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Perspectives — June 4 – 7, 2018
Perspectives — June 4 – 7, 2018
June 12, 2018
OPINION

Last week at the Senate: Youth Indigenize the Senate and the Cannabis Act.

Government

Senators often meet young people from across the country, many of whom are young leaders in their communities. These meetings are something I especially enjoy, as they provide an opportunity to learn about the issues facing young people, to hear about their concerns and understand their place in society.

Last week, I had the great pleasure of speaking with Inuit, Métis and First Nations youth at the “Indigenize the Senate” event. The event allowed senators to ask these leaders, between 18 and 33, questions. I could have spoken at length with them, but I wanted to learn more about their aspirations, the labour market challenges they face, and how they see themselves as part of Canada’s economic development. So I asked them the following: “Looking ahead, what are your dreams about your place in the job market? Do you feel equipped to fully take part?”

Their answers showed plenty of hope and a positive vision of the future. Everyone in attendance aspires to play a key role in their communities so they can help the next generation meet challenges: whether through more education resources, mental health support, or through sport and games. They believe that younger people will have a brighter future if they get the education they need and if they know that they can make a real difference in their communities. 

The message they want to send to the Senate: treat the issues that concern them in a fair and enlightened way. That is what I pledge to do. How about you?


Opposition

Last week, Bill C-45, the government legislation proposed to legalize marijuana in Canada, passed in the Senate.

Despite the passage of the bill, many significant concerns remain.

In the face of a government that wanted legalization of marijuana passed quickly to hit their July 1 target date, the Senate Conservative Caucus demanded thorough examination of C-45. We insisted and led the negotiations to have the bill studied at five different committees, and the subsequent structured debate and voting process at third reading. 

The Trudeau Government has been writing the Marijuana Bill as they go. The sponsor of the bill, Senator Tony Dean has moved 29 amendments to fix the government’s mistakes. And that is in addition to more than 20 amendments moved in the House of Commons.

Over the past two years the Government has neglected to have proper consultation with Indigenous Peoples on such a substantial societal shift. On Wednesday last week, the Government made a desperate last minute attempt to save face by making last minute promises and commitments.

We have said from the beginning that we would focus on doing what we can to better protect public health and public safety for Canadians.  The Government has failed to do its homework on Bill C-45, thankfully the Senate has done its due diligence.

The Senate Conservative Caucus has moved a total 14 amendments at third reading, of which four were adopted. We demand that moving forward, the Liberal Government accept our amendments to what remains a flawed bill.


Independent Senate Liberals

This week we had the great pleasure to host some very special guests to the Senate. The Aboriginal Peoples Committee launched the third edition of our Youth Indigenize the Senate program, which brings young Indigenous community leaders from across the country to Ottawa so that we can listen to them and learn from their experiences. This year we asked them to help us with our committee’s study on the nature of a new relationship between Canada and First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.

We welcomed Spirit River Striped Wolf from Alberta, an advocate for indigenizing entrepreneurship; Rae-Anne Harper from Saskatchewan, a coordinator of youth programs and camps for at-risk, urban Indigenous youth; Amanda Fredlund from Manitoba, the driving force behind workshops and celebrations of Indigenous cultures; Kieran McMonagle from Ontario, a graduation coach with the Keewatin Patricia District School Board; Bryanna Brown from Newfoundland and Labrador, who works with Indigenous groups, including the Traditions and Transitions Research Partnership; Theoren Swappie from Quebec, who has become a role model for young people in his community; Ruth Kaviok from Nunavik, who is creating a plan for a hydroponics greenhouse business for her community; Colette Trudeau from British Columbia, who works to ensure the sustainability of the Metis Nation, and; Kayla Bernard from Nova Scotia, a mental health advocate.

These nine Indigenous youth leaders, inspired to make positive change for Indigenous youth, generously joined us here so we can benefit from their wisdom and experiences.


Independent Senators Group

On Thursday, June 7, the Senate passed Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act. In the version that was referred to the House of Commons, 41 of the amendments were previously adopted by the Senate Committee on Social Affairs Committee, Science and Technology. This committee heard from 136 witnesses during its study of the bill. Four other Senate committees also spent several hours on it and heard from about 100 witnesses.

These hearings gave Canadians an opportunity to be heard on the proposed legalization of cannabis. Many of the SOCI-adopted amendments or observations from the Independent Senators Group (ISG), as well as from our colleagues in the other groups, were based on suggestions and observations heard from both sides.

With input from ISG members, our committee allowed the provinces to restrict the home growing of cannabis, something that Quebec and Manitoba hoped to see. One of our amendments gives parents the right to share cannabis at home with children over the age of 16. We ensured that permanent residents and refugees are better protected from the unintended consequences of criminal sanctions under Bill C-45. As well, we created an obligation for the Minister of Health to conduct a separate review of the impact of the legislation on public health.

Let’s hear it for the collaborative spirit demonstrated by members of the social affairs committee throughout the process.

I am very optimistic that our MP colleagues will most certainly come to the same conclusion that this bill needs all the Senate’s amendments.