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Perspectives — April 24-26, 2018
Perspectives — April 24-26, 2018
May 1, 2018
OPINION

Last week at the Senate: Organ donations, homegrown cannabis, Kindness Week and sexual assault law

Government

April 22-28 was National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week. I hope Canadians learned the sad fact that too many people die each year—an average of 250—when they could have a renewed chance at life if other citizens registered as organ donors.

The disconnect between the demand and supply for organs and tissue is extreme: 90% of Canadians support organ and tissue donation, yet only 20% have registered their decision to be a donor.

The future for the 4500 Canadians awaiting a lifesaving organ could be bright should their fellow citizens sign up to donate. The tragedy of one person’s death can mean hope for up to eight people who can benefit from a single donor.

Canada lags far behind other G7 countries when it comes to rates of organ donation. While some countries have an opt-out organ donation system that presumes everyone is a potential donor, Canada has a provincial-based opt-in system, so you need to sign up and tell your family and friends that you want to be a donor.

For inspiration look no farther than Logan Boulet, a Humboldt Bronco who died in a devastating vehicle crash with 15 others. Logan gave six people a second chance at life by donating his organs. His example has inspired others. The provincial registries for organ donation have surged as Canadians recognize that even after death they have more to give.

Let’s keep up the momentum. Click here to find out how to register as a donor: https://organtissuedonation.ca/en


Opposition

"Quebec expects respect"... were the words spoken by Jean-Marc Fournier, the Quebec Minister responsible for Canadian Relations, at the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on April 25th. The committee is currently finishing its study of Bill C-45, Cannabis Act. In other words, the Federal government should ACT, put an end to the confrontation, and listen to the concerns of the provinces on this important societal change, which is not the case with the current bill

The federal Minister of Justice commented Quebec’s decision to impose a homegrown pot ban saying that it’s the “prerogative” of individuals to challenge a provincial law.

Minister Fournier told senators that the Cannabis Act goes beyond the scope of federal jurisdiction, stating that there is a constitutional problem with Bill C-45 and that in some cases, Canadians will have to go to court to get the answers they need. 

Minister Fournier advocated that legal marijuana should only be produced by licensed producers. Quebec is within its powers to prohibit home cultivation and, by banning home cultivation, it will help stem the flow of illicit pot and restrict access to youth. Current rules proposed in Bill C-45 will require both public safety and public health organizations to devote a lot of resources to enforce the law.

After weeks of witnesses appearing before Senate Committees, it’s clear that the concerns of homegrown marijuana are complex. Our caucus will continue to review and take steps to address the concerns of this bill.


Senate Liberals

Last week I spoke at second reading of my Senate Public Bill that would establish Kindness Week during the third week in February of every year.

Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. We know there are health benefits to kindness, both to our physical and mental well-being, and that it has many positive social impacts. I believe that recognizing a Kindness Week each year will help to build a culture of kindness which will benefit Canadians across the country.

There are already kindness campaigns taking place in local communities. One story that touched me most was that of Rebecca Schofield. Rebecca was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and chose to spend her remaining months creating a legacy of kindness with her #BeccaToldMeTo campaign.  Sadly Becca left the world last month, but the impact she made will go on for a very long time. A national Kindness Week can remind us to be kind, compassionate and generous with one another just like she wanted us to be.

I hope that having a Kindness Week in Canada will encourage more people to participate and give time in their communities, even if it just encourages a smile to others.  In today’s uncertain and sometimes overwhelming world, from bullying and harassment, to isolation and exclusion, it is more important than ever that we are reminded to treat others with love and kindness.


Independent Senators Group

Last week, in addition to speaking to Bill C-51—legislation proposed to clarify and strengthen sexual assault law, to repeal or amend Criminal Code provisions that are unconstitutional, obsolete, redundant or raise avoidable Charter risks, and to require the Minister of Justice to table in Parliament, for every new government bill, a statement on potential effects on the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Charter—I followed up on some commitments I made to students in January when I visited Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay.

During Tuesday’s Question Period, I asked the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services, about the government’s progress in implementing jury recommendations from the 2016 inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations youth, who were students at the school. Students as young as 14 years old must leave their homes and families and travel hundreds of miles to a community rife with racism if they want to finish high school.

The inaccessibility of education for Indigenous youth is an ongoing legacy of discriminatory policies once openly supported by the government of Canada and parliamentarians. Meeting with students and discussing the work of the Senate brought into sharp relief our roles and responsibilities, as senators, to set standards for ourselves and our work that resist and correct our collective racist colonial history. I look forward to continuing to work with the students from DFC and to joining with my colleagues to welcome their representatives to the Senate during their visit next Thursday.