainly lost a summer that year, making sure they went from coast to coast to coast and met with as many Canadians, individuals, groups and leaderships to make sure they received the information that was required.
Those thoughtful discussions were certainly represented in the task force report, and I’m sure that probably all of you have read that recommendation and those reports. If we look at our legislation that’s been brought forward, most, if not all, of the recommendations that are in that piece of legislation are as a direct result of the recommendations that were brought forward by the task force. A part of the report that was presented was as a result of all the consultations, including that of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
I am very comfortable with the work that has been presented. With respect to the legislation that’s before us, I’m very proud of the work that’s been done. Again, I’m looking forward to the exchange and the debate that this house is having as well. We appreciate the work that the Senate is doing with respect to looking over the proposed legislation of Bill C-45.
Senator Ngo: Thank you, minister. I just want to follow up on the answer by Mr. Blair. What mental health and treatment facility in the Far North will be in place by the time of the legalization of cannabis?
Second, I would like to follow up on the question of homegrown cannabis. Aboriginal leaders, police forces, community and municipal leaders all say that enforcing the limit of four plants at home will be impossible and that this aspect of the law should be scrapped. Could you please provide us some analysis from your department about homegrown product, in particular in Indigenous communities?
You have said that you will rely on the common sense of parents. I don’t think that’s enough.
Mr. Blair: Yes, sir. If I may, with respect to the Far North, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we’re not introducing a new drug into the Far North. Cannabis is a reality in the Far North.
When I met with the health officials in northern communities, they made it very clear that the rate of cannabis use among their young people is much higher than the average across the country. It’s a problem today. Addictions in those communities is a problem today, and they need to make investments and they need help with the problem they’re having today.
What they’ve acknowledged is you cannot regulate a prohibited substance, but by lifting the prohibition it gives us the opportunity to bring in very comprehensive regulations to control its production and to ensure that what is being consumed is safer and healthier, of known potency, purity and providence.
It also enables us to put in place a system of regulated distribution, which will be more effective in keeping it out of the hands of the vulnerable populations, like our kids. Right now, those decisions are being made by bootleggers and criminals, and frankly they are not doing anything but maximizing their profit.
Finally, in a regulated environment where you can regulate its production, distribution and consumption, then it can be put in place to generate revenue that can be reinvested in treatment and rehabilitation. Frankly, it’s far easier, in my opinion, for a teacher, a doctor and a parent to have a conversation with the child about the health and social risks of cannabis use in a strictly and comprehensively regulated environment, rather than a prohibited environment where all we can say is, “This is against the law.”
It will still be in against the law, but in a regulated environment it is possible to begin to address the very significant social and health harms that exist today in those communities.
If I may, sir, with respect to four plants, I want to be very clear that our legislation creates a criminal offence for more than four plants. We enable provinces and municipalities to put regulations in place to ensure that is done in a healthful, safe and socially responsible way.
Frankly, from a law enforcement perspective — and I spent nearly four decades in law enforcement — the great challenge we have faced is the illegal growing — the commercial growing — of cannabis in single residences where we see several hundred plants grown and the house given over to that commercial production and rendered uninhabitable. It’s unsafe for the house and the community in which it takes place, and that has been a huge challenge for law enforcement.
Four plants for personal cultivation is not the same problem as four hundred plants for commercial cultivation. So the challenge for law enforcement in enforcing a four-plant maximum is no different than enforcing a zero-plant maximum. They don’t have the ability to get into the house to make sure there isn’t one plant or five plants. .
Those challenges are things on which we are working with law enforcement and providing them with the tools necessary, but the real social problem that arises from cultivation is the commercial cultivation. Under the strict regulatory regime we’ve put in place, that commercial cultivation remains a serious criminal offence, but we believe personal cultivation — not for sale, but for personal use — properly regulated by the local authority, can be done in a healthful and socially responsible way.
Senator Deacon: Thank you for being here. A question for you, minister. In the conversations with all populations, but a focus on our Indigenous population today, the question often does come forward about how Health Canada approves a drug application. I’m trying to understand where cannabis fits.
In Health Canada’s 150-page report titled Information for Health Care Professionals, it has a disclaimer and statement in it saying that cannabis:
. . . is not an approved therapeutic substance in Canada and has not been issued a notice of compliance by Health Canada authorizing sale in Canada.
That’s the present language; that is what is there. Could you explain why cannabis is not approved at this time, or what the thinking might be, in that obviously significant document that we refer to?
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: I will give you the first part of the answer and then I’ll direct you to one of the officials.
With respect to cannabis at this point in time, there is no drug identification number associated to cannabis. One thing that we have to keep in mind is that very limited research has been done on cannabis because it’s an illegal substance right now.
With the proposed legalization of cannabis, we’ll certainly be able to see that more research will be done with that substance, and then we’ll see where it goes from there.
With respect to the actual application process, if you don’t mind, I’ll turn it over to Eric and he’ll be able to continue on.
Eric Costen, Director General, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Secretariat, Health Canada: The disclaimer exists to recognize that when you think about the framework that exists in Canada for how pharmaceutical drugs come on to the market, there’s a well-established process by which a company brings forward an application. That application is founded by, frankly, a considerable amount of scientific evidence that describes the efficacy and the safety of the drug. That application is, in turn, reviewed by the department and the scientists that work in the department. Then a decision is made as to whether or not the evidence is sufficient to warrant that that drug be brought to the market, and with it something called a product monograph that helps to inform physicians who will be prescribing the drug with respect to its applications, potential risks, how it interacts with other prescribed medicines and so forth.
So the disclaimer on the document that you’re referring to is simply an acknowledgment that the provision of cannabis for medical use under the associated regulations exists not because that process of scientific application and review has occurred, but rather because the courts found at a certain point in time, a few decades ago — and this would probably be the subject of an entirely separate technical briefing and I don’t want to belabour the point — that there are basically special circumstances that require the federal government to provide legal access to cannabis to those who require it for medical purposes.
That provision exists independent of the established drug-approval process because of those court decisions.
The Deputy Chair: We are very close to the end of our rope with the minister. We have two questioners remaining. Do you have any flexibility, minister, for a few minutes? No. Okay.
We appreciate your testimony here today. Thank you, minister.
A health official will remain and, Mr. Blair, can you remain for a period of time, sir?
Mr. Blair: As you require, sir.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you.
Senator Raine: I’m very concerned about the readiness aspect of the people in the First Nations, Indigenous communities and especially in Nunavut. I’d like to read, if you don’t mind, a brief that we received last Friday from Mr. Isaac Shooyook from Arctic Bay:
1. Marijuana will be disclosed. For many years the tobacco is used, it can be cancerous to the lungs, it destroys the body, children, very young, they smoke. Today, Alcohol is also used for a long time, it causes death, there are accidents, there are murders. When alcohol and drugs are used, the RCMP has to kill in order to protect people. These have no benefits to our lives, it has benefits in money and in some way, every year people die from accidents.
2. This marijuana when it is disclosed, when people are able to possess, it will have a very big negative impact for Nunavuumiut (People from Nunavut), children and adults, and anyone will start using it when it is legalized. There will be no help available in Nunavut, there is help from RCMP Mental, health workers, and health practitioners, but they have no authority when you ask for help, they cannot help.
3. In Nunavut when there is statistics taken, they say they are the most smokers, most alcohol drinkers, when marijuana is legalized, the lives of Nunavummiut will be very much ruined, there is no healing centres and no rehab centres, we will be in a state of risk of safety. Children will start smoking, their lives will be ruined. If it is not legalize, it will be better, there are no help available.
My question for the officials and the parliamentary secretary here today: Is it possible to defer the legalization of cannabis for Nunavut, respecting that there is such a lack of treatment facilities and that it will take time to put those in place to be able to protect people? And having done a study on housing in Nunavut a few years ago, we personally saw the situation where you have very severe overcrowding. If you add to that scene people who are smoking cannabis, it’s really going to impact future generations in every possible way.
Is it possible, under our legislation, to delay the implementation for those parts of the country, like the territories, that might wish it to be done?
Mr. Blair: If I may begin, senator, I think it’s important to acknowledge that when I met with the health officials and with Inuit organizations in Iqaluit last week, they made it very clear that the rate of cannabis use in their communities and among their young people is at an incredibly high rate. The cannabis they are using is incredibly expensive. It’s being sold by a criminal enterprise.
As I’ve already said, we’re not introducing a new drug. We’re introducing a new method of controlling this drug. Currently, the only way to keep this out of the hands of kids is to charge them criminally. For far too many young Canadians, the very first encounter or entry into the criminal justice system that they have is as a result of a criminal charge for simple possession of cannabis.
That has a lifelong consequence for those young people. Working with the Government of Nunavut, they were introducing legislation that will allow an absolute prohibition for those young people, for cannabis to be enforced by the law enforcement so that the drug can be seized from them and tickets can be issued. There are consequences and a prohibition can be enforced, but it doesn’t result in the criminalization of those children.
I’m not sure, quite frankly, where the public benefit would be in delaying the implementation of a comprehensive system of regulatory control so that we have control of the production and distribution of cannabis, a new enforceable prohibition for young people and the introduction of new education materials working with that government. Why would we simply continue to leave the production and distribution of cannabis in the hands of criminals and ignore a totally unacceptable and unhealthy use of cannabis within those communities, particularly among young people, and allow that to continue to perpetuate when there is an opportunity to gain some regulatory control and bring in a far more effective and comprehensive way of enforcing a prohibition among those young people?
It also creates an opportunity for the government Nunavut, as I discussed with their health and justice and finance ministers. It creates an opportunity for them to generate revenue that’s currently going into criminal enterprise and can be publicly reinvested in treatment facilities that are currently absent in those communities.
Senator Raine: For clarification, I’m not against the legalization of marijuana or cannabis at all, and I agree that we need to take a health approach. My question was: Can it be deferred for everyone at this point until they are ready? Yes, cannabis is being used there now. Obviously, the law enforcement officers are not able to deal with it, to prevent it from happening. I understand all of that, but I want to know, is it possible to defer in any way this legislation from coming into effect in certain parts of the country, should they ask for it?
Mr. Blair: I can tell you, having met with the government officials, the three ministers just this past week, they have prepared and introduced their legislation, which they are confident will be passed and in place. They are proud of the legislative response they are putting in place. The indication they gave to me is that they will be ready. We’re doing everything we can to support their readiness, but they have been working with us for almost two and a half years. They have been meeting with our senior officials and they have prepared and introduced their own legislation in response to this.
Frankly, I’ve had an opportunity to discuss it with them. I think they’ve done an exceptional job. I honestly believe that with the implementation of their territorial legislation, coupled with the provisions available in Bill C-45, they are going to create a much better, safer and healthier environment for their citizens within their community.
Senator Raine: Thank you.
Senator McPhedran: Welcome. It’s good to have you here, and thanks for staying to help with the questions after the minister had to leave.
I am going to ask a two-part question. It relates to the economic opportunity section of the minister’s presentation to us this morning. I have a couple of introductory facts to lay out, based on what we’ve heard here at this committee.
We had Inspector Steve Burton here, who indicated that there were little or no affordable training programs available for First Nation police forces to prepare for the proposed legalization of cannabis.
We also heard from the First Nations Tax Commission on a revenue-sharing model with the suggestion that the 75 per cent to provinces and territories, 25 per cent to the federal government could be looked at again.
Are you looking at revenue-sharing in a way that’s different from the current 75 per cent to the governments so that there could actually be some direct reinvestment into Indigenous communities where cannabis is going to be allowed so that there would not be the same top-down model for making decisions such as the training of First Nations police forces? That’s question number one.
Part two of the question is: In this current fiscal year that we’re in, of the $62.5 million over five years to which the minister referred, could you tell us how much of that $62.5 million for this fiscal year is going into the public education of Indigenous youth and communities?
Mr. Blair: Thank you very much, senator. I’ll attempt to answer the questions I can. I’m going to have to defer about revenue-sharing discussions because that, quite frankly, is the purview of the finance minister.
I’m aware that a number of discussions are taking place, but if I may talk a bit about the economic opportunities?
One of the things we’ve heard in our engagement and discussions with Indigenous communities across the country is many of them are interested in gaining access to the regional development opportunities of participating in the new regulated industry. So I can tell you that there have been a number of licences already issued into groups associated with or involving Indigenous communities. There are several others that are in the final stages of review.
Health Canada has just recently put in place a navigator service that we’ve communicated to Indigenous communities. Quite frankly, the process of applying for licensing for both cultivation and processing is complex, so we’ve established a navigator service to assist those communities to make it available to them so that we can provide them with some guidance and assistance in going forward.
With respect to the training of law enforcement, to break some things down, with respect to the training for the new cannabis act and also some additional training under Bill C-46, the impaired driving act, we made available $81 million that is available to municipal and Indigenous police services, but we distribute those monies through the provinces.
We’ve made the $81 million available to the provinces. I’m aware that there are ongoing discussions between municipalities and Indigenous communities with respect to the disbursement of that funding so that it addresses training, technology and equipment, but also some law enforcement resource capacity issues that are available within that $81 million.
That’s in addition to money that’s been announced by the Minister of Public Safety with respect to additional funds for the First Nations Policing Program. That’s the funding available.
With respect to the public education money, I would refer that to my colleague, Mr. Costen.
Senator McPhedran: Mr. Blair, before we move to the second part of the answer, if I could add a third aspect to my question, which is if you could report back to us, please, on that $81 million and specify how much actually went to First Nations police forces.
Mr. Blair: When we have that information, we’ll be happy to share it with you.
Senator McPhedran: Thank you.
Mr. Costen: With regard to the $62.5 million that was announced in the recent budget, a couple of things. It’s important to understand that that money is in addition to an existing program, a substance use and addictions program that’s been in place for a number of years. It’s a program that allows Health Canada to support a variety of different community level, primary prevention, education type programs. Investments through Budget 2018 looked to sort of increase that program.
The reason I mention that is with respect to the question of moving things out quickly, it’s building on something that’s established, the staff are there, the processes are established, the ability to solicit proposals from the community and get the funding out to the recipients exists presently.
Of the $62.5 million, you’re right, the budget makes it very clear that supporting Indigenous projects is a top priority, but the government hasn’t specified a limit or a proportion of that funding that would be exclusive to Indigenous. The total funding amount is there, and decisions are made on the merits of the proposals that come in.
Presently there’s no prescribed amount that would be set aside exclusively for Indigenous projects, but I would say that the minister, in a few different instances, made reference to the outreach that the program has done and made reference to the navigator service, as Mr. Blair just did.
I would add to that, because we understand the intensity of the interest and the importance of engaging, in addition to the navigator service, in my office we actually have a dedicated team that does nothing but Indigenous outreach. One of the functions of this group will be to work with communities to be able to solicit and develop proposals to be able to access this money.
Senator Boniface: My question goes back to the question of intoxicants. Current legislation, and under the Indian Act, is what allows communities to make determinations with respect to alcohol and such in the community. That, of course, is provincial law.
I’m wondering if you have looked at whether or not, in law, the same provision could apply, given this is criminal law. I don’t know Indigenous law well enough, so I don’t know that I can figure the question out myself.
Mr. Blair: Thank you very much, senator. I think there are two aspects to that question. One is, in law, does that authority exist? With great respect, I’ll refer that to our colleague from Justice to give a more definitive answer.
I think there’s also the question about the ineffectiveness of prohibition. As I’ve already indicated, in a prohibitive environment you cannot regulate a prohibited substance. It’s only by lifting the prohibition that we create the opportunity to regulate the substance in its production, distribution and its consumption.
I think a far more comprehensive and effective response is possible. So I think it is upon us and has been part of our engagement in discussion with those communities that have experienced prohibition with respect to alcohol but have equally experienced enormous difficulties in that prohibition environment, of which I know you are very familiar.
Can we take the discussion beyond the mere legal point — which I think is an important one and needs to be addressed — and go to the public health issue of what is actually the most effective way to promote health within those communities? We believe there’s a greater possibility and opportunity to promote health and reduce social and health harms by robust regulation as opposed to what has essentially become an unenforceable prohibition.
I will refer the legal issue to you, Stefan.
Stefan Matiation, Director and General Counsel, Department of Justice Canada: Would you like an answer on that as well?
Senator Boniface: A “yes” or “no” is fine. Is it possible, given it’s criminal legislation versus provincial legislation?
Mr. Matiation: The Indian Act is where you find the provision that First Nations use to regulate alcohol.
The cannabis act is legislation of general application, so a First Nations would not be able to use a bylaw to override the cannabis legislation.
Senator Boniface: From a First Nations leadership perspective, the answer is that in law they can’t do it? That is, outside of the merits of it.
We keep hearing people say that they could do the same thing as they do for alcohol, but the answer, in law at least, is no.
Mr. Matiation: The way I would put it is that it would be subject to challenge and it would be up to the courts to determine the relationship between the existing Indian Act provisions and the cannabis legislation.
Senator Boniface: I’m interested in the breadth of the legislation, and specifically for Indigenous communities. In the monitoring process going forward — because the devil is going to be in the details on implementation — are you studying it as you go to ensure that what takes place or how you compare provincial regulation from one province to the other and how it impacts, for instance, Indigenous communities? Are you monitoring that to ensure that your goals are going to be reached?
Let me just give you the example. You would know it well. Colorado hasn’t been as successful — and correct me if I am wrong — in pushing organized crime out as they may have anticipated.
In order to reach the goals of this legislation, what type of monitoring or reporting back, that type of thing, do you see taking place so that you’re ensuring that the goals are being met?
Mr. Blair: The situation in Colorado was complex simply because they were like an island of legalization in a prohibited sea.
One of the things we recognize, and was recommended to us by the task force and what we heard from other jurisdictions, was the absence of decent baseline data. We’ve gone to both Stats Canada and law enforcement. We’ve been compiling that data so that we’ll have a good starting point. We have also put in place robust systems of surveillance and observation, data collection, so that we can continue not just to monitor but to adapt. If we find an opportunity to strengthen our regulation, we’ll take that opportunity. If we find there’s an opportunity to do other things in public education, we’ll have evidence to base that upon.
I will also refer to Eric.
Do you want to talk about some of those systems in place? Health Canada has been putting those initial and ongoing measurements in place.
Mr. Costen: Again, at the risk of belabouring the point, it’s a cautionary tale that we’ve observed as well around the need, well before the law changes, should it change, to ensure that we have good data across literally hundreds of different indicators, including looking specifically at understanding the impacts in rural, remote and Indigenous communities.
There are literally dozens of different instruments that we’ve put in place. Stats Canada recently published something called a Cannabis Stats Hub, which is literally thousands of data points that measure cannabis in a variety of different terms, from social, health and economic perspectives. It goes back a number of years to help establish that baseline that will allow us to measure and quantify the impacts of this change in ways that, frankly at the state level and given where they were at at that point in time, the States were not able to do. We’ve taken a critical lesson from our colleagues in the U.S.
Mr. Blair: We’re also making significant investments in the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and the Canadian Mental Health Association around the cannabis issue. It’s not just a matter of collecting data, but ongoing research. We’ve also announced that through CIHR, we’re funding more than a dozen research projects across the country to increase our level of understanding and awareness of how these social and health harms are most appropriately mitigated and reduced.
Senator Boniface: I would just hope that the FPT process will study that on an ongoing basis. We have an interesting experiment and the opportunity where some provinces, using homegrown as an example, have four plants. What are the implications of that going forward versus a province that selected zero? I think those comparators and the things we can learn going forward would be extremely helpful because this is a big experiment and there are an awful lot of parts to it.
Mr. Blair: In response to that, I’ll go back to something that I repeat probably far too often. This is very much a process and not an event. I think it’s important to understand that we are trying to manage an orderly implementation, but it’s not a single-day event. It’s a process of learning, of adaptation and of applying data, evidence and experience to continue to improve the model. That has been our commitment.
Senator Doyle: Senator Patterson had a couple of questions that he wanted me to raise with you. Last week in Nunavut, you said that the federal government made a promise to earmark federal tax revenues for mental health and addictions. I know the Minister of Health raised it a bit in her comments. You said, in addition, that in case jurisdictions have not put in place legislation, the federal government has model legislation and regulations that can be used.
Can you clarify what model legislation and regulations you are referencing? Can you verify how much, in particular, the federal government has earmarked for mental health and addictions? I know, again, there wasn’t a figure that the Minister of Health could provide us with. Do you have any information that you could share on that more specifically for Senator Patterson?
Mr. Blair: Let me do my best with that, senator.
First, with respect to ongoing discussions that we’ve had with first ministers, with justice ministers, health ministers and finance ministers across the country, there have been extensive discussions taking place at that level. In addition, our senior officials have been working closely with their provincial and territorial counterparts in order to ensure that there is a consensus and an understanding of what it is we’re trying to achieve in this legislation. That’s been very clear. Our first priority is the protection of children and keeping this drug out of the hands of kids. Our second priority is taking away the opportunity that organized crime has to make billions of dollars. Our third priority is to protect the health of Canadians.
In order to ensure consistency so that we could effectively achieve those public policy goals right across the country, we’ve been working with the provinces and territories.
With respect to Senator Patterson, Senator Patterson was concerned that Bill C-45 is silent, essentially, with respect to possession for under the age of majority, 18 in the federal legislation, of cannabis.
I was able to assure him that every province and territory is introducing legislation that will create an enforceable prohibition for every young person under the age of majority to possess, purchase or consume cannabis. That will be done appropriately under provincial regulation, much as we do with alcohol, instead of with the criminal sanction.
We worked with all the provinces and territories. Because we were asking a lot of them, we shared with them various models, in both official languages, of the type of legislation that they could implement. All of them have done so, which I think is entirely appropriate.
With respect to the commitment of finances, the Prime Minister has been very clear and has made a number of public statements, both in public and in the house, that the revenue generated from the excise tax collected by the federal government will be invested in research, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. Although we can’t direct them, we’ve encouraged the provinces and territories to consider the same types of investment.
In other jurisdictions, for example, in Colorado, they waited until they had their system up and revenue started coming in before they started making investments in public education. They said that was a mistake, and we learned from that.
So we’ve made those investments right up front. We’ve made the commitment of monies for research and public education, and we have begun to expend that money. We’ve made the commitment of money available to law enforcement for the training in order to deal with those things.
The cost of implementing has been built into Budget 2017 and Budget 2018 before the first dollar of revenue comes down the pipe. We’ve been working with the provinces and territories to ensure that the 75 per cent that they collect in the excise tax move toward cost centres. That’s been an important discussion in making sure revenues are made available to those who will have costs — for example, municipal governments, public health officials and law enforcement — to ensure they have the resources available to them to do the job we ask of them to make this legislation work and to assist us in achieving the aims of protecting our kids and keeping our communities safe.
Senator Doyle: Thank you. To the health officials, could you provide the committee with a copy of the consultation framework that was used? Could you also please provide a departmental analysis informing you of the impact that legalization will have on Indigenous communities? Would that be possible?
Mr. Costen: Just so I’m clear, when you say “consultation framework,” are you referring specifically to consultations that have occurred regarding the development of the bill, regulations and so forth? Yes, absolutely. That’s something that’s very easy. In many ways, it’s a companion piece to the document the minister described, which is really an inventory of the communities we visited and organizations we’ve met with.
That’s not a problem at all; we can provide you with that document.
Senator Doyle: Do you have the departmental analysis on the impact the legislation will have on Indigenous communities?
Mr. Costen: Yes. Much of that question will be answered in the document I have in mind. It’s both an analysis and a reflection of the feedback we’re receiving throughout the process of those conversations.
Senator Doyle: Okay.
The Deputy Chair: For clarification, is that specifically the McClellan task force —
Mr. Costen: It starts with the work of the task force and continues throughout. It’s more an examination of that conversation over the last two years or whatever the time frame is, but it does start with the task force and takes us to the present today.
The Deputy Chair: So this will give us an inventory of the people who were consulted through the task force, because I heard the minister say specifically that the centrepiece of Indigenous consultation was actually done by that task force prior to the legislation. You would have who specifically participated in the consultations with the McClellan task force and who was consulted prior to the drafting of the legislation. Then we’ve got the piece that happens after the legislation is put together. Is that it? We would have a full trail that we could examine.
Mr. Costen: Effectively, yes.
The Deputy Chair: Perfect. With no further questions, Mr. Blair and members from the departments, thank you for being here.
(The committee adjourned.)