No amount of second-hand smoke is safe. Children exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to develop lung diseases and other health problems. Second-hand smoke is a cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The fact that one in six infants and toddlers admitted to a Colorado hospital with symptoms of bronchiolitis tested positive for marijuana exposure should be of grave concern to Canadians as they move to legalization.
The dangers of second-hand, carcinogenic and psychoactive chemically-laden marijuana smoke were ignored by the Trudeau government in its push to legalize pot. This government in fact sanctioned the smoking of marijuana in the presence of children.
The government did not commission an in-depth child risk assessment of the draft legalization framework, a study called for by child advocates across the country.
The Alberta Ministry of Children’s Services’ Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act Placement Resource Policy on Environmental Safety states that a foster parent must be aware of, and committed to provide a non-smoking environment by not allowing smoking in the home when a foster child is placed; not allowing smoking in a vehicle when a foster child is present; and not allowing use of smokeless tobacco when a foster child is present. As the Alberta government’s policy contains all-inclusive language of “non-smoking environment,” the same rules have been extend to legalized marijuana. Some children in the province of Alberta have been protected under the policy while the majority of Albertan children and other children in Canada should rightly ask: “What About Us?”
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms secures the safety of children from threats to their health and their life. Section 15 of the Charter prohibits discrimination perpetrated by the governments of Canada. The Equality Rights section states that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. The provisions that protect children in foster care should extend to every child.
Section 7 of the Charter is a constitutional provision that protects an individual’s personal legal rights from actions of the government of Canada, the right to life, liberty and security of the person. The Cannabis Act fails to protect Canadian children’s right to security of the self. The right to security of the person consists of the rights to privacy of the body and its health and of the right protecting the “psychological integrity” of an individual. Exposure to marijuana in poorly ventilated spaces exposes the non-user to the impact of a psychotropic high, including the distortion of one’s sense of reality.
Canada is a party to the Rights of the Child Treaty, the most widely ratified piece of human rights law in history. The treaty establishes the human rights of children to health and to protection under law. Placing marijuana products and plants in children’s homes fails to protect their rights under international treaty obligations.
A petition, before the B.C. government seeks to make all multi-unit dwellings in B.C. smoke-free. Smoke-free housing is needed to protect the non-user’s health. Smoke travels, it escapes and contaminates beyond a single unit. Laws are to preserve a person from death and violence and to secure their free enjoyment of their property. The Cannabis Act fails to preserve the rights of non-users of marijuana. It rests with citizens to stand up for their rights and those of children. Be prepared — this will be an ugly, costly and lengthy process.
Provincial governments can correct the mistakes made by the federal government. Concerned citizens must see that they do.
Pamela McColl is an anti-smoking and anti-cannabis activist with www.cleartheairnow.org.
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