Mamadosewin (meeting place, walking together)

Third reading of Bill C-45, Cannabis Bill

Third reading of Bill C-45, Cannabis Bill

Third reading of Bill C-45, Cannabis Bill

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: 

Honourable senators, I would like to make a few comments to reinforce my speeches at the report stages of the bill a week ago and my speech last night specifically on Indigenous issues with respect to Bill C-45 concerning cannabis.

Honourable senators, we are engaged in a historic debate on Bill C-45, the cannabis act. Our committees have done a thorough study, and our debate here in the chamber has been extensive and thorough, with many more amendments being proposed, debated and accepted or not.

Like many other senators, my major concerns have been with the effects of cannabis on youth. With Indigenous youth, there is potential for increased mental health harms from cannabis use.

At the Aboriginal Peoples Committee hearings on Bill C-45, two witnesses told us that there is an increased risk for psychosis and schizophrenia in traumatized individuals.

Colleagues, we all know that there are remote and northern Indigenous communities that suffer intergenerational trauma resulting from abuse suffered in Indian residential schools. Because of this and for other reasons, the Aboriginal Peoples Committee initially recommended a delay of up to a year in order for the government to commit to addressing the current critical mental health needs of Indigenous communities and to commit to ensuring that funds and treatment facilities be made available for the additional mental health needs that will likely arise from Bill C-45.

As indicated yesterday, Ministers Philpott and Petitpas Taylor have committed to addressing the concerns raised by the Aboriginal Peoples Committee, and all of the Indigenous senators have agreed that the letter covers what we were concerned about.

I was particularly assured by the ministers’ commitment to work closely with Indigenous communities and to ensure that additional resources are designated for mental health and addictions in Indigenous communities. More importantly, all of the Indigenous senators agreed that the commitments made by the ministers obviated the need to amend the bill in order to delay its enactment, as the objectives have been met by the commitments from the ministers.

Honourable senators, debate in the chamber on Bill C-45 has been thorough and, for the most part, respectful of the varying perspectives. Last night, however, I was taken aback by the comments of Senator Stewart Olsen. The impact of her comments was immediate. I felt attacked personally because of the tone of her words. They were undeniably condescending and personal in nature.

Senator Plett: They were not.

Senator Dyck: Rather than neutral, thoughtful comments addressed to the substance of my speech —

Senator Plett: — respectable debate.

Senator Dyck: You will get your turn, Senator Plett.

Senator Plett: Why don’t we have respectful debate today?

Senator Dyck: Order.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, Senator Dyck has the floor. If anyone else wishes to enter the debate, I’ll put their name on the list.

Senator Dyck: Thank you, Your Honour.

I believe that her comments were unparliamentary, personal, sharp and taxing. Her comments were objectionable. I will not at this time raise a point of privilege, though I think that it would be successful, but I want my concerns to be noted.

Senator Stewart Olsen said that she was troubled by “. . . the seeming capitulation to the government . . .”, and that she was troubled because she thought that we, as the Aboriginal Peoples Committee —

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I’m sorry, Your Honour, on a point of order. I apologize to Senator Dyck.

The Hon. the Speaker: Point of order. Yes, Senator Martin?

Senator Martin: I just want to point out the fact that Senator Dyck was not on the original list that was submitted. Senator Lovelace Nicholas spoke, so to have Senator Dyck speak immediately after, it does disrupt the list only because there are many senators waiting. I’m asking whether or not this was considered in calling on Senator Dyck to speak next.

The Hon. the Speaker: I was following the list that I have here, and it doesn’t seem to me that it’s going back and forth, which is the usual practice. It just happens to be the list that I was handed, Senator Martin.

Senator Dyck.

Senator Dyck: Thank you, Your Honour.

Honourable senators, since I was interrupted, I will repeat the last part.

Senator Stewart Olsen said that she was troubled by, and I quote, “. . . the seeming capitulation to the government . . .” and that she was troubled because she thought we, the Aboriginal Peoples Committee, had the hammer to delay the bill.

Colleagues, the Indigenous senators were able to use this so-called hammer in a way that was not necessarily delaying Bill C-45. We, the Indigenous senators, did not drop the hammer. We used it judiciously, and we used this hammer in a precise and focused action, with great aim, and achieved our objectives without causing undue collateral damage that a delay would precipitate.

I thank Senator Sinclair for stating last night his objections to Senator Stewart Olsen’s words.

Colleagues, Senator Stewart Olsen did apologize to me last night, but at the time I did not recognize how condescending her comments were. When I read the transcript this morning, I realized how disrespectful her comments were. They were partisan rather than thoughtful and insightful.

Finally, as I said a few minutes ago, I will not raise a point of privilege, but I did want my objections to Senator Stewart Olsen’s language to be recorded.

Colleagues, let us remember the Peter, Paul and Mary song.

If I had a hammer

I’d hammer out danger

I’d hammer out a warning

I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters

All over this land

Senator Stewart Olsen’s intervention last night has not changed my position on Bill C-45. I will support the passage of Bill C-45 as amended. Thank you.