Mamadosewin (meeting place, walking together)

Third reading of Bill C-45, Cannabis Bill (debate on amendment by Senator Tannas)

Third reading of Bill C-45, Cannabis Bill (debate on amendment by Senator Tannas)

Third reading of Bill C-45, Cannabis Bill (debate on amendment by Senator Tannas)

Hon. Art Eggleton: 

Thank you very much. I think the amendment is well intentioned, but there are definitely practical problems in trying to implement this. Remember, this is not just a recommendation to the government; it is something that is aspirational. This is something you’re actually putting into the legislation.

We at the Social Affairs Committee did hear from an official, Mr. Costen, who is the prime person at Health Canada responsible for the implementation of this bill and the regulations. He said,

. . . there’s no maximum number of licences or minimum number of licences anticipated. There’s no quota system whatsoever. So truly, there are an unspecified number of licences that can be issued, an infinite number of licences as it were, because the government’s policy has been not to control or manage the market in any way that would allow for determining and allocating quotas of the market to different individuals or entities.

Senator Patterson admitted that it was an arbitrary number, this 20 per cent. I have a quote from your colleague Senator Plett, who said, “Twenty per cent is just an arbitrary number. I don’t think we should be making that recommendation. There’s got to be a reason for a percentage in there.” So the matter was just not put to a vote at that point in time.

Your specific amendment says the minister must ensure that at any given time at least 20 per cent of licences and permits authorizing production are going to be produced on land owned or under the jurisdiction of an Aboriginal government. If the first five licences come in and none of them happen to be from an Indigenous community, then what happens then? Does that mean the other four can’t proceed?

If you go to the other end of the scale, eventually you get to this infinity. You get to some very large number maybe of small, medium-sized and large producers that will be licensed. What if there aren’t that many at that point in time in the Aboriginal community? And this is the Aboriginal community as it’s defined here, as being on Aboriginal lands, under Aboriginal governments. By the way, in an earlier amendment from the committee, we said they should have the right to be able to decide whether they want to legalize cannabis. There could be, in fact, a process that might take some time there before they even decide to get into these kinds of applications in any great number that might equal 20 per cent of a very large number.

I think it’s quite problematic in terms of how you administer this. It may be that maybe some amendment could be devised, but I don’t in any way suggest that we do that kind of thing on the fly.

When this was before the committee, that’s the evidence that we had from the person that has to administer this whole thing, and I said, “Your colleagues admitted that it was an arbitrary number and shouldn’t proceed.”

The Hon. the Speaker pro temporeWould you accept a question, Senator Eggleton?

Senator Eggleton: Sure.

Senator Tannas: Thank you, Senator Eggleton. I was at the committee. I recall the testimony by the Health Canada official where he said it was the policy of Health Canada that they would issue infinite numbers.

Do you not believe, like I believe, that this problem, this challenge of 20 per cent, if it is codified, will be quickly solved by industry? They will hop on this. That’s number one.

Second, did you hear from anyone who objected to this quota, anyone from the industry who is ready to go, except for the Health Canada official who said, “It’s not our policy to do this. We can’t imagine how we could mete out the licences”?

Senator Eggleton: I did hear from Senator Don Plett, and he made it clear that it was arbitrary. He said 20 per cent is just an arbitrary number. But he’s not the industry. The industry was not even asked that question in the first place.

You have to bear in mind the navigator services program, and we did say:

Your committee supports the recommendation of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples that the Minister of Health encourage a diverse, competitive cannabis market, and to ensure that Indigenous peoples are in a competitive position to generate own source revenues and employment opportunities in this new industry.

That’s really quite clear and helpful, and we ought to make sure they implement it, because if they implement it, I think we’ll get what you want without putting in “20 per cent.” Once you put the 20 per cent in, it’s in the legislation and it will handcuff the movement. It’s not just aspirational. Well, you may consider that as a good thing, but it could also backfire.

Hon. Sandra M. Lovelace Nicholas: Would you take a question?

I’ve been listening very carefully, and there has been no mention of our treaty rights and practising on our own land, and it is in our treaties that we are able to grow, on our lands that we occupy, what makes us sustainable.

Senator Eggleton: I think that’s in the letter that Senator Harder read out in terms of things that have to be consulted on and worked out as part of the plan. I’m specifically addressing his amendment over here, though.