Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

Feds avert possible delay of marijuana bill

Promise more funding for Indigenous mental health and addiction treatment services, special help for businesses

The Trudeau government has averted a potential confrontation with Indigenous senators that could have delayed the legalization of recreational marijuana.

The 11 members of the Senate’s Aboriginal Peoples’ committee had planned to support a Conservative amendment that would have deferred implementing Bill C-45, pending a report on government efforts to address the concerns of Indigenous communities.

That could have been enough to ensure the amendment passed, given that other senators are also sympathetic to the concerns of some First Nations, who say they have not been properly consulted on the measure.

But just prior to the debate, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott sent a letter to the committee, promising a full report to Parliament in September and another within 12 months.

The ministers also promised more funding for Indigenous mental health and addiction treatment services, special help for Indigenous businesses to navigate the licensing process to grow marijuana and consultation on jurisdictional and revenue-sharing issues.

As a result, committee chair Lillian Dyck says Indigenous senators have achieved more than they’d hoped to do with the amendment from Conservative Sen. Dennis Patterson, who says he has decided — with “hesitation” — to abandon it.

The Canadian Press

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