Pubdate: Tue, 10 May 2016
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Page: A4
Copyright: 2016 The Toronto Star
Author: Michael MacDonald


Former PM Says He Has Tried To Keep Pace With Changing Attitudes On
Big Social Issues

HALIFAX- Jean Chretien says politicians have to adjust to changing
times, as his own views on marijuana, capital punishment and other
contentious issues evolved after he was first elected in the early

Whether it's pot smoking, abortion, gay marriage or the death penalty,
the former prime minister says he's tried to reflect the spirit of the
times - even if his changing politics put him in conflict with his
conservative upbringing in a large Roman Catholic family in rural Quebec.

"What were certain values 50 years ago, are not the same today. We
have to live with that. It's not always easy," he said. When asked
Monday about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's decision to legalize the
sale of marijuana, Chretien said he is in favour of

"What is completely unacceptable, in my judgment, is a young man
smoking marijuana will have a criminal record for the rest of his
life, (and) he can't cross the border - come on," Chretien said after
a ceremony marking the official opening of a public policy think-tank
at Dalhousie University in Halifax, named in honour of former Liberal
cabinet minister Allan MacEachen, who is now in his 90s.

"It is the modern thing to do . . . You have to adjust to the new

When Chretien was prime minister, his government tried in 2003 to pass
a law decriminalizing simple possession of small amounts of marijuana,
but the bill died when Parliament was prorogued.

Earlier this year, Liberal MP Bill Blair, a former Toronto police
chief, said Criminal Code provisions on marijuana must be upheld until
legalization is in place.

Chretien, 82, said he has never smoked cigarettes and he's never tried

"I don't know what it is and I never tasted that," he said. "I don't
know what is the effect."

First elected to the House of Commons in 1963, Chretien said his
constituents in Shawinigan, Que., gave him a hard time when he voted
against capital punishment.

"People thought I was wrong," he said, adding that he faced more
opposition from locals after a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling
that decriminalized abortion in 1988.

"I'm a Roman Catholic from a large family. To vote in favour of
letting ladies decide what to do with their own bodies - it was not
easy for me . . . (But) I did that."

And in 2003, Chretien's majority government announced that it would
not appeal court rulings supporting same-sex marriage, setting the
stage for legislation that would later recognize the validity of such
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