Pot pardons maybe, but at the right time
Much of the criticism levelled at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his privileged background is legitimate, at least as it relates to his ability to understand everyday Canadians who don’t enjoy the same privilege.
But some amounts to partisan silliness. Opposition party charges of hypocrisy around Trudeau’s involvement with marijuana fall into the latter category.
Let’s consider what he’s being condemned for last week. He has been found guilty, apparently by association, because his father once used his legal connections to help his late brother, Michel, avoid marijuana possession charges. What his father actually did is reach out to contacts at a legal clinic in efforts to get a good lawyer. It’s not clear that he abused his position as a retired prime minister.
It’s also fair to note there are thousands of Canadian fathers who have done the same thing, or would have if they could. And in any case, it’s low even by partisan standards to suggest the son somehow bears the burden of the father’s sins, real or imagined. Imagine if that vengeful principle was applied to all Canadian families.
NDP leader Tom Mulcair says Trudeau is a hypocrite because he admitted smoking pot while serving as an elected MP. And because he didn’t get caught, he hasn’t the right to say: “The law is the law and you will be prosecuted if you smoke marijuana” (Mulcair’s words, not Trudeau’s). That’s just silly. So all of us who didn’t get caught should insist that all others who did should have their slate cleaned?
Much of this is in response to two aspects of the marijuana story. One, the NDP has long wanted the government to decriminalize pot before it is legalized. The suggestion has some merit, but the reality is that the vast majority of recent simple possession charges are resulting in fines with no criminal record attached, so the case for decriminalization isn’t as strong as it once was. Two, some opposition politicians want a broad-based pardon issued so that people convicted of simple possession in the past would have their records expunged. This idea has merit from a fairness perspective. But the timing is all wrong, which makes the NDP’s partisan thunder empty.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has said blanket pardons are “not on the agenda at the moment.” They shouldn’t be. You don’t blow up old laws until new ones are in place, and they are not, yet. The Prime Minister’s Office has said Trudeau is looking into ways to deal with the pardon question, in time. Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary, former police officer and the government’s lead on the marijuana file, has said pardons may well be considered, but not until the new legal regime is in place.
That’s a sound approach. Things must happen in the right order. Opposition parties, especially the NDP, want to put the cart before the horse. That’s a bad idea.