Canada's Original Think Tank

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

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

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

Hon. Jane Cordy: 

Thank you, Senator Wells, for raising the issue of second-hand smoke from cannabis.

I’ve spoken in the chamber and I know Senator Seidman has also spoken in the chamber a number of times about second-hand smoke and the dangers of smoking tobacco, and I think the same thing holds true for second-hand smoke from cannabis.

I don’t think that there is anybody in the chamber who would deny that second-hand smoke is harmful, not only to children, but to adults as well.

I’m quite concerned about the enforcement of this. Does a police officer knock on your door, give your home a little sniff test, check to see if there is the scent of cannabis and then do a bed check to see how old the children are in the household? I’m not quite sure about how it will be enforced. But, more importantly, I have heard about being tough on crime but smoking cannabis, if this bill passes, it will not be criminal, so it will not be a crime but someone could go to jail for smoking in their own home.

A number of you who stood up spoke about protecting children from second-hand smoke and, indeed, this is what the government is intending to do with this bill — protect the children through regulation and through the law.

Let’s look at this scenario. We have a neighbour walking by a house. The curtain is open. They see someone smoking cannabis in the living room. They phone the police. The police come along and not only do they say they cannot tell the individuals to stop because it’s legal, but instead they can take the person to jail because, according to this amendment, you can be imprisoned for a term of not more than 18 months, so they take the parent to jail because there are young people in the house.

I’m sorry, but we’re talking about protecting children, yet we’re going to take the parents to jail for doing something that is legal? Do I think they should be smoking cannabis in their households? No. Do I think they should be smoking cannabis, period? No, but it’s legal if this bill passes. So now we are going to be arresting people and putting them in jail for 18 months because they’ve smoked cannabis in their house with children under the age of 18.

I think that is getting a little carried away. Senator Stewart Olsen spoke earlier about using a hammer, and I think this is using a sledgehammer to kill a flea. It’s not protecting children. In fact, it’s going to be harmful to children to take their parents to jail for doing something that’s legal.

Hon. Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard: Is there an opportunity to ask Senator Cordy a question?

The Hon. the Speaker: Yes, Senator Cordy still has a few minutes left, so if you wish to ask her a question, go ahead.

Senator Bernard: Thank you. Like others here, I certainly agree with the spirit of this amendment in terms of the effects of second-hand smoke on children. However, I think, like some of the other amendments, there are unintended consequences. Senator Cordy, you talked about the impact that, if a parent is found to have smoked in the presence of their young children, they could go to jail. What would happen to those children in terms of the care and welfare of the children in such cases?

Senator Cordy: Thank you very much, Senator Bernard. That’s an excellent question and I know you were a social worker and have dealt with this many times. We know that the children would be taken into protective services by Community Services. That’s what it’s called in Nova Scotia; I’m not sure what it’s called in other provinces. But the children would be taken out of the home unless there was a grandparent or somebody else to take care of them.

I know this would not be helpful to children. As a social worker, you would have seen what this does to families. In terms of unintended consequences, we are doing a prison study in the Human Rights Committee. We see the number of women who are in prison and what that does to families. It would not be helpful to children, parents or a family situation for doing something, by the way, that would be legal.