THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL PEOPLES
OTTAWA, Tuesday, February 27, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9:00 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.
Mark Palmer, Clerk of the Committee: Honourable senators, we have quorum. As clerk of this committee, I must inform you of the unavoidable absence of the chair and deputy chair—
-- and to preside over the election of an acting chair.
I am ready to receive a motion to that effect.
Senator Pate: I move that Senator Patterson assume the chair for this meeting.
Mr. Palmer: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Pate that the Honourable Senator Patterson do take the chair of this committee.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Mr. Palmer: Carried.
Senator Dennis Glen Patterson (Acting Chair) in the chair.
The Acting Chair: Good morning, and thank you for your confidence in me, honourable senators.
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 would like to acknowledge, for the sake of reconciliation, that we are meeting on the traditional, unceded lands of the Algonquin peoples.
My name is Dennis Patterson. I will chair the meeting this morning of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, and I would now like to invite my fellow senators to introduce themselves, beginning on my left.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Senator Lovelace Nicholas, New Brunswick.
Senator Pate: Kim Pate, Ontario.
Senator Boniface: Gwen Boniface, Ontario.
Senator McCallum: Mary Jane McCallum, Manitoba.
Senator Doyle: Norman Doyle, Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Acting Chair: Today we begin our pre-study of Bill C-45, more specifically how legalization of cannabis could affect Indigenous communities.
To kick off our hearings, we’ll be hearing from departmental officials this morning. We have, from the Department of Indigenous Services Canada, Valerie Gideon, Acting Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch; from the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Sheilagh Murphy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Lands and Economic Development; from Health Canada, Eric Costen, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch; from the Department of Justice Canada, Diane Labelle, General Counsel, and Stefan Matiation, Director and General Counsel; and from Public Safety Canada, Trevor Bhupsingh, Director General, Law Enforcement and Border Strategies Directorate.
I believe we’ll start with Health Canada for opening remarks, followed by the other departments. Once the remarks are completed, we will open the floor to questions from senators.
Mr. Costen, please go ahead.
Eric Costen, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch, Health Canada: Before I begin, I would also like to acknowledge that we are meeting on the traditional, unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples.
I would like to take a quick moment to acknowledge my colleagues. Together, we will endeavour to provide you with information to aid in your study of Bill C-45.
Sheilagh Murphy will speak to the government’s relationships with Indigenous people, including economic development opportunities to support Indigenous participation in the cannabis industry.
Dr. Valerie Gideon will speak about federally funded mental health and substance abuse supports that are available inside and outside First Nations and Inuit communities.
Of course, we are joined by colleagues Diane Labelle, Stefan Matiation and Trevor Bhupsingh.
In my remarks, I will provide an overview of our engagement with First Nations, Inuit and Metis as we’ve prepared to implement a new framework to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis.
I will also describe how Health Canada is working with interested Indigenous parties in obtaining a federal licence to produce and sell cannabis for medical purposes under the existing regulatory framework.
As members of this committee will know, the government has made a clear commitment to establish a strong, respectful and open relationship with Indigenous peoples. Beginning in the early stages of the work to develop a federal framework to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis, this commitment has guided our work.
In June 2016, the government mandated the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation to consult extensively, including with Indigenous governments and organizations, to provide advice on the design of the new legislative and regulatory framework. They heard from Indigenous peoples via meetings with experts, bilateral meetings and a dedicated round table session.
The task force’s final report stressed the need for the government to continue to prioritize engagement with Indigenous governments and organizations. We’ve taken this advice seriously at all levels of the organization.
In addition to the ministerial engagement and outreach by Minister Petitpas Taylor, within my secretariat we understand the value and importance of bringing Indigenous perspectives to bear on our work, and we have made concerted efforts to engage with Indigenous peoples.
In fact, we’ve established a dedicated capacity within the secretariat to support Indigenous outreach and partnership building through a distinctions-based approach. Indigenous staff, with considerable experience in the community, is in place to support our collaboration efforts.
In recent months, we’ve attended or presented at nearly 30 meetings with First Nations, Inuit and Metis across Canada, with leadership, elders, service providers, youth and other experts from across various sectors. As a result, we have benefited from a deeper understanding of the unique perspectives, interests and realities of Indigenous communities, organizations and governments.
To provide only a few examples, in the fall we had the opportunity to spend two days meeting with self-governing First Nations in Yukon, where they shared their thoughts and ideas about cannabis use rates and the importance of education focused on youth.
We’ve attended numerous meetings with First Nations communities throughout Ontario and Quebec, north and south, both in remote communities and those located near urban centres, all with their own views to share.
We’ve heard from Inuit, most recently from Nunatsiavut, Nunavut and Nunavik. We’ve been privileged to hear directly from Inuit youth, via the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s youth council. During those meetings, they told us about the unique context for youth in the North, highlighting the importance of culturally appropriate public education.
It is our goal as a secretariat to be as responsive and as available as we can be to work with Indigenous communities, organizations and governments across Canada.
It’s also worth stating that we are working closely with the Assembly of First Nations, ITK and the Metis National Council through ongoing regular bilateral meetings.
I want to briefly summarize, as accurately as I can, the diversity of perspectives that have been expressed throughout these conversations. Three themes have arisen consistently.
The first is public health. Indigenous peoples want to understand the health and social impacts of cannabis on their communities. We have heard that a history of colonialization and the resulting intergenerational trauma has increased the risk of substance use, including cannabis. Public education that is culturally relevant and appropriate and access to mental health and drug prevention and treatment services are consistently identified as priorities. Dr. Gideon will touch on mental health and treatment supports in her remarks.
The second is defining local rules. Indigenous peoples want to understand what the proposed legislation means for their communities, how the legislation and the regulations would apply to on-reserve, treaty and settlement lands. We are continuing to engage with Indigenous peoples and with provinces and territories to support Indigenous communities in meeting their diverse objectives.
The third is economic opportunities. The development of a new, legal and regulated cannabis market represents, in the eyes of some communities, a real opportunity for economic development and job creation. There is keen interest on the part of some communities in ensuring they can enter and benefit fully from this emerging economic sector.
I’d now like to provide a few examples to illustrate how we are responding to the views and priorities we have heard.
I will begin by noting that the government is investing $46 million over five years in public education, awareness and surveillance activities related to cannabis legalization and regulation. We are working with Indigenous leaders to ensure that the approach we have chosen is culturally appropriate, and that our efforts address their specific needs.
Through the Department of Indigenous Services, we are providing financial support to the AFN Cannabis Task Force, which was established to help prepare First Nations communities for cannabis legalization and regulation.
Moreover, through funding awarded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, a leading Indigenous expert organization focused on wellness and preventing and treating substance use, is leading a project called “Let’s Talk Cannabis” to develop information and tools for communities to raise awareness and promote meaningful dialogue in preparation for the legalization of cannabis. We’re working with Inuit land claim organizations to ensure that the critical information about legalization, regulation and the health effects of cannabis use are available across the North, including in some dialects of Inuktitut.
Similarly, we are working with the Metis National Council to increase Metis engagement and targeted public education activities together with governing member organizations across the country.
Before I turn to Ms. Murphy to elaborate on the business supports that her department has in place to support Indigenous businesses, I’ll say a few words about the actions that Health Canada is taking in its role as regulator of the existing industry which provides cannabis for medical use.
The existing regulated industry in fact includes four federally licensed producers with very close partnerships with Indigenous communities and businesses.
In New Brunswick, for example, the Listuguj First Nation has entered into a partnership with Zenabis, a federally licensed producer, and has established a facility near the community. This provides access to employment and other opportunities.
In addition to these four companies licensed and operating today, 14 other applications are currently being considered by the department that are either Indigenous owned and operated or have close Indigenous affiliations.
In response to the increased interest, Health Canada recently established a navigator service. This is designed specifically to help guide self-identified Indigenous applicants through each step of the licensing process. A licensing professional is fully dedicated to guiding and assisting them in achieving their goal of meeting the regulatory requirements and of obtaining a licence.
Looking ahead, collaborating with Indigenous populations will continue to be a significant priority. The dialogue that began with the government mandated task force has continued to today, and it will not diminish going forward.
I will now turn to my colleague Sheilagh Murphy who will speak on behalf of the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.
Sheilagh Murphy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Lands and Economic Development, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada: I intend to focus my remarks on two areas of interest to the committee: Indigenous governance and authority within the emerging legal and regulatory framework for cannabis and economic opportunities in the production and sale of cannabis.
With respect to the first area, over the last few months Indigenous organizations, governments and communities have identified a wide range of interests and priorities concerning cannabis.
Ongoing engagement with Indigenous peoples is helping to identify approaches that could support the interests of Indigenous communities regarding cannabis production, distribution, sale, possession, taxation and enforcement.
Indigenous regulatory authority can derive from a number of sources, including rights recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution, historic and modern treaties and land claim agreements, self-government agreements and federal legislation such as the Indian Act.
Government officials have reached out to Indigenous government leaders and modern treaty holders to discuss the approach to the regulations and longer-term engagement on cannabis legalization and regulation.
Additionally, the Assembly of First Nations is receiving funding from Canada to undertake work to formalize a position on the legalization and regulation of cannabis and implementation of new laws, including examining governance and authority aspects related to cannabis regulation.
These efforts are complemented by broader engagement with Indigenous peoples, as well as provinces and territories, to ensure that the specific needs and interests of Indigenous communities are carefully considered throughout the implementation of Bill C-45.
With respect to the second area of interest, that being economic opportunities in the production and sale of cannabis, Canada supports economic development opportunities in Indigenous communities and acknowledges the important links between economic development and improved health and social outcomes.
For some Indigenous communities the emerging legal cannabis market is seen as an important new opportunity for economic development. As my colleague Mr. Costen noted, there are currently four federally licensed producers of cannabis for medical purposes and another 14 applicants known to be affiliated with Indigenous groups, and we know that interest is growing.
In working with those communities that have indicated an interest in pursuing business opportunities, federal officials are clearly communicating that Indigenous producers, like all commercial producers of cannabis or cannabis products, will need to be federally licensed to operate.
Similarly, any distribution and retail regimes will need to be authorized by the federal government or through relevant provincial or territorial legislative frameworks.
Working within that frame, officials from both Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada are actively engaging with Indigenous communities to explore ways of supporting Indigenous participation in the emerging cannabis marketplace.
Funding support is being made available through departmental economic development programming. In acknowledgment of the concerns raised by Indigenous people related to how cannabis may impact communities experiencing serious health and social issues, project proposals will need to demonstrate community support.
To date, communities that have expressed an interest are still in the early planning stages, but we are anticipating the submission of project proposals in the coming months.
It is important to note that there are other federal programs, like those offered by Canada’s regional development agencies, that can also support entrepreneurs and small- to medium-sized enterprises that are interested in the cannabis industry.
Efforts are under way to work collaboratively with the regional development agencies, Health Canada and other partners so that as departments we are able to collectively respond to requests from Indigenous communities and businesses and, where possible, leverage funding.
I now turn to my colleague, Valerie Gideon from Indigenous Services Canada, who will speak about federal mental health and substance abuse supports that are available to First Nations and Inuit.
Valerie Gideon, Acting Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Department of Indigenous Services Canada: Through the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch we recognize the need to continue to build our relationship with Indigenous partners and, through these relationships, continue to support comprehensive, culturally founded and culturally safe, community-based services integrated into a broader continuum of wellness programming.
This work is guided by inclusive and participatory policy engagement approaches with First Nations and Inuit, as seen through several key frameworks they developed and we developed with them.
The department works closely with a number of national and regional Indigenous partners, such as the Assembly of First Nations and the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, with respect to concerns raised about cannabis legalization and the potential impacts in communities.
We have an ongoing collaborative working relationship with Health Canada and have helped to inform their engagement activities with Indigenous governments and communities. For instance, with Health Canada, the Department of Indigenous Services has provided funding to the Assembly of First Nations, which Mr. Costen mentioned, and the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation to support Indigenous game around cannabis regulation and legalization.
According to the First Nations Information Governance Centre, cannabis is used daily or almost daily by 12.4 per cent of First Nations adults, and more so by men at 16.9 per cent compared to 7.8 per cent of women.
Treatment centres funded by our department report that cannabis use by adults entering treatment is 64 per cent, and use is almost equal between females and males. For First Nations youth aged 12 to 17 entering treatment, cannabis is the number one substance used, with 89 per cent of youth reporting frequent cannabis use.
Federally funded mental wellness services are guided by the First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework and the National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy, both of which emphasize the importance of culture as foundation, on the land treatment and traditional healing as integral to First Nations and Inuit mental wellness.
Through the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, our department funds mental wellness services in five key areas: community-based mental wellness programs and services, the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program, the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program Mental Health Counselling Benefit, the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line, and Jordan’s Principle.
Approximately $350 million per year is invested on a broad range of community-based mental wellness supports, including mental health and suicide prevention services, substance use prevention and treatment, mental wellness teams, the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line, and the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program.
These community-based services provide treatment, promote protective factors, and aim to reduce risk factors and improve health outcomes associated with mental wellness of First Nations and Inuit.
The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program provides mental health, emotional and cultural support services to former students of Indian residential schools and their families. These services are available both in and outside Indigenous communities across Canada. Cultural and emotional support services are provided through Indigenous community-based organizations. Transportation coverage is also available to ensure clients have access to mental health and cultural support services not available in their communities. The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is also available toll-free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing culturally safe services that can be reached at the number indicated in our briefing notes.
The 45 First Nations addiction treatment centres provide a range of services such as residential, outpatient and outreach. Drug and alcohol prevention services are also available in the majority of Indigenous communities across Canada.
In the North, mental wellness services related to addictions were transferred to the Government of Northwest Territories and the Government of Nunavut under the 1998 Northwest Territories Health Transfer Agreement and through the creation of Nunavut in 1999.
However, our department provides funding directly to these two territorial governments to support prevention and health promotion activities for First Nations and Inuit communities. Funding is also provided directly to Yukon First Nations communities through contribution or self-governing agreements.
During the past several years, a number of initiatives have been implemented to improve and ensure access to mental wellness services for First Nations and Inuit.
For instance, Choose Life is an initiative designed by Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a First Nations political organization representing 49 communities in northern Ontario, most of which are in remote locations.
Choose Life is funded under Jordan’s Principle and provides immediate funding relief mainly to communities directly to address unmet needs of children and youth at risk of suicide. The initiative fast-tracks requests for group, child and youth mental health prevention programs and services, including land-based healing and cultural activities.
In less than a year, in fact since April 2017, 55 communities, tribal councils, health services boards and schools have received a total of $27.4 million through the Choose Life initiative.
In June 2016, an investment of $69 million over three years was announced to meet the immediate mental wellness needs for First Nations and Inuit communities. This investment is enhancing capacity at local and regional levels to provide essential mental health services that respond to ongoing crises.
Since the June 2016 announcement, crisis response capability has been expanded in regions across Canada, with an increase from 86 to 303 communities able to access federally-funded mental wellness teams. Further, this investment is supporting the Hope for Wellness Help Line and the implementation of the National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy launched by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
Mental wellness teams are community-based teams that provide a comprehensive suite of culturally appropriate services, including capacity building, trauma-informed care, land-based care, early intervention and screening, aftercare and care coordination with provincial and territorial services.
Each team serves between two and ten communities depending on the size, location and needs of the community. These teams aim to increase access to a range of mental wellness services, including outreach, assessment, treatment, counselling, case management, referral and aftercare, and to improve the healing process through an integrated service delivery approach.
The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers immediate help to First Nations and Inuit individuals. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for counselling and crisis intervention and is staffed by experienced and culturally competent counsellors. Upon request, counsellors can work with the caller to find other wellness supports that are accessible near their community. Counselling is available in English and French. On request, it is also available in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.
The Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line has received 3,377 calls since its inception in October 2016, which has resulted in more than 250 referrals for services.
This service is seeing an increase in individuals seeking access to services, with the highest volume of calls recorded to date last fall during the period of October to December 2017 at 725 calls, which is up from 614 callsduring the previous quarter.
The top three reasons callers gave for contacting the help line were mental health, grief and loss, and addictions. This past quarter also saw an increase in the number of referrals made to agencies such as federally funded supports and services in the caller’s community.
Budget 2017 committed an additional $204 million, over five years, to build on progress made in these areas, namely to support capacity for and enhance essential mental health services, including on the land activities and culture as medicine.
Our department continues to work with key partners to inform service and policy developments and align these efforts in response to the opioid crisis. This work is rooted in existing products, such as the Joint Statement of Action to Address the Opioid Crisis, Health Canada’s action on opioid misuse, the First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework and Honouring Our Strengths: A Renewed Framework to Address Substance Use Issues Among First Nations People in Canada.
The response is also aligned with the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, with a particular focus on building the evidence base, prevention, treatment and harm reduction. Since 2015, the department has responded to problematic prescription drug use in First Nations communities by providing case management supports and prevention training, as well as a crisis intervention team co-located in Manitoba and Saskatchewan regions providing additional support to targeted communities.
Budget 2017 includes a further $15 million over five years for harm reduction strategies for First Nations and Inuit that form part of the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy. During the current fiscal year, five regions have taken concrete steps to add or enhance existing opioid agonist treatment services that offer wraparound care including case management, counselling, aftercare and pharmacotherapy.
Regional offices are working with PT partnership tables, with a focus on harm reduction approaches. They have also aligned work with respect to provincial efforts. Key priority actions have included take-home naloxone kit distribution and training, as well as public health education.
In conclusion, our department is providing funding and other supports to First Nations and Inuit through a number of well-established and evidence-based models of care in the areas of mental health and addictions prevention and treatment. There have been significant additional investments over the past two federal budgets that will enable First Nations and Inuit to continue advancing their promising practices of community healing related to culture and identity, community-based, community-paced and community-led initiatives, and strengths-based and holistic approaches that blend therapeutic approaches.
I thank you for your time today and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
The Acting Chair: Colleagues, I should tell you that we have under an hour for this meeting. Could you please be succinct with your questions?
I will ask the same of the responders so that we can give everyone a chance to be heard.
Senator Doyle: Thank you for the very interesting information indeed.
Ms. Murphy, could I refer you back to page 13 of your presentation where you said:
Indigenous regulatory authority can derive from a number of sources, including rights recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution, . . .
I am wondering how that would relate. The Government of Canada intends to legalize and regulate cannabis. Does that general policy change, which is quite a significant policy change, automatically apply to Indigenous people or as nation to nation? They are a nation in their own right.
Would they be able to decide on their own if they are accepting the policy of having cannabis legalized and regulated in their community? Would they automatically have the right to refuse? Do they have a right of refusal to say, “No, we’re not going to have cannabis in our community?” Would First Nations people have the right to say, “We will not have cannabis in any of our communities?”
The Acting Chair: Is that a legal question? Who wants to answer that?
Ms. Murphy: I’ll start, and then Justice may jump in.
Under current legislative frameworks it’s not clear whether Indigenous governments may make laws or bylaws that would outright prohibit cannabis sale, possession and use on reserves.
Certainly, some of the self-government agreements are permissive and Indigenous governments that are under self-government agreements could do this. It’s an area that we continue to work with Indigenous governments on to explore what they may and may not be able to do from a jurisdictional basis.
I don’t know if Justice wants to jump in because there have been conversations with Indigenous leadership.
Stefan Matiation, Director and General Counsel, Department of Justice Canada: I think that Senator Doyle’s question sort of relates to three scenarios, so maybe I’ll just try to address each of those.
The first is with respect to First Nations operating under the Indian Act. The Indian Act, as you know, was amended in 2014, so the ministers are no longer involved in disallowing or reviewing First Nation bylaws. First Nations would be determining, based on their open interpretation of their authorities under the Indian Act, what types of bylaws they can pass.
As you may know, many First Nations do have intoxicant related bylaws, and many of them draw on various provisions of the Indian Act for the authority for those bylaws, including the intoxicants provision, which is section 85.1. They also draw on other provisions under section 81, dealing with things like disorderly conduct, nuisance and some related provisions along those lines, and health as well.
In these intoxicant bylaws you see First Nations restricting both alcoholic beverages and, in some cases, controlled substances as defined in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. There is quite a variability of ways that First Nations are putting their bylaws in place.
The bylaw-making authority under the Indian Act is subject to the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, as well as the Cannabis Act. To the extent there is an inconsistency between the bylaws and those pieces of legislation, the criminal law related legislation would prevail and a bylaw could be reviewed by the courts on that basis.
As Ms. Murphy mentioned in the self-government context, self-governing agreements vary across the country. There are around 30 of them. The provisions of each of those agreements would be reviewed by the First Nations with that self-governing authority. They would make their determination as to what laws they can pass within their communities.
Again, though, the typical approach to self-government agreements is that criminal law, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Cannabis Act would prevail over the self-government agreements as well.
The Acting Chair: Those are two scenarios. What was the third?
Mr. Matiation: I think that maybe Senator Doyle is thinking of a scenario where a First Nation or an Indigenous government asserts its own jurisdiction outside of the frameworks I have just described.
Senator Doyle: Right, yes.
Mr. Matiation: Generally speaking, I think the view of the federal government would be that criminal law does prevail, including the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Cannabis Act in this case.
To the extent there were some discrepancies between the two in terms of the First Nations exercise of self-government authorities and other pieces of legislation, an individual may challenge the Indigenous government’s law. It would be up to the courts to determine the relationship between those two areas of jurisdiction, if I can put it that way.
Senator Doyle: I must say that I am amazed, considering what we have been doing here on the committee in trying to establish a new relationship between First Nations and the rest of the country. I would take from your comments that it’s reasonable to say that, as matters stand now, First Nations would have to conform if government decided to enforce cannabis legislation on their lands.
Why would these matters not be fully and completely straightened out before we would take any action to place First Nations under this kind of pressure?
I know that some Indigenous communities in Canada have a ban on alcohol sales in the areas they control. Is there a protocol for setting up and enforcing the kind of system that might apply to cannabis as well?
Do you anticipate or could you anticipate similar bans on the use of cannabis as First Nations people can do with alcohol in their communities?
Mr. Matiation: I was trying to describe that First Nations would have several lawmaking related authorities in different contexts and could make their own determination as to what the scope of their authority is.
The Cannabis Act, in establishing certain rules in terms of the amount of cannabis an individual can possess, does establish a bit of a minimum on how far a government could go in restricting certain activities. That’s not to say they couldn’t do a number of things, but in my view it would be up to First Nation governments to determine based on the authorities they have.
Health Canada can perhaps provide more details about this, but the departments here are working with Indigenous organizations and governments to better understand some of the issues you’re raising now and to try to work with them to address issues essentially of implementation of the cannabis legislation in their communities.
The Acting Chair: I think we have to leave it at that for now.
Senator Boniface: This is an important issue for the communities, and I know you are well aware of that.
I have two questions which are somewhat related. I am particularly concerned about youth and mental wellness. I see the amount of money and effort being put in. Is that in anticipation of this bill, or was this anticipated regardless? Is there a study on the impact of the bill that affected funding?
Ms. Gideon: These resources were not directly associated to the bill. I think youth mental health issues in the Indigenous context is well recognized as being in a very serious state.
This government immediately wanted to recognize investments and work with leadership of communities where they were seeing increased levels of youth suicides, particularly in 2016-2017. I would say that those rates have been ongoing but became more visible to the public and to the government. It was an opportunity to mobilize a significant amount of resources and to set up partnerships to deliver new service delivery models.
In Ontario, for example, the province is matching the amount of resources that our department is putting into mental wellness teams to ensure that every community in Ontario has access to a mental wellness team. There will be 19 mental wellness teams.
The decision as to who is hosting these teams has been driven by the First Nations through their political territorial organizations. I would say that’s a successful partnership initiative. We are still at too early a stage to know what the fundamental impact will be on the youth suicide ideation and youth suicide rates in those communities, but there will be some intensive monitoring to ensure the approach is reaching youth.
The Choose Life initiative was motivated by Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which experienced quite a significant crisis in youth suicides in 2016 and 2017. It was completely designed by them in response to Jordan’s Principle because the mental wellness were teams were not yet up and running. While we knew we were designing these and selecting the hosts, they needed an immediate response. We were able to leverage Jordan’s Principle to do that.
Although these initiatives were not directly related to one substance, the approach within an Indigenous community context is holistic. It is trying to tackle the root causes of youth mental health issues and risks in the community more broadly. Investments are not limited to one or two symptoms of the underlying mental health issue or even the underlying causes beneath that. They are flexible investments.
The Thunderbird Partnership Foundation is conducting regional round table sessions over the coming months across all First Nations regions to be able to get some very specific information that will help inform public education materials, including targeted to youth. It will all be designed by First Nations for First Nations in that context and made available to Inuit and to Metis to help customize approaches. That will be helpful in getting some specific messages about cannabis in that context.
Senator Boniface: I am very familiar with northern Ontario, so you hit on my concern around mental health issues, where funding has been and where it needs to be.
I look forward to an evaluative process so that we can figure out whether this bill and this legislation have an impact in terms of either increasing the crisis, as you refer to it in here, or being able to mitigate the risk.
I am appreciative of the work, but I think we are pushing uphill because we’re starting too far at the bottom of the hill in terms of responding to the crisis.
I will leave my second question to Public Safety to answer. It will come as no surprise that the law enforcement piece of this is an important piece. I asked this of the minister in another committee around the funding for First Nation policing to respond to this bill. I am well aware of the money that has been allocated out of a long negotiation, but in my assessment and my conversation with members of the First Nation community and the law enforcement community, funding was not impacted by the anticipation of Bill C-45.
I am interested in terms of how you create a mental wellness strategy where law enforcement is joined in part of it, if additional funding is not available to law enforcement to respond to the issue?
Trevor Bhupsingh, Director General, Law Enforcement and Border Strategies Directorate, Public Safety Canada: I can’t speak to the funding amounts around the mental health investment, but I can speak to the investments around law enforcement.
We have tried to have some discussions with the law enforcement community around the particular issue, not just from the enforcement side but taking a more holistic approach in terms of the gaps in addressing the issues.
We have been engaged in a broader discussion outside of just law enforcement. We’re hoping, with some of the initiatives of Health Canada, that we can bring a voice to law enforcement in those discussions.
Going forward, it’s an issue we need to work on together. I would agree with you that mental health is very important in terms of its connection to law enforcement. Having seen the impact of some of the things law enforcement is now dealing with, especially around addiction, et cetera, it’s an important issue going forward.
For the cannabis file, we have been focusing primarily on giving the right enforcement tools to law enforcement officers. For example, around drug impaired driving, we are working on an initiative where we’re trying to increase the types of tools we’re giving to law enforcement. As we do that, we’ll need to consider what other sorts of levers, tools and connections we need to make to things such as mental health.
Senator Boniface: Quickly, from a First Nations policing perspective, part of that is pure numbers because of the regional disparity and the community. If you only have two officers responding to a serious mental health calls, and additionally with this bill on top of it, you can’t expect that giving people tools will be the only thing that works.
That’s the passionate plea I make in terms of risks to officers today and risks to officers in the future. The mental health issue, not just in First Nations communities but across the board, is one of the number one calls for police officers today, and it is where they are at the highest risk when they go in.
As you move forward in this integrated and holistic approach, and I agree with the approach, don’t leave them behind and assume that a couple of tools will make a difference because they won’t.
The Acting Chair: I have a follow up to Senator Boniface’s question.
Ms. Gideon, you talked about intensive monitoring. Could you give the committee, now or later, some details about how that will be done?
Ms. Gideon: We’re still in the development stage with partners. The AFN has created a task force specific to cannabis, co-chaired in the health portfolio by Regional Chief Isadore Day of the Assembly of First Nations health portfolio and Regional Chief Ghislain Picard.
They have identified the themes that leadership wants to develop in terms of First Nation strategies, which include public safety, law enforcement, economic development, jurisdiction and public health education materials. I spoke to the public health side in the sense that the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation is taking the lead in developing those materials.
We are to design with them a specific evaluation framework and monitoring tool for communities to be able to determine the impact of this bill, in association with the impacts on investments that we’ve also been making in the last two years, to identify the difference that it’s making.
It’s similar to an approach when we started putting suboxone opioids addictions treatment, for instance, in remote communities about 10 years ago. We enlisted Lakehead University to do an assessment of the impacts of the particular intervention in terms of those remote communities. It was a very successful evaluation and framework that enabled us to continue and greatly expand access to those treatments under the harm reduction strategy and the opioid crisis action plan.
It is a similar approach that we will take but we will be designing that with the AFN task force that started a few months ago. We could certainly come back to the committee and provide progress. It is not something that the federal government is unilaterally designing. We are doing that in collaboration with them.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: My concern is that a lot of provincial is being mentioned in your report and in your remarks. As you know, the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility for Indigenous people, so I feel that they should make up their own minds on how they want to dispense their marijuana and how they want to grow it on their land.
What is your take on that?
Mr. Costen: I can speak to that. Mr. Matiation and Ms. Murphy may have my panel members weigh in as well.
I can speak generally to the extent to which work is underway with the provinces and territories. Senators will likely be aware that frankly the system to which the proposed legislation seeks to give life is a shared one. Entities engaged in certain activities, such as growing cannabis and processing it to create a final product for sale, would all require federal permission of some kind. Entities involved in the distribution and the sale of it would require a provincial permission of some kind.
We’ve been working closely with provinces and territories for almost two years now. At the ministerial level, as officials, we have a fairly deep network into all of the provinces and territories, much in the same way that we are endeavouring to create the networks, the partnerships and the opportunities for dialogue with Indigenous communities. Those networks and that dialogue are occurring with provincial and territorial governments.
In the context of provinces and territories designing and giving consideration to what the sales and distribution arrangements might look like, it’s a bit of a trilateral conversation where the federal, provincial and Indigenous governments are sitting down together and talking about some of the issues that you are raising.
Perhaps, as an example, I would point to the Quebec legislation and the Ontario legislation. There are specific authorities that provide for entering into agreements with First Nations and Inuit with respect to the creation of sales and the retail environment for cannabis.
Ms. Murphy: We would need to go back to you and ask if there is more to the answer that you would be looking for from us, or does that give you a lay of the land?
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: My concern is that, in all the years I’ve lived in a First Nations community, the province doesn’t always have the best interests of the Indigenous people. That’s a big concern.
I have heard in talking to people in my community and that’s exactly their concern. They don’t want the province to have anything to say about cannabis or marijuana growing. Anyway, on that, I just have one more short question.
As you know, there is prescribed medical marijuana. My concern, as well as that of the people in my community, is that a lot of people can’t afford to buy it. They wanted to see if there was a possibility the marijuana that people and elders on social disabilities and fixed incomes have to use could be paid for.
Ms. Gideon: At the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch we have the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program for First Nations and Inuit that covers a broad range of supplemental health benefits, including prescribed medications, so I’ll respond.
We have absolutely looked at coverage of medical marijuana. The problem is that it does not have a notice of compliance and it is not a medication, so to speak, that is dispensed in that manner. It is not something that we can cover within the context of the program.
There is not strong clinical evidence with respect to medical marijuana at this stage. We do, however, cover medications that have some of the medicinal properties of medical marijuana under the program. Those are alternatives for elders or people suffering from chronic pain to consider.
We have some information about this that we could provide to the committee. We have provided it to First Nations that have inquired about why the program does not cover medical marijuana. I could certainly forward that on.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: I would appreciate that. Thank you.
Mr. Costen: I could add one point of information that may be of interest. It may be something that we might follow up with the senator about.
A number of the federally licensed producers that sell medical cannabis right now have certain compassionate pricing arrangements, as they describe them, which allow in certain circumstances for significantly reduced prices for cannabis.
It may be the sort of thing where by providing information to members of your community they may benefit from knowing precisely what those arrangements look like.
Senator McCallum: First, I have a comment. If you want to answer, I would appreciate it. I’ve worked in the field since 1973. I’ve been concerned that ill health in First Nations communities, despite all the money that’s poured in, has continued to increase and about all of the consequences that come with ill health. People are struggling right now. We’re in a crisis in First Nations communities.
When I look at the increase in resources for policing, there’s an expectation of something unlawful or something that needs to be addressed. Yet it seems like most everything is in a developmental stage, and we’re looking at July 1. When I look at that, I think what is the rush when you’re putting the lives of children of First Nations peoples at risk.
Preventive programs have had little impact on positive health outcomes in many areas. Most interventions are centred around individual behaviour risk factors. Community-based interventions that focus on individual risk factors are failing as well.
Even if these interventions were completely successful, the problem with this approach is that new people would continue to enter the at-risk population at an unaffected rate since everyone in Canada has done nothing to influence forces in the community that caused the problem in the first place. We are throwing money at symptoms, and the social determinants haven’t been fully addressed because it’s a jurisdictional problem.
When I look at our history of residential schools, the missing and murdered women and the children in care, this will add another level of crisis to our lives. I am very upset about it because people seem to be marching toward passing the bill, and many First Nations have said, “We need more time.”
Nobody seems to be listening to that. This is coming from my heart. I am not attacking anyone. That’s my deep concern.
I don’t know if you want to comment, or I’ll just ask my other question.
The Acting Chair: Let’s see if anyone would like to comment.
Mr. Costen: Thank you for articulating your concern. Ms. Gideon can speak to some of what you’ve raised.
Maybe I’ll just offer one point in response. When we talk about the coming change in the summer, I think one really critical piece of information to hold in our minds is that the use of cannabis today is pervasive in non-Indigenous communities and Indigenous communities. It’s widely available. It’s used by millions and millions of people right now.
The change in law or the presenting of a new system looks to decrease the risks associated with that. Instead of buying it in an unsafe manner, in a way that presents a number of other harms, with the risk of criminalization and all of the harm that comes with receiving a criminal record, it looks at the system that exists today where millions of Canadians use cannabis, it is trying to engineer a public health approach that will decrease the harms associated with that circumstance.
In terms of youth use of cannabis, more than twice as many youth report using cannabis than smoke cigarettes. The success the country has enjoyed in decreasing tobacco and cigarette use has really been through a strict regulatory public health approach to try to decrease the risks.
I don’t want my comments at the heart of the presentation to be that I am not hearing what you’re saying about the deep concern that exists out there. I understand that exists. There’s a situation that exists today. It’s not going to get created in the summer.
The proposal seeks to try to begin to remedy. It will be a process over time, just like it was with decreasing youth use of cigarettes over time, through all sorts of different actors doing things to try to bring a safer environment to everything.
The Acting Chair: Did you have another comment?
Senator McCallum: I have one more. Smoking has been one of the most successful preventive programs but not in Indigenous communities. However, the scientific, legal, political and advocacy events in the last decade have placed the tobacco industry in the position of having to negotiate with legal, public health and governmental representatives regarding the regulation of nicotine, advertising of smoking and the development of extensive strategies for prevention of tobacco use among youth.
With the cannabis bill, the federal government will be now seen as the responsible industry instead of the tobacco industry.
Who will be the oversight body, then, for the government in what I see as increasing ill health or addictions, I guess? Who will be the oversight body for that?
Mr. Costen: I’ll answer the question. Thank you very much for the question.
Health Canada is the regulator for the existing medical cannabis industry, and the proposal going forward is that Health Canada would continue to be the regulator for the industry that would exist in the future.
Under the Cannabis Act, as you likely all know, it will be a number of different regulatory programs that give those permissions to individuals or companies that want to grow it, process it for medical purposes, for non-medical purposes, for industrial hemp, for research activities, and for other laboratory and scientific activities. All of those different activities would be regulated through Health Canada.
If I may, your point about tobacco is a really critical one. I’ll point to one particular element of the bill, the many restrictions around advertising, promoting, packaging and labelling, or anything that would induce young people to use. All of the provisions described in the bill are deeply informed by our experiences in regulating tobacco. All of them are presented as part of a public health strategy for this situation.
Senator McCallum: I have just a comment. You don’t see it as a conflict of interest.
Diane Labelle, General Counsel, Department of Justice Canada: If I may add, currently cannabis is controlled under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Health Canada has very few tools to address abuse or promotion or things that appear on the Internet. Those all fall outside of any regulatory measures or steps that Health Canada can take.
We’re in a situation where it’s either going to be a criminal activity or it’s left on its own, without a lot of inspection or compliance and enforcement action, simply because Health Canada can’t use any of these tools.
With this proposed legislative framework, it gives the regulator many more opportunities and tools to deal much more effectively with illegal promotion on websites and with seeds that are being sold over the Internet that aren’t regulated.
It puts it in a stronger position vis-à-vis an industry at the moment that operates under prohibitions and law enforcement but finds a way to get its product out there anyway. It will be in a better position going forward if the bill is passed.
Ms. Gideon: I have a comment. Absolutely, around the social determinants of health, there is much work to do. First Nations health outside and inside government has been my whole career as well. I have been impressed by how quickly First Nations across the country have set up their health authorities and taken the resources being invested now to ramp up services so quickly.
Although typically it takes a while to launch programs, First Nations are doing it. They are taking the resources. MKO in Manitoba, for instance, has set up a crisis intervention team. They’ve allocated funding for the mental wellness team. Services are happening now, including the Opaskwayak Health Authority, which is a recipient of the team. I have confidence that First Nations will be in a position to help support their membership much better than they have in the past.
I would also say on tobacco that it has absolutely been the case we still had very high smoking rates, including among our pregnant women. The most recent strategy, which is currently in a renewal stage, has demonstrated incredible data where First Nations have substantively increased access to smoke-free public spaces and have passed bylaws restricting tobacco, things that 10 years ago would have not even been conceivable.
Our First Nations are taking leadership with respect to controlling access to tobacco and exposure to second-hand smoke in their communities. I’d be happy to submit very recent data to the committee if you’re interested.
The Acting Chair: Is marijuana better or worse than tobacco for lungs and lung cancer?
Ms. Gideon: I am not a medical doctor so I can’t answer that question, but we can certainly forward the response based on the evidence that we have.
The Acting Chair: All right.
Senator Pate: I am tempted to continue on some of the discussion that has happened, but I am going to switch to a different category, given that members of the Department of Justice and Public Safety are here.
We know the disproportionate number of Indigenous people who are criminalized. We know from your data and those of others the disproportionate number of Indigenous people who self-report cannabis use. We know the impact of criminalization and imprisonment, in particular, in Indigenous communities, as is well documented in countless provincial and federal reports and, most recently, the TRC and the calls to decarcerate.
I am curious as to what efforts you’ve made to determine how you will address this, given that there will likely be a great number of people who have criminal convictions for things that will now not be considered criminal offences. What will the approach be? Will there be a similar record expungement process as that being employed for other now defunct previous sections of the Criminal Code? How will you disaggregate the impact those convictions have had on leveraging people into a system that, again from the TRC, RCAP and Aboriginal justice inquiries throughout the provinces, we know have had huge impacts?
Mr. Bhupsingh: There is ongoing work around the key issues that you raise. Certainly there is concern over what you just raised.
I am not the best to answer the specifics of how we’re going to be doing that, but the government wants to ensure that things such as a review of the pardon system takes place in the Criminal Records Act, for example. They want to look at changes to the eligibility for the waiting list and fees that are restrictive.
The issues that you raise around Indigenous connections to incarceration are huge issues that will probably not be dealt with in terms of changing the criminal law in the country. There probably needs to be some real debate around how we address the particular issue.
With respect to pardons, that’s an active, ongoing discussion. I hope there will be some direction soon on that.
Senator Pate: Is there anything from Justice?
Ms. Labelle: I am with Health Canada legal services, so I don’t have access to Justice data.
One of the objectives of the proposal before you in Bill C-45 is to reduce the impact on youth and on the criminal justice system. With respect to youth, a certain number of measures are in place. Rather than criminalizing youth, they would be dealt with under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, where there are many more measures that are open either to law enforcement or to the legal system to address.
With respect to five grams or less, the provinces are prohibiting possession of five grams or less. They have tools that are not of a criminal nature. It is the hope that we will have minimized and mitigated many of the impacts that the criminal system has on youth.
The Acting Chair: I have one question I want to ask following up on your comments, Ms. Labelle, about youth. You talked about reducing impact on youth and the provincial option of diverting youth to the youth criminal justice system.
I’ve been touring remote Nunavut communities in the past week. People are utterly appalled that the cannabis bill allows youth from 12 to 17 to possess up to five grams of marijuana without criminal sanctions. Correct me if I am misinterpreting this, but it seems like the government, while talking a great talk about reducing impact on youth, is casting a blind eye to young people with their developing minds possessing five grams of marijuana with maybe a slap on the wrist or no serious prohibition.
Tell me now, how will youth be helped with a provision that says they can possess five grams without criminal sanctions? How will we reduce the impact on youth with a provision like that be?
Please help me. Even people who support legalization in remote Nunavut communities believe that young minds are developing and vulnerable and cannot understand how a signal like that could be sent by our federal government.
Ms. Labelle: This is an area where the federal government and the provincial and territorial governments have been working together. There’s a recognition that youth, with their developing brains, need to be protected. Mr. Costen can speak to the public education aspect.
With respect to the five grams, the hope is not to criminalize young people for possessing very small amounts of cannabis. In that regard, the federal government has been working with the provinces and territories where they can use their own tools to prohibit possession and not have youth end up with a criminal record for possessing small amounts.
It would be seized. There would be a small fine. It would be through the usual community approaches that are already there for alcohol or tobacco.
The Acting Chair: Pardon my ignorance, but these are young people. Are they going to get a criminal record for possession of small amounts of marijuana, or rather be diverted into the young offenders system?
I just don’t understand why we need to protect them from having a criminal record.
Ms. Labelle: The task force examined this question closely. Mental health experts, health professionals, legal experts and people who generally work in the community pointed out the concerns around having youth, young people, come into contact with the criminal justice system. It’s something that can have an effect that will last their entire lives.
In setting the legislation out, it was examined quite closely as to which tools should be available to ensure that the government is not seen as condoning use by youth. It is quite the contrary. On the other hand, it didn’t want to impose lifelong consequences.
In that respect, the Youth Criminal Justice Act is one tool. For anything under five grams, the provinces and territories will use their tools, thus minimizing and mitigating the impact of the criminal justice system on youth.
Mr. Costen: If I may add to my colleague’s response, a number of aspects of the proposal are relevant in this discussion in addition to what Ms. Labelle has just outlined. It’s important to recognize that, again learning from our lessons in tobacco control, there are proposed provisions in the bill which, as such, have been described for youth. There are new provisions that look to punish the adult involved in the transaction of providing the cannabis to the young person.
As a key measure of youth protection in this instance, it’s not about unduly influencing the life trajectory of the young person by subjecting them to a criminal record necessarily. The appropriate tools are those that the provinces are putting in place. I would add that every province that has introduced legislation to date has done so. It really is about isolating the adult who’s involved in either providing the cannabis to the young person or, frankly, using them as an instrument in the trafficking of cannabis. The proposal seeks to put in place penalties that would be directed at the adult in this instance.
I won’t go on about it, but in addition, as Ms. Labelle said, a number of public health initiatives look to prevent youth from starting to use cannabis, educate them about the harms of using, and a number of different program supports and different strategies in place to ultimately achieve that objective.
The Acting Chair: Do you have a quick supplementary question on that, Senator Pate?
Senator Pate: I do. It sounds like the YCJA already provides provisions that basically encourage judges to look to other approaches. I am curious if there will be additional funding, then, for things like intensive treatment programs and educational programs?
Ms. Labelle: I am looking behind me to my Justice colleague. I am told that there isn’t additional funding but access to drug treatment programs will continue.
The Acting Chair: Dr. Gideon, I am asking about addiction services in the territories. You talked about mental wellness services having been transferred to the GNWT under the 1988 Northwest Territories health transfer agreement. I was intimately involved with that agreement. One of the problems we had with it was that Canada was not offering any mental health services at that time. Frankly, with all respect, there were no mental wellness services transferred because there were no mental health wellness services offered by Health and Welfare Canada in 1988. We made a great deal with Minister Epp. We got everything the feds were spending but there was a huge mental wellness gap. Now, today, we have no addiction treatment services resident in Nunavut whatsoever.
You say funding is provided directly to the territorial governments to support prevention and health promotion activities. I don’t need to tell you about our social determinants in Nunavut. We are right up there in the world with negative social determinants, including suicide.
I understand that the Government of Nunavut has had discussions with Health Canada about the impact of this legislation on top of our alcohol addiction problems. Are there discussions about Canada supporting the establishment of addiction treatment, on the ground services? I agree with all you’ve said about culturally relevant, land-based programs. Are there discussions, in conjunction with this bill or otherwise, with the Government of Nunavut about establishing such services? For the first time, at least since I was health minister, we established a treatment centre, but it was southern based, southern designed and didn’t succeed. Are there ongoing discussions about filling this big need?
Ms. Gideon: Yes, absolutely. Last year when I was up in Iqaluit we had a tripartite table with the Government of Nunavut’s health department and NTI. It has actually been quite successful. Now the bilateral funding agreement we have with Nunavut specific to Inuit funding is actually all negotiated with NTI in the room. There’s an actual tripartite MOU that was signed before we signed the funding agreement for the next 10 years for all the health promotion prevention services funding targeted to Inuit. It was the first time that actually happened. It has been a very successful tripartite collaboration and partnership, which now brings Inuit voices into the entire process of negotiation of those resources. They know everything and they develop all the plans and the indicators for tracking.
Around the addictions treatment services, we have funded the development of a feasibility study for a Nunavut-based addictions treatment centre. I am sure you know that there is a specific Truth and Reconciliation Commission call to action about the absence of addiction treatment resident-based services in the North. We did approach Nunavut specifically to look at a feasibility study.
We have had, though, discussions also with the Northwest Territories. Their interest is in expanding access to the on the land based treatment services they have been introducing in recent years. We’ve also been looking at and working with them on sort of how that expansion would look. I cannot remember the exact fiscal time frame, but specifically in NWT we funded this past year the first ever on the land summit hosted near Yellowknife. It brought together all of the north-based, on the land treatment folks to look at the rising evidence behind this type of treatment model.
In Nunavut there’s absolutely an interest to build and to support an addictions treatment centre. NTI has also committed to providing resources for that treatment centre. Up to $15 million is under consideration from their own source revenue. We have been working very diligently with the three partners to come out with a model.
The Acting Chair: We’ve heard from every senator except Senator McPhedran. Can I have the indulgence of officials to allow her to ask one last question? I know you have to go, but can we call on Senator McPhedran before we wrap up?
Senator McPhedran: Thank you so much for the consideration, Mr. Chair.
This is actually a question that builds on a number of the questions that have already been asked of you. It’s about the approaches to youth in particular in terms of prevention and cessation strategies. It’s a question as to whether or not you’re conducting gender-based analysis when you’re assessing effectiveness of the programs in both of these areas and whether any of the programs include elders as part of what is being delivered at the community level.
Ms. Gideon: The answer is yes on both counts. Absolutely we are.
We did a modernization of the long-standing National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program which was started in the 1970s. Mr. Costen remembers this because he was director of mental wellness at that time. The Honouring Our Strengths report came out of that exercise. It identified that the program was not reaching youth effectively and that the program lacked support services for women such as pregnant women who had substance use issues.
Although we did not have a lot of additional resources at that time because it was through the National Anti-Drug Strategy, we did get an additional $5 million or so a year. We did leverage those resources to be able to modernize those centres and those programs in communities to increase accessibility to those populations.
That is something we want to continue to build on. For instance, when we started introducing opioid agonist treatment we were very cautious. We actually started with youth in a high school in Thunder Bay. That was the first suboxone program we introduced because youth were at risk at that time with OxyContin addictions. We were seeing youth into criminal activity or sometimes victims of criminal activity. We have continued to monitor our approaches and looking for effective models specifically for youth and for women at risk.
Senator McPhedran: Could results of that analysis be shared with us?
The Acting Chair: You can share the results through the clerk.
Thank you very much to the witnesses and senators for their effective use of the short time we had.
We are meeting again Wednesday night on this issue.
(The committee adjourned.)