Pot par­dons maybe, but at the right time

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial -

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.

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