Wednesday, May 25, 1999
PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA FOR HEALTH AND MEDICAL PURPOSES
Mr. Maurice Dumas (Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion M-381, presented by my colleague from Rosemont,
which reads as follows:
That...the government should undertake all necessary steps to legalize the
use of marijuana for health and medical purposes.
As the Bloc Quebecois critic for seniors and seniors' organizations, I would like to congratulate the F d ration de l' ge d'or du Qu bec, the FADOQ, which has supported the application for the legalization of marijuana for health and medical purposes.
It has indicated its support by encouraging the Minister of Health to work expeditiously in this matter. The F d ration's decision was unanimous, that is 18 members of its 18 member board of directors espoused the cause, while noting that they did not encourage the use of drugs either natural or synthetic.
I should mention that the F d ration represents nearly 275,000 seniors in Quebec and that its outgoing president, Philippe Lapointe, a very lively 85-year old, is from my riding of Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel.
In addition, we note that seniors are speaking out more and more. They are defending their ideas and their rights. This year, 1999, has been declared the International Year of Older Persons, and this week is seniors' week. I would also like to mention that the fourth World Conference on Aging will be held at the Montreal Convention Centre from September 5 to 9, 1999.
I reiterate my request to the public at large, so we may obtain as many signatures as possible on the postcards the Bloc Quebecois sent out to make people aware of this issue. In fact, the Bloc Quebecois send out over 10,000 postcards, and the response has been positive.
People cannot be insensitive to the suffering of thousands of people in ill health. Many patients who might use this medication are currently forced to take many pills a day and are at risk of becoming sick to their stomach. In a 1997 CTV-Angus Reid poll of 1,500 adults, 83% of Quebeckers and Canadians were in favour of legalizing the use of marijuana for health purposes.
The National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation, the Canadian AIDS Society, the Canadian Hemophilia Society, the Coalition qu b coise des organismes communautaires de lutte contre le sida, and the dailies Le Soleil, Le Devoir, Le Droit, The Globe and Mail and The Ottawa Citizen all
support this initiative.
This is an issue of compassion. The chairwoman of the board of the Vancouver Compassion Club, an organization with a membership of over 700 individuals, also supported the motion. She signed the postcard sent to federal parliamentarians, asking them to support the motion to legalize the
use of marijuana for medical purposes. The club is a non-profit organization which has been providing safe and high quality marijuana since 1996 to seriously ill individuals.
I addressed this issue on December 9, 1997, before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. At the time, I asked the Deputy Minister of Health to provide clarifications on the use of marijuana for health purposes in the fight against AIDS, to alleviate the suffering of AIDS victims.
I raised this issue following representations made by Jean-Charles Pariseau, of Hull, who regained some strength after inhaling marijuana. Mr. Pariseau is a terminally ill AIDS patient. He uses marijuana to relieve nausea and stimulate his appetite. His attending physician, Dr. Donald
Kilby, from the University of Ottawa's health services, supported his representations.
Today, Jean-Paul Pariseau will be protesting in front of Parliament, here in Ottawa, and I want to salute him and reiterate my support for his cause.
Fortunately, there are some judges who are showing some compassion. The Ontario court has already found part of the Narcotics Act to be unconstitutional, particularly where the use of marijuana for health purposes is concerned. Another Ontario judge has recognized the right of a
Toronto man, Terry Parker, to grow and smoke marijuana for his own medical use.
It is hard to call upon judges to make a decision on a societal debate. It is unacceptable for a chronically ill person to be liable for six months in prison, in addition to a $1,000 fine, for using medication that may have been recommended to him by his physician.
As I said in my first speech in this House on the legalization of marijuana for health and medical purposes, there have been a number of changes in federal policy on drugs in Canada. The first federal legislative measure in this area, in fact, dates back to 1908 and was particularly aimed at those who smoked opium.
The Minister of Health needs to do more than mandate federal public servants to submit a plan including the holding of clinical trials. He seems incapable of setting any real and reasonable deadline.
In conclusion, I must again point out that this is a matter of compassion. I am proud that the Bloc Quebecois has raised this matter for the first time with Motion M-381 by my colleague from Rosemont, and I strongly encourage all hon. members to support this motion.