Pubdate: Fri, 07 Jul 2017
Source: Cowichan Valley Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Cowichan Valley Citizen
Author: Alistair MacGregor
Page: A9


After a long session in Parliament working hard on legislative
affairs, we have finally hit summer weather where the real work
begins: reconnecting with constituents that sent me to Ottawa and
ensuring that all of your issues are well represented and defended in
the House of Commons.

I know that in your working and busy lives you cannot possibly follow
all the things that have happened in the spring parliamentary session,
so I appreciate this opportunity to give an update on some of the 

As the lead on the Justice and Attorney General file for the NDP, I
have been kept busy with a lot of legislation that ranges from
updating and improving our sexual assault laws to the legalization and
regulation of recreational cannabis.

We have been debating changes to the impaired driving laws and the
implementation of a cannabis regulatory system this past month. We
will start extended committee sittings in the early fall where we will
interview and question hundreds of experts about any amendments or
clarifications we can make to the legislation.

It is reprehensible that despite legalization becoming a reality, we
are still using valuable and over-stretched police and justice
resources to criminalize Canadians for simple possession of small
amounts of marijuana. This law is being unequally enforced across the
country, and it largely targets young and racialized Canadians.

There have been thousands of Canadians charged with simple possession
since the Liberals took over from the Harper government despite
promising to legalize the drug.

My NDP colleagues and I will continue to push the government to
immediately remove criminal penalties for simple possession and then
push for pardons for those who have been convicted in the past just
for having small amounts of cannabis in their possession.

I have not been shy to applaud the government when they get things
right, but I have been raising important questions on your behalf
about the coming changes.

The Liberals have been very secretive as to what they plan to do with
the three international anti-drug treaties that Canada is party to,
which obligate us to keep cannabis illegal. The government had until
July 1 of this year to withdraw from these treaties in order to
successfully legalize cannabis by July 1, 2018 without sullying our
international reputation.

I believe that we should not speak out of both sides of our mouth when
dealing with the international community. We should not promise to
keep something illegal while moving legalization in the light of day.
We should be honest about our intentions because if we are willing to
mislead the international community on this, questions may be raised
on what other issues Canada can be trusted on.

When it comes to the changes to the impaired driving laws, there are
many questions that remain unanswered. We do not yet know how much
cannabis needs to be in the body for a person to be too impaired to
drive, and we are unsure if the devices that test cannabis levels can
work in cold temperatures.

The last thing we want to be doing is arresting and charging drivers
who are not impaired because they have cannabis residue in their
system from the previous week, an issue the government must confront
if they are planning on legalizing the recreational use of the drug.

There are also issues with the proposed changes that would give police
the power to test any person in their car for alcohol consumption
without any reasonable suspicion that they are impaired. In our study
at committee, I will be asking civil rights experts about the possible
Charter of Rights and Freedoms implications of such a change.

This has been a busy session of parliament and the future only shows
more hard work on your behalf.

I will be out across the riding all summer long, so please come and
share your thoughts with me either at my offices in Duncan and
Langford or any time you see me out at a community event.

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Alistair MacGregor is the Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan.
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