Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to third reading of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts.
I must inform you that I have absolutely no will to vote in favour of this bill, and I have not been prompted by any good reason as to why I should. In my view, this bill is unconscionable and morally objectionable. I have had great difficulty accepting the fact that Canada’s national government is leading on the legitimation of the frequent and recreational consumption of cannabis, known as marijuana, and does so despite the abundant and copious evidence in its possession that cannabis is a dangerous psychoactive narcotic.
The Government of Canada is well informed and fully aware that cannabis legalization is not solely a matter of the government’s presenting and providing cannabis as a harmless and healthy form of recreation and entertainment. The real issue here is that marijuana is, in fact, a mind-altering drug and is most harmful to the human mind, the brain, and the cognitive functions of its users, whether frequent or occasional, and most particularly to the minds of our youth.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines psychoactive as “affecting the mind or behavior.” In addition, The Oxford English Dictionary defines psychoactive as “Of a drug: that possesses the ability to affect the mind, emotions, or behaviour.”
Colleagues, I believe that the consequence of cannabis decriminalization and legalization is a much deeper issue than the properties of the drug itself. As Deputy Chair of our Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, I was struck and impressed by the quality and quantity of concerns raised by many witnesses regarding Canada’s obligations, conventions and international treaty agreements.
Mr. Bruno Gélinas-Faucher, a PhD candidate in International Law at Britain’s Cambridge University, testified before our Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, a committee which I must add is ably chaired by our honourable colleague, Senator Andreychuk, on March 29, 2018. He informed, as recorded in this committee’s report on Bill C-45, at page 11, that:
. . . this is not minor at all. Legalizing cannabis will lead to the violation of a fundamental principle that is at the very heart of the conventions.
Honourable senators, this witness, Mr. Gélinas-Faucher, cited documents from Global Affairs Canada, obtained through an access to information request. These documents recognized that the legalization of cannabis would have “a significant impact” on Canada’s obligations under the international drug control conventions.
Colleagues, I believe that this bill, which will make drastic and radical behavioural and social changes, has not been sufficiently and vigorously thought through, nor have our Canadian citizens and our international partners been sufficiently consulted.
Colleagues, testifying before the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, many witnesses raised the important question, being the extent of the impact of Canada’s legalization of cannabis on our population.
In a written brief to our Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, the quasi-judicial control body called the International Narcotics Control Board, which was established by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, and which is also responsible for the implementation of the United Nations drug conventions, wrote that Bill C-45 is “incompatible with the treaty obligations to which Canada is bound.”
The International Narcotics Control Board further noted, and is recorded in our Foreign Affairs Committee’s Report at page 11, that:
. . . it “views any legislative measure aimed at legalizing and regulating the use of controlled substances for non-medical purposes as a fundamental breach of the international treaty provisions to which State parties to the international drug control conventions are held.”
Accordingly, the International Narcotic Control Board further noted that:
. . . the legalization and regulation of cannabis for non-medical purposes . . . as foreseen in Bill C-45, cannot be reconciled with Canada’s international obligations . . . .
Colleagues, section 91 of our Constitution Act, 1867, is headed “Powers of the Parliament,” and informs us that the fundamental purpose of government is:
91. It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate and the House of Commons, to make Laws for the Peace, Order, and good Government of Canada, in relation to all Matters not coming within the Classes of Subjects by this Act assigned exclusively to the Legislatures of the Provinces; . . .
Honourable senators, I do not believe that Bill C-45 can possibly be for the peace, order and good government of Canada. As a senator, I feel morally and politically bound to use my intellect at all times. For many reasons, I have simply not been persuaded that Bill C-45 is legally, morally and spiritually sound. I sincerely believe and I know that psychoactive drugs are a mighty foe to our society and to our young people. I believe that I have a duty to uphold those whom I do not know, and the many who have no voice, to speak on these issues.
Colleagues, a worrisome characteristic of cannabis that should preoccupy us is that whereas the human body can process and excrete alcohol quickly, the human body is slow to discharge marijuana, which can reside and remain in the body for up to four weeks.
Throughout this debate, I have rarely heard this health question raised. For myself, this health fact this is not one that I can ignore. The slow exit of cannabis from the human person should be a source of concern to all senators.
I maintain that cannabis is a very dangerous drug, which many have been persuaded to think is less dangerous and less harmful than cocaine and heroin.
Honourable senators, I shall close with Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Every judgement of conscience, be it right or wrong, be it about things evil in themselves or morally indifferent, is obligatory, in such wise that he who acts against his conscience always sins.
Honourable senators, from where I look out at life and at these issues which deeply affect our youth and young people, I am convinced that Bill C-45 cannot possibly be for the peace, order and good government of Canada. I shall vote with my conscience.
I thank honourable senators for their attention in this very important matter.