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Bill C-45 - Third Reading - Indigenous Youth

Honourable senators, it is well known that a high number of youths are already smoking marijuana in Canada, and that includes a high percentage of Indigenous youth. Why they choose to do so is an issue that has not been given priority and not been investigated.

In his book Handcuffed by History, Gordon Cruse interviews men who were in juvenile detention centres as youths, many of them for marijuana use. Mr. Cruse worked with these youths for over 40 years and interviewed them 20 years later to see what recommendations they would make.

Many of them became successful citizens, parents and mentors despite their history of crime, mostly because of support and resources like Mr. Cruse, and they were able to make different choices later in life.

However, many were hindered by the legacy of their unfortunate beginnings and it followed them through their lives. Many of these men recommended that other options be offered to youths, especially youths incarcerated for marijuana use. They recommended programs to provide alternative options to help youths realize the lessons that they needed to learn.

These men said placing youths in juvenile detention centres just taught them to become criminals, and I think we’ve all heard about the legacy of prison.

Choosing to do drugs remains a social issue that continues to be criminalized. Punishing a youth who has a young, expanding and growing mind like an adult doesn’t make sense. On many occasions, these children have fewer resources than other youths.

Ticketing is a pretense of dealing with the problem, which stems from disobedience on some occasions. On many more occasions, marijuana is used to temper anxiety.

Many of these youths and their families will not have the money to pay for the fines. Once a youth is forced into the criminal life, they begin the process of remand.

When I worked up North on the reserves, the people fly out to Thompson or to The Pas to go to court, they’re remanded and they fly back all at their expense. When it comes time for the next court case, at some point they do not have the money to fly out, and then they’re taken and put into prison. This will target Indigenous youth disproportionately. I also understand that provinces have implemented their own regimes; so I’m concerned about this ticketing. Thank you.

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