Trudeau defends pot legalization in N.S. town hall

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to defend his government’s decision to legalize marijuana at a town hall in meeting in Lower Sackville, N.S. on Tuesday. 

A health-care worker wanted to know why, in light of evidence that cannabis is dangerous to developing minds, Trudeau was proceeding with legalization.

“This may surprise you, but I agree,” Trudeau said. “I agree that marijuana is problematic for the developing brain, that we need to keep it out of the hands of our young people.

“However it’s not working. Right now the current system we have means, and sorry to contradict you on this one, but there’s already marijuana in our high schools.”

The prime minister went on to say that there was no black market for beer because alcohol was legalized, regulated and the profits from the industry were not ending up in the hands of criminals.

Another question came from a serving member in the Royal Canadian Navy with ALS. He asked Trudeau why he, as a patient with ALS, was allowed to choose an assisted death, but not allowed to try experimental treatments that could prolong his life.

Trudeau said the process for approving drugs is one in which politicians are not involved because of the technical and scientific processes required to make sure drugs and treatments are safe for Canadians.

“I wish I could give you the kind of clear determined answer that I know you want, but I am not up on all the latest experimental treatments,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister offered some support, committing to have a conversation with Science Minister Kirsty Duncan and Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor  to make sure everything possible is being done for the sailor.

Questioned about Aga Khan

Trudeau was also asked about his recent rebuke by Mary Dawson, the parliamentary ethics commissioner, who found he violated some provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act when he vacationed on a private island owned by the Aga Khan.

“I am just curious about how you feel about being the first prime minister ever found guilty of a federal crime,” a young woman asked.

“If he is a longtime family friend of yours, since you’ve known since a kid, you’re probably not supposed to be giving money to his foundation. And if he is a lobbyist and you are giving money to his foundation then you probably shouldn’t be taking bribes from him,” she added.

Trudeau responded saying that his recent censure was evidence that “our system works” but then went on to call the Aga Khan “a longtime family friend” despite Dawson’s ruling that there was no evidence to support that claim.

“I fully accept that if I had to do it all again I would have worked with the commissioner from the outset, even though this was a friend, and we would have followed the recommendations that were given no matter what they were,” he said.

Trudeau’s Boyle meeting

Earlier in the day, Trudeau told a Halifax radio station that he followed the advice of his security and intelligence officials in agreeing to meet with former hostage Joshua Boyle and his family in the prime minister’s Parliament Hill office.

“We make sure that we follow all the advice that our security professionals and intelligence agencies give us and that’s exactly what we did in this case,” Trudeau told Halifax radio station 95.7 in an interview Tuesday ahead of a town hall in Sackville, N.S., Tuesday evening.

Boyle, his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and their three children were freed in October, five years after the couple was abducted while on a backpacking trip in Afghanistan; all three children were born while they were held in captivity.

Joshua Boyle’s family posted this photo with Trudeau on Twitter on Dec. 19, 2017. (@boylesvsworld/Twitter)

Less than two weeks after Boyle and his family met with Trudeau, Boyle was arrested and charged with more than a dozen criminal offences, including sexual assault, assault, administering a noxious substance, unlawful confinement and uttering threats. Some of the details of the charges are covered by a publication ban.

“We’ve been very, very active on consular cases. We’ve had a number of successes in bringing people who were stuck in difficult situations overseas home, bringing them to safety. The engagement that my office has directly with those cases led me to meet with a number of people who’ve been released,” Trudeau told the radio station.

Town hall tour

CBCnews.ca is carrying Trudeau’s Nova Scotia town hall live. It is the first of six scheduled public question-and-answer sessions he is holding across the country in January. 

The prime minister travels to Hamilton for a town hall Wednesday before holding another Thursday in London, Ont., where the federal cabinet is holding its winter retreat. Trudeau will then take a break before holding another town hall in Quebec City on Jan. 18.

Later in the month, Trudeau heads to Winnipeg and Edmonton. 

The Prime Minister’s Office said the questions being asked at the town halls have not been vetted by Trudeau’s staff. It added that, unlike last year’s tour, this time there will be simultaneous translation of questions and answers. 

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