Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut May 02, 2018 - 10:29 am

Senate committee wants pot bill delayed to meet Indigenous concerns

Inuit, other Indigenous groups want more consultations, addictions treatment in place first

A Senate committee says Ottawa should delay the implementation of its Cannabis Act for up to a year to allow more consultation with Inuit and other Indigenous groups. (PHOTO BY BRIAN SHAMBLEN/FLICKR CC-BY 2.0)
A Senate committee says Ottawa should delay the implementation of its Cannabis Act for up to a year to allow more consultation with Inuit and other Indigenous groups. (PHOTO BY BRIAN SHAMBLEN/FLICKR CC-BY 2.0)

A Senate committee has recommended the federal government delay the implementation of the Cannabis Act to allow more consultation with Indigenous groups.

If passed, Bill C-45 would legalize the sale and possession of recreational marijuana with a proposed implementation date of July 1, 2018.

But before that happens, a number of Inuit and other Indigenous groups say the government must first help put in place culturally appropriate mental health and addictions services.

Indigenous groups also say they want to be prepared to take part in the economic opportunities that could come with legal cannabis sales.

All of this is outlined in a new report from the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, which studied the bill earlier this year.

Inuit elders from Nunavut told the Senate committee the territory lacks an addictions treatment centre and any substantial traditional knowledge-based prevention services.

“There are many people committing suicide because of alcohol and cannabis,” Isaac Shooyook, the Arctic Bay elder and former Quttiktuq MLA, told the committee.

“This is unacceptable. We do not want any more problems being placed in front of us, things we cannot deal with.”

Witnesses told the committee that Inuit youth—and Indigenous youth in general—are disproportionately affected by mental health and substance use issues, in many cases due to intergenerational trauma, poverty and the lack of culturally relevant support services.

The president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Aluki Kotierk, told the committee that Indigenous Services Canada has shown a willingness to fund a feasibility study for a Nunavut-based addictions treatment centre, though in the best-case scenario, the project has a five-year timeline.

Even with a centre in place, Kotierk said Nunavut Inuit have not had enough time to make meaningful decisions about how the territory wants cannabis regulated.

She told the committee the consultations have been “inadequate” and said they’ve failed to offer Inuit a chance to take part in “the design of social and cultural programs and services” as set out in Article 32 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson has already voiced his concerns with the federal legislation, saying it sends a signal to youth that it’s OK to use marijuana.

Under Bill C-45, youth between the ages of 12 and 17 caught with five grams or less of marijuana do not receive criminal charges.

Reporting on his own tour and consultation of Nunavut communities earlier this year, Patterson told the committee: “Whether they professed to be for or against the bill, [every community] took exception with the clause in the bill that would reduce possession of five grams or less by a youth older than 12 and younger than 18 to a ticketable offence.”

To that end, the Senate committee recommended the federal government delay the implementation of Bill C-45 for up to a year so it can respond to those concerns.

The committee also recommended that the federal government reserve at least 20 per cent of all cannabis production licences for Indigenous-governed jurisdictions.

Despite the committee’s concerns, when the Government of Nunavut polled the territory last fall, three-quarters of respondents said they supported Bill C-45 and the legalization of small amounts of cannabis.

One-quarter of Nunavut residents aged 12 and up already report using marijuana at least once a week over the previous year, according to Statistics Canada’s 2014-16 Canadian Community Health Survey.

One in 10 reported using it every day.

With marijuana use already high across the territory, the GN has said that legalization is one way to help reduce harm.

Under the Nunavut government’s proposal, the minimum age for possessing and consuming cannabis would be 19.

Under federal rules, that age must at least be 18. Federal rules would allow those under 18 to carry up to five grams without facing criminal charges.

The GN has yet to say if the territory’s rules would be stricter.

You can read the Senate committee’s full report here.


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(23) Comments:

#1. Posted by trauma not substance on May 02, 2018

With all due respect Mr. Shooyook, you’re wrong. People aren’t committing suicide because of alcohol and/or cannabis, they’re committing suicide because of trauma. I know you’re concerned for your community, but you’re being used by Conservative senators to advance their agenda.

This conservative mimdset that cannabis is inherently bad is narrow minded. When used in a controlled environment, cannabis can be used to treat mental disorders rather than exacerbate them. But a warning to those reading this: this isn’t something that can be done alone or with the help of a shady pot dealer. You need to talk to a doctor about this. If you smoke pot and it makes you feel sad/anxious/violent/etc stop smoking what you’ve purchased blindly and seek the advice of a professional. There are specific strains of cannabis that can help you deal with your disorders in a dignified way. What you buy on the street is loaded with THC and can be harmful for certain people.

#2. Posted by partisanship on May 02, 2018

This is the problem with having a partisan Senate with members having unlimited terms. Senator Patterson is now pushing this narrative, that coincidentally meshes well with his party’s anti-drug platform, that Nunavut is adamantly against legalized cannabis. He did this by doing a Nunavut tour knowing full well who would show up.

Mr. Patterson: the GN released a survey in which 75% of respondents sai they were in favour of legalization. If you represent us, why do you continue to ignore this? Since we’re stuck with you (even though you said you’d retire after serving 8 years), please start serving Nunavummiut instead of your party’s agenda.

#3. Posted by Top pot on May 02, 2018

“There are many people committing suicide because of alcohol and cannabis,” Isaac Shooyook, the Arctic Bay elder and former Quttiktuq MLA, told the committee.
Ahh, I don’t think he has a grasp on what is causing suicide. Alcohol and pot are effects of the problems not the cause and the causes are many and complex.

#4. Posted by Study This on May 02, 2018

Discussion about a 5-year “feasibility study” for an addictions treatment centre in Nunavut?  There’s tons of problems with addictions in Nunavut.  There are no territorial facilities.  There- I just saved you 5 years and millions of taxpayer dollars.

#5. Posted by Former Insider on May 02, 2018

Shooyook, same guy who said in the Assembly that abused women shouldn’t be allowed to leave their communities and should instead be forced to take counseling from the parents of their abusers.

yuhh, I’m in a rush to take social policy advice from that guy!

#6. Posted by Election Mandate on May 02, 2018

ctrl-F “Patterson”

... of course.

Here we go again with an unelected Harper-appointed conservative dictating his morals onto an electorate that voted overwhelmingly in favor of asap legalization.

You are an embarrassment, Senator.

#7. Posted by High Cost of :Living on May 02, 2018

High unemployment
High cost of living
High cost of everything

All are add to stress and despair

Regulate, take control of the drug, right now its unregulated and available everywhere and anywhere. Delaying it rejecting it will not make it go away.

#8. Posted by Sighing man on May 02, 2018

Remember Tory MP Peter (talking head) Kent recently equating pot with fentanyl. Just the sort of informed, responsible, deep thought we would expect from the Harper Party. Let’s hope his sorry Senate appointees are more enlightened than Peter the Knob Kent.

#9. Posted by Knowledge is Power on May 02, 2018

I cannot believe that this discussion is happening without real numbers.  Numbers and percentage of pot smokers by age.  Number of $$$. per annum spend on 1) marijuanna and 2) alcohol.  How many traffikers and bootleggers are in the business.

These and other areas should have number crunchers from both camps.  There is so much more to know. 

What percentage of dope users, use pot as a medical alternative.  Are they any doctors who can prescribe medical MJ.  What percentage of prisoners are in the slammers based on illegal drugs.  Being mindful that illegal drugs are as numerous as chocolate bars.

#10. Posted by Piitaqanngi on May 02, 2018

As if Nunavut Indigenous Groups are planning to reap the economic rewards. It seems they just want to delay the legalization at all costs.

This pot bill stinks. It only applies to medical users. How about us recreational users? The pot we see now that were ordered online takes care of all of our physical ailments but that’s it. Most of us buy weed to get high, not for some medical purpose.

It’s like trying to get high on non-alcoholic beer. We’d think that dope will get cheaper but we’ll have to spend exorbitant amount to get a buzz. Sigh!

#11. Posted by The Old Trapper on May 02, 2018

Mr. Shooyook I would argue that the ability for young adults to smoke pot is actually reducing the suicide rate. At the very least it relieves the pain that some of the youth are feeling, if only for a short period of time.

Do I understand that NTI is saying a treatment centre is at least 5 years away. So the rest of Canada just waits while the GN and NTI get their you know what together.

And Mr. Patterson, with all due respect to you, on this issue I sincerely doubt that you could find your rear end even if you use both hands. Please do the citizens of Nunavut and Canada a favour and resign now. Today would be just fine.

#12. Posted by The Old Trapper on May 02, 2018

Just to add one final point Dennis (per my suggestion I have assumed that you have now resigned so Senator would no longer apply), exactly how many people do you plan to jail in the next year for “possession” of cannabis? How many for growing a pot plant at home? How many for selling pot, or the more serious offence of trafficking?

How many lives do you and your Conservative colleagues plan to ruin before you think you have done enough to prevent this scourge?

Enough B.S. Dennis.

#13. Posted by The Old Trapper on May 02, 2018



Yes Mr. Patterson it’s true and there is F-all that you and your stick your head in the sands Conservative colleagues are going to do to change that fact. Your solution - Lock them up! Your sound increasingly like that idiot our neighbours to the south put in the White House. Granted their choices weren’t great, a war mongering witch, a narcissistic idiot millionaire, or a pot head.

Just shows that if you have the choice, go with the pothead, at least they will do the least harm to society.

#14. Posted by The Old Trapper on May 02, 2018

#10 Piitanqanngi, the pending legislation is for recreational cannabis but I assume that many people who need it for medical reasons just have not gone through the hassle of trying to get their medical use status. It is rumoured that there are a number of mail order marijuana (MOM) companies that will distribute medicine to individuals. It is also rumoured that Reddit is a good source for information.

An interesting fact is that the medical marijuana dispensaries currently use Canada Post for most of their shipping. And it is illegal for the RCMP to interfere with the federal mail.

Just saying that if “Dennis the Menace” gets his way there are still alternatives to get your medicine.

#15. Posted by The Old Trapper on May 02, 2018

Waiting for all the people who support “Dennis the Menace” and his position to show up and debate this issue.

Don’t get me wrong, Nunavut desperately needs treatment centres. Note the plural. At a minimum one located in each region. If we took the salary and expenses that we pay to “Dennis the Menace”, get the GN and NTI to kick-in what they should, and if everyone treated this as the emergency that it is then there could be treatment centres up and running by the end of the month. Yes this month.

Don’t tell me that it can’t be done, just go and do it. It is that important, and it is your job to figure out how.

#16. Posted by Local Nunavut citizen on May 02, 2018

Some people need hi 5 in their faces, people need legalization here in Nunavut very badly. For it could lower the prices, people talking about this is insane… word on the street is legalize it big time, this is not south, this is north. 1 gram of weed cost $50, with legalization the price is way lower and the tax can be use. It’s a win win for legalization, youth to elders smoke. People will smoke that one way or another.

#17. Posted by Spelling on May 02, 2018

Senate committee wants Kinder Morgan pipeline delayed to meet Indigenous concerns

There, I fixed the spelling for you, Dennis.

#18. Posted by Let's Make a No Big Deal on May 02, 2018

Apparently pot is a non-issue, so why is it we need a treatment centre exactly?

To treat our chronic denial maybe?

#19. Posted by Tooma on May 03, 2018

marijuana isn’t even apart of Inuit culture.  I really don’t care about it.

#20. Posted by Optics are everything on May 03, 2018

Nunavut is so dysfunctional a treatment center will effectively be a panacea for the political class.  Don’t expect much else.

Also, who is going to staff it, NAC grads? Yea… now you know why this isn’t being built.

Funny that the senate has taken such a sudden and profound interest in indigenous issues. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

#17 - You nailed it down hard.

#21. Posted by The Old Trapper on May 03, 2018

A treatment centre is a real vital need, see my point #15. You have alcohol abuse, substance abuse (solvents, pills, hard drugs), domestic violence, gambling and smoking addictions, and a multitude of mental health problems.

I don’t deny that some people, especially teens and younger may have problems with cannabis, and it should be kept away from them. If however they do use it, they should not be fined or locked up. Get them help.

Twenty years from now we will probably be thanking Justin Trudeau and his government making this medication available to all adults.

“Dennis the Menace” you have watched that “reefer madness” clip at least one time too many. You might want to read up on the history of cannabis and why marijuana was classified as a Schedule 1 drug in the first place - U.S. xenophobia strikes again. We are better than that.

Pass the legislation now!

#22. Posted by oh too bad Senator... on May 03, 2018

Here’s some news for you Patterson.

#23. Posted by Jimmy Olsen on May 04, 2018

Old Trapper,
The legality of the RCMP interfering with the federal mail is an open question. I refer you to past N.N. articles reporting on drug seizures in Nunavut with the assistance of Canada Post agents.
My understanding is that in the nineties, the Post Master General declined RCMP requests to inspect the mail on the basis that once we purchase and affix the stamps to the mail we enter into a contract with the Post Corp. to expedite and protect our parcels from interference.
This C.P. position seems to have changed under Harper as did rules allowing warrantless searches and seizures at airports, schools, bus stations and in roadside stops.

The ex head of the OPP and the Metro Toronto Police forces (Julian Fantino) started a pot dispensary firm (Aleafia Inc.) with Harper’s RCMP Deputy Commissioner, Raf Souccar (who also served on Harper’s Marijuana Task Force), the drug cops probably want to protect their retirement investment portfolios.

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