QP – Legalization of Cannabis—Consultation with Inuit Communities

The Honourable Senator Peter Harder, Government Representative in the Senate

November 23, 2017

Legalization of Cannabis—Consultation with Inuit Communities

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator Harder, at a recent briefing on Bill C-45 and Bill C-46, the former chair of the federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, Anne McLellan, told senators that the task force recommendations were very clear that more consultation on the broader impacts of legalization was needed. Article 32 of the Nunavut land claims agreement also clearly states that the government has a duty to consult with Inuit on any policies that have significant social and cultural implications.

What Inuit organizations has the government consulted with relating to the legalization of cannabis?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question. I will seek to provide a response, and if I don’t have all of the answers he is seeking, I will inquire further.

I want to assure the senator and all honourable senators that the government is committed to working closely with indigenous partners, including Inuit partners, so the interests of the affected communities across Canada are considered and respected throughout the implementation of the proposed “Cannabis Act,” which is before the other place.

I will note that the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation undertook extensive consultations with indigenous peoples and organizations, including the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, as well as the Government of Nunavut.

Recently at the Ministers of Health meetings, the issue of cannabis was on the agenda, and the minister also had opportunity to meet with indigenous organizations.

Further, as the honourable senator will know, as part of the review of Bill C-45, senators will examine the role of indigenous communities in the process of implementation. I would encourage the honourable senator and all senators to engage with how we can best ensure that those voices are all heard in the process of review. I know that Senator Dean, as the sponsoring senator, has proposed some innovative ways in which the Senate could build on the experience on Bill C-14 to ensure a full and appropriate consultation with stakeholders.

Senator Patterson: Thank you.

Senator Harder, I am aware that the government has consulted with one Ottawa-based Inuit organization, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, but on October 26, 2017, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, the land claims implementation organization in Nunavut, passed a unanimous resolution. It asked the government to postpone the legalization, to consult with Inuit on whether to legalize, to state the timing and mitigation measures on potential negative impacts, and that treatment and rehabilitation centres for drug and alcohol addictions be established in Nunavut as part of any legalization plan.

My supplementary question is: Will the government consider engaging in meaningful consultation, as required under the constitutionally protected land claims agreement, with Nunavut Tunngavik, NTI, to address their concerns before the passage of the legislation?

Senator Harder: I will inquire with respect to NTI specifically, but I want to assure senators that the government will accept all of its obligations, as it should, with respect to the land claims agreements.

Legalization of Cannabis—Consultation with Inuit Communities

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Dennis Glen Patterson on November 23, 2017)

In 2016, the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation consulted with Indigenous organizations across Canada, including the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK).

In September, October and November 2017, Government officials met with ITK to: share information on the Government’s objectives; understand Inuit perspectives; and seek input on public education activities. ITK also participated at a Partnership Symposium on Cannabis Public Education and Awareness.

On November 21, the Nunatsiavut Government (NG), Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC), Makivik Corporation, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) and ITK were notified of public consultations on the proposed regulatory framework, and invited to information sessions. A meeting with ITK was held on November 22 to discuss Inuit engagement. Subsequent meetings included: National Inuit Committee on Health (January 17); National Inuit Youth Council (January 19); IRC (January 5), NG (January 12), and NTI (January 22).

On January 31, the Minister of Health met with the Hon. Pat Angnakak, Nunavut Minister of Health. Parliamentary Secretary Bill Blair met with Pauktuutit on February 5, and with NTI and Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern on February 1.

The Government will continue to engage with Inuit communities to provide information, discuss concerns, and work together in developing and delivering effective public education.