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e-2824 (Social affairs and equality)

E-petition
Initiated by Jessica Brown from Vancouver, British Columbia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:
  • RCMP planned gross spending for 2019-20 is $5.1 billion with 0.5% forecasted increase for FTEs to support cannabis policing;
  • Up to $274 million was announced for law enforcement regarding cannabis legalization, $113 million of which was budgeted between the RCMP, Canada Border Service Agency, and Public Safety Canada over five years;
  • Canadian governments earned $186 million from excise taxes and general taxes on goods and services directly related to the sale of cannabis within 5.5 months of legalization;
  • Excise tax revenues are estimated at $66 million in fiscal year 2019-20;
  • BIPOC communities face disproportionate discrimination and criminalization for cannabis-related activities;
  • In Toronto, from 2007-2017, 25% of those arrested for simple cannabis possession were Black, despite Toronto’s Black population only being 8.4%, and equivalent usage rates among whites;
  • Indigenous people account for 30% of Canada’s inmates while comprising only 3.8% of the population;
  • Policing, judicial, and correctional systems are failing BIPOC in Canada; and
  • BIPOC communities face disproportionate barriers to entering the legal cannabis industry related to federal/provincial licensing.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada and cannabis industry stakeholders, call upon the Government of Canada to reallocate the total revenues from the cannabis excise tax, and corresponding amount from previously promised law enforcement funding, to develop a department for the equality of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour. This department would oversee and allocate funding for community initiatives including:
- harm reduction andeducation programs;
- PTSD treatment programs;
- community revitalization programs; and
- the creation of a business development program with the express mandate of creating and funding opportunities for BIPOC in the regulated cannabis sector.

Response by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): JOËL LIGHTBOUND, M.P.

The Government of Canada is committed to fostering a robust and equitable legal cannabis market and to taking steps to address the systemic discrimination and disproportionate representation of Indigenous peoples, as well as Black Canadians and members of marginalized communities as offenders and victims in the criminal justice system. 

Canada’s cannabis taxation framework includes Coordinated Cannabis Taxation Agreements (CCTAs) between the federal government and its provincial/territorial counterparts. The CCTAs include a commitment from the federal government to keep only 25% of cannabis taxation revenues, with the remaining 75% apportioned to provinces and territories.

Our government delivered on our promise to work towards removing the stigma of a criminal record for people who have shown themselves to be law-abiding citizens. We know that a criminal record for the simple possession of cannabis created barriers to accessing employment, housing and education. That is why we passed legislation in the last Parliament to waive pardon wait times and application fees for those convicted of simple possession of cannabis.

 

Cannabis enforcement and policing reforms

Combatting organized crime has been a longstanding priority for Canada’s national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The RCMP contributes to the implementation of the Cannabis Act by working collaboratively with law enforcement agencies across the country and internationally and focusing its resources and activities against the most significant criminal threats and risks facing Canadians.

The Government of Canada remains firm that there is no place for racism or bias of any kind within police services in Canada. Among other commitments in the Speech from the Throne, the government committed to moving forward on enhanced civilian oversight of our law enforcement agencies, including the RCMP, modernizing training for police and law enforcement, and moving forward on RCMP reforms, with a shift toward community-led policing.

The Government of Canada is committed to working with provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous leaders to respond to real concerns about systemic racism and discrimination in how policing is delivered today. Budget 2021 includes $75 million over five years, starting in 2021-22, and $13.5 million ongoing, to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to take action to combat systemic racism through: reforming recruitment and training processes; the collection, analysis, and reporting of race-based data; more rapidly evaluating the impact of policing activities on certain communities; and improving community engagement and consultation with Black, Indigenous, and racialized communities.

 

Criminal justice reforms

The Government of Canada recognizes that the Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) community has been disproportionately overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Existing sentencing policies, including mandatory minimum penalties (MMPs), which have focused on punishment through imprisonment, have disproportionately affected and over incarcerated members of BIPOC community.

In February 2021, the Government introduced Bill C-22, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to reform sentencing measures for certain offences, including by repealing some of the mandatory minimum penalties (MMPs) of imprisonment that contribute to higher rates of imprisonment and disproportionately affect Indigenous peoples and Black Canadians. This would include all six offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

These legislative measures complement a number of new investments included in the recent Fall Economic Statement and Budget 2021. This includes funding for community organizations and programs that support at-risk youth, provide alternatives to criminal charges where appropriate, and help address inequities faced by Indigenous peoples, Black Canadians and other racialized individuals in the justice system. These investments will notably support Community Justice Centres, Gladue reporting (which take into account the unique historical circumstances of Indigenous offenders in sentencing and decision-making), Impact of Race and Culture Assessments (which take into account the unique conditions of Black Canadians in sentencing and decision making) and Drug Treatment Courts.

The Government of Canada also recognizes that the BIPOC community is disproportionately impacted by the serious barriers created by a criminal record. Upon release from prison, a criminal record may prevent a former offender from accessing employment, housing and education programs, thereby limiting reintegration into society. These barriers have long been exacerbated by changes made to the Criminal Records Act (CRA) in 2010 and 2012 by the Conservative government of the day which made it more difficult to obtain a pardon by limiting eligibility criteria and increasing the application fee from $50 to $631.

To address this situation, the Government of Canada committed $88.2M over five years in Budget 2021 and $13M ongoing to the Parole Board of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Public Safety Canada. This new funding is intended to reduce application fees, create an online application portal, and support community organizations that will help people navigate the pardon application process. This is expected to have a significant impact on the BIPOC community which has consistently been overrepresented in the criminal justice system by improving access to employment, education and housing.

The Government of Canada is also working to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous offenders in the criminal justice system through a federal-provincial/territorial Aboriginal Working Group. In June 2018, the Working Group was tasked with developing recommendations to form the basis of a Pan-Canadian Strategy to Address the Overrepresentation of Indigenous People in the Criminal Justice System. The Government of Canada is working with its partners to explore some of the key recommendations in relation to crime prevention through Indigenous policing and culturally appropriate programs and services, as well as support for restorative and Indigenous justice approaches, reintegration, and programs to address structural barriers.

Through 2017 Budget, Public Safety Canada allocated $10M over five years to implement the Indigenous Community Corrections Initiative (ICCI) which supports Indigenous communities in responding to corrections and community safety issues in a holistic and culturally relevant manner. The objectives of the ICCI are to support the development of alternatives to custody and/or reintegration projects for Indigenous offenders.

Budget 2021 also includes a number of other funding proposals to address inequities in the criminal justice system, including:

  • $6.7M over five years starting in 2021-22, and $1.4M ongoing, to Justice Canada and Statistics Canada to improve the collection and use of disaggregated data. This is part of ongoing efforts to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples and racialized groups in the justice system.
  • $861 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, and $145 million ongoing, to support culturally responsive policing and community safety services in Indigenous communities. This includes:
  • $43.7 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, to co-develop a legislative framework for First Nations policing that recognizes First Nations policing as an essential service.
  • $540.3 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, and $126.8 million ongoing, to support Indigenous communities currently served under the First Nations Policing Program and expand the program to new Indigenous communities.
  • $64.6 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, and $18.1 million ongoing, to enhance Indigenous-led crime prevention strategies and community safety services.
  • $103.8 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, for a new Pathways to Safe Indigenous Communities Initiative to support Indigenous communities to develop more holistic community-based safety and wellness models.
  • $27.1 million to Justice Canada to help Indigenous families navigate the family justice system and access community-based family mediation services.
  • $24.2 million to Justice Canada to support engagement with Indigenous communities and organizations on the development of legislation and initiatives that address systemic barriers in the criminal justice system, including collaboration on an Indigenous justice strategy.

 

The Government of Canada continues to strive to build prosperous, safe, healthy and equitable communities across the country and to ensuring a society free of racism and discrimination for vulnerable communities.

 

Response by the Minister of Health

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Jennifer O'Connell

The Government of Canada is committed to the fight against racism and systemic racial discrimination and recognizes that racism is pervasive and a lived reality for many racialized communities in this country, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC).

This Government has put in place a new control framework for cannabis to protect the public health and safety of Canadians, including by keeping it out of the hands of youth and profits out of the hands of criminal entities, such as organized crime.

Canada’s cannabis taxation framework includes Coordinated Cannabis Taxation Agreements (CCTAs) between the federal government and its provincial/territorial counterparts. The CCTAs include a commitment from the federal government to keep only 25% of cannabis taxation revenues, with the remaining 75% apportioned to provinces and territories.

The Public Accounts for 2020 include federal-only cannabis excise duty revenues under the coordinated cannabis taxation framework of $52.0 million. These revenues were $18.3 million for 2019. Neither of these amounts include the revenues collected and distributed to provincial/territorial partners in the coordinated regime (e.g., the 75% of revenues).

All federal revenues, including those from taxation, are deposited in the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF). Funds from the CRF are used for the disbursement of all Government of Canada expenditures, investments, and transfers. The Government of Canada does not in actual practice earmark any of its revenues, including those from taxation, for disbursement towards specific activities or initiatives.

While revenues from the Cannabis Excise taxes cannot be reallocated, the Government of Canada is committed to supporting BIPOC communities. In addition to striving to build prosperous, safe, healthy and equitable communities across the country, and to ensuring a society free of racism and discrimination for vulnerable communities, the Government strives to support initiatives, including harm reduction and public education programs, treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), community revitalization programs, and the development of businesses.

Harm reduction and prevention efforts, such as public education and awareness initiatives, are a fundamental component of the Government’s public health approach to reducing the harms associated with cannabis, especially for youth. Budget 2018 dedicated a total of $62.5M over 5 years (beginning in 2018-19) to public education and outreach efforts for cannabis through the Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP). Public education and awareness efforts funded under SUAP specifically target vulnerable populations, including youth and young adults, women, seniors, individuals with a family history of living with addiction and mental health issues, and Indigenous communities. Through SUAP’s micro-grants funding program, cannabis public education materials were translated into multiple languages (English, French, Armenian, Gujarati, Korean, and Spanish) with a possible reach of over 9,500 Canadians.

Health Canada’s SUAP provides grants and contributions funding to other levels of government, community-led and not-for-profit organizations and, in some cases, individuals, to respond to drug and substance use issues in Canada. This funding supports a wide range of evidence-informed and innovative problematic substance use prevention, harm reduction and treatment initiatives across Canada at the community, regional and national levels. Indigenous governments, organizations and communities have unique needs for culturally appropriate interventions. SUAP funding to Indigenous organizations, including national, regional and community-based groups, supports the development and delivery of approaches that are tailored to the distinct needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and strengthens the capacity of Indigenous organizations to lead and sustain interventions within their broader health promotion and wellness, prevention, and harm reduction initiatives.

SUAP has provided over $19.M in funding to 23 Indigenous-led organizations to support Indigenous-led and culturally appropriate public education and harm reduction projects related to substance use. The following two Indigenous led projects are examples of how harm reduction and education is being supported:

  • SUAP provides $684,483 to The Métis Nation of Ontario for their Cannabis Preparedness Initiative project, which promotes positive behaviours in relation to cannabis use among Métis communities, families and individuals. The project reaches 33 health delivery sites across Ontario offering cannabis prevention, education and awareness through education workshops and culturally specific resource materials.
  • SUAP also provides $978,493 to First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba (Nanaandawegimig) for their Toward a First Nation Strategy For Action on the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Manitoba project, which is developing community-driven, culturally and linguistically appropriate resources on cannabis that integrate evidence-informed Western scientific information with local Indigenous understandings. Resources will be distributed to 63 First Nation communities in Manitoba.

The Government of Canada also remains committed to supporting BIPOC communities through mental health resources and PTSD treatment programs and to working with stakeholders, provinces and territories to set national standards for access to mental health services.

Budget 2021 directly supports PTSD treatment programs by proposing an investment of $50 million over two years, starting in 2021-22, to support a trauma and PTSD stream of mental health programming for populations at high risk of experiencing COVID-19 trauma (including those exposed to various trauma brought about by COVID-19).

Additionally, Budget 2021 continues to fund Wellness Together Canada, a free and confidential online mental health resource aimed at improving access to mental health resources. To date, the Government of Canada has invested $68 million in the service, with an additional $62 million through Budget 2021. Launched in April 2020, Wellness Together Canada provides 24/7 support to individuals across Canada in both official languages, ranging from self-assessment, self-guided programming, and peer support, to confidential sessions with social workers, psychologists and other professionals. Simultaneous interpretation in 200 languages and dialects for phone counselling sessions is available, and the portal supports populations with barriers to care, including those in isolation or remote areas, facing stigma or financial difficulties, and official language minority communities.

Other funding that the Government of Canada has committed to support BIPOC communities and mental health include:

  • $100 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to support projects for innovative mental health interventions for populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including health care workers, front-line workers, youth, seniors, Indigenous people, and racialized and Black Canadians;
  • $45 million over two years, starting in 2021-22, to help develop national mental health service standards in collaboration with provinces and territories, health organizations, and key stakeholders, so that Canadians can access timely care, treatment, and support;
  • $500 million through the Safe Restart Agreement in July 2020, to provinces and territories for immediate mental health and substance use service needs, including strengthening the service infrastructure (workforce, targeted programs) to manage post-pandemic demands that have been exacerbated due to the pandemic by providing wrap-around care, harm reduction and evidence-based treatment services and programs; and,
  • $10 million for the Promoting Health Equity: Mental Health of Black Canadians Initiative, to support community-based projects across Canada.

These initiatives, taken collectively, provide a comprehensive response to mental health concerns, lay the groundwork for longer-term improvements to the health system, and increase access to mental health resources and supports so that Canadians can get the help they need, when they need it.

In addition to increased supports for mental health, the Government of Canada is committed to supporting community revitalization, especially now, as communities strive to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, through Budget 2021, the Government of Canada has announced a $500 million investment over two fiscal years (2021-22 to 2022-23) through the Canada Community Revitalization Fund. This Fund will provide support to adapt and improve community infrastructure, enhancing community vitality and social and economic cohesion and helping to bring Canadians back to these shared spaces. Through this Fund, the Government of Canada’s six Regional Development Agencies will address the asymmetrical impacts of COVID-19 across all of Canada’s regions, targeting support to both rural/remote/smaller communities and urban communities. The Fund will engage with underrepresented groups such that the breadth and depth of voices that make up the communities are included and support the building of strong and inclusive communities.

Support for BIPOC communities extends as well through the Government of Canada’s commitment to creating and funding economic opportunities.

Budget 2021 proposes additional initiatives that encourage business development opportunities in BIPOC communities, including initiatives for Black Canadians, which include:

  • $200M in 2021-22 to Employment and Social Development Canada to establish a Black-led Philanthropic Endowment Fund that would create a sustainable source of funding, including for Black youth and social purpose organizations, and help combat anti-Black racism and improve social and economic outcomes in Black communities; and,
  • $100M in 2021-22 to the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative at Employment and Social Development Canada.

Economic development funding for a range of sectors is also available for Indigenous communities and businesses through various federal programs. First Nation and Inuit communities interested in licensed cannabis production or retail can apply to the Community Opportunities Readiness Program at Indigenous Services Canada. The program provides project-based funding for various activities to support communities to pursue economic opportunities.

The Government of Canada is committed to a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. Throughout the process of legalizing and regulating cannabis, Health Canada has been working closely with Indigenous leaders, organizations and communities across the country to help ensure that the specific interests of Indigenous peoples, as they relate to cannabis, are carefully considered. The Department continues to work with interested Indigenous communities and organizations to advance shared objectives such as protecting public health and public safety, supporting Indigenous communities and citizens in meeting their diverse objectives, and working toward mutually beneficial arrangements.

The Government of Canada has publicly committed to creating a diverse market of large and small cultivators and processors in the cannabis market, and reducing barriers to participation. It has taken action by, for example, creating micro licences and additional supports, such as the Indigenous Navigator Service that supports self-identified Indigenous affiliated applicants who are interested in obtaining a federal licence to cultivate or process cannabis under the Cannabis Act. Through the service a licensing professional, dedicated to working with Indigenous applicants, can help and guide these applicants through the licensing application process, which may reduce the time it takes to review the application or the need to hire third party consultants.

As of April 30, 2021, there are 32 Indigenous-owned or affiliated businesses which have received a federal licence to cultivate or process cannabis, four of which are located on reserve. Another 37 Indigenous-affiliated businesses hold licences to cultivate industrial hemp. To date, there are 63 self-identified Indigenous-affiliated applicants, including 14 located on reserve, currently at different stages of the federal licensing process. Their applications cover a range of activities, including standard cultivation and/or standard processing, micro cultivation and/or micro processing, nursery, and medical sales without possession.

Additionally, distribution and retail systems, which vary across provinces and territories, can also provide business opportunities in the legal cannabis industry. Some provinces, such as British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have included provisions in their cannabis legislation that enable the negotiation of agreements with Indigenous communities with respect to retail sales. Several jurisdictions have authorized Indigenous owned businesses to sell cannabis, and have authorized retail stores in First Nation communities. It is recommended to contact respective provincial and territorial regulatory bodies for more information on authorized retails stores in their jurisdiction.

Open for signature
September 15, 2020, at 3:13 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
January 13, 2021, at 3:13 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Matthew Green (Hamilton Centre)
April 21, 2021 (Petition No. 432-00851)
Government response tabled
June 4, 2021
Photo - Matthew Green
Hamilton Centre
New Democratic Party Caucus
Ontario
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