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. Lillian Eva Dyck: 

Thank you, Senator Tannas. When we were looking at the issue of licensing at the committee, everything you’ve said is, of course, true and accurate. We did enter into some discussions about that with the ministers. From what we could gather, the navigator service, as you outlined, is really not nearly sufficient enough to do what our committee would hope it would do. We were told the forms are quite complicated, but you still need much more than a navigator service to allow a significant portion of First Nations organizations to be able to get these licences.

One thing they told us is that they weren’t really sure how they could get to the 20 per cent, because they don’t know how many licences they will actually have. There’s no cap on the licences. Not being a business person — I’m a neurochemist by training — so as the business grows, of course, and people become more engaged with it, there will be more and more applications, and more and more licences will be granted. I guess they were trying to say that they couldn’t envision how they could operationalize the 20 per cent.

I can’t ask you a question, but I’m wondering if anyone else can add to that and say how we can put this into effect when we don’t know what the total number is going to be; how can we have 20 per cent of licences when we’re not really sure what the number of licences is going to be?

The Hon. the Speaker pro temporeSenator Tannas, you will have to ask her a question.

Senator Tannas: I will, if she’ll take a question. Were you aware, Senator Dyck, that this did come up at the Social Affairs Committee? That question was the initial kind of objection — “Well, it’s an infinite number, so how do we reserve 20 per cent of an infinite number?”

I’m wondering if you were aware of a couple of things. Number one is that the licences today are controlled by a relatively small group of organizations; that it is likely in the future that manufacturing production, like alcohol, beer and cigarettes, will consolidate down to a relatively small number of folks; and that those corporations would be the ones that would bear the responsibility of making sure that they locate one out of every five facility in an Indigenous community or in land owned by Indigenous governments? Were you aware of that?

Senator Dyck: Thank you for that question. You’re jogging my memory. I should probably review the transcripts. I think that does answer the question somewhat.

I almost feel like it’s a déjà vu moment. I probably asked you this before at committee. With regard to those kinds of organizations, you were saying it will boil down to, let’s say, 5 or 10 major businesses. If it boils down to those 5 or  0, I think you’re trying to say that we need to ensure we get them identified quickly in the first go so that the first people in line are the ones who will be getting the licences, so they’re more likely to succeed. That would be how I would see it.

Senator Tannas: Senator Dyck, in the letter delivered today, I believe it mentioned there were a number of applications in process by Aboriginal peoples or affiliates. Also, at the Social Affairs Committee, we heard that Health Canada does have the power to prioritize applications.

Given the interest and the ability to prioritize, would it not seem to you that there would be a way to manage this process quite nicely?

Senator Dyck: Yes, I follow your logic. It seems reasonable.

In looking at the amendment, then, it would be addressing it to the Minister of Health. It says “the minister,” so in the bill, is it the Minister of Health who is identified? Okay.

The Hon. the Speaker pro temporeSenator Woo, do you have a question?

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: Yes. Senator Dyck, will you take a question?

Senator Dyck: Yes.

Senator Woo: In addition to the axiomatic problem of not being able to solve for 20 per cent of infinity — there is no answer to that question — would you also give us some guidance or your thoughts on the very curious wording of this amendment, which states that there should be at least 20 per cent of licences and permits, not over a period of time, but at any given time?

That strikes me as a rather difficult proposition to achieve. Because at any given time, you are almost likely to not have 20 per cent or more, which would create a lot of complications for the issuing authorities to adjust the licences in order to, first of all, address the legitimate right for Indigenous organizations to participate in the industry, but also, of course, non-Indigenous businesses who might want to participate.

Senator Dyck: Thank you. Looking at that wording, it could create problems because, of course, it would depend upon the rate at which different organizations apply. You may have a period where there are no Indigenous applicants or no applicants that have any Indigenous partners, and then what would you do? How could you fulfill the requirements of the amendment?

Hon. Ratna Omidvar: Will the honourable senator take another question?

Senator Dyck: Yes.

Senator Omidvar: I’m a believer that when there is historical exclusion of the kind that we are facing that you actually have to have creative social engineering mechanisms, and I have argued for that in this chamber.

I understand this very well — it could be a game changer — but I wonder about the hard quota versus a target. If you have a target and you monitor it, measure it, table it and review it, that actually takes you further, and this could be embedded in the regulations. What is your response to that, Senator Dyck?

Senator Dyck: Interestingly, in the letter there is the suggestion that there would be tracking and monitoring, but there isn’t actually a percentage assigned. However, since it’s reporting back to our committee, our committee did say 20 per cent. If the committee is the one who is doing the monitoring, when they come back to us, we could push for that 20 per cent. It’s working toward that. It’s not actually an amendment, but the intention is there.

Hon. Leo Housakos: Senator Dyck, going back to the hammer that my honourable colleague Senator Stewart Olsen talked about, wouldn’t you prefer to have clear, defined directions to Health Canada, to the government, with a clear number of 20 per cent rather than a suggested number?

Here is an opportunity where Senator Tannas’ amendment is categorical about what stakeholders have to do in order to get this done in the Aboriginal communities.

Senator Dyck: It’s very useful to have that actual number. Some may argue that it’s an unfair number, that we did hear from witnesses that that’s what the number should be. Because of the historic under-representation of Indigenous people in businesses, you could make the case that there should be some compensation.

It’s almost, to me, as though we had to combine the two, the reporting and monitoring, along with this particular target. Since we just received this, it will take us a few minutes to sort out exactly which would be preferable.