Over the past several weeks, several Conservative candidates have suggested that the Liberal Party of Canada supports community brothels and making pot available to children.
At a local candidates’ debate hosted by the Oakville chamber of commerce, for instance, Conservative candidate Terence Young asked voters if they wanted “communities where a federal Liberal government mandates legally-protected brothels with madams and all that goes with that, because the Liberals have promised to legalize the selling of women in Canada.”
The Conservative Party has also taken out a series of ads in Punjabi and Chinese-language media in recent days, warning that a Justin Trudeau-led government would be “putting brothels in our communities,” “legalizing marijuana, making access easier for kids” and supporting “illegal drug-injection sites in our neighbourhoods.”
The Liberals have called the ads outrageous. But are any of the Conservative claims true?
“legalizing marijuana, making access easier for kids”
The Liberals have said repeatedly that they support the legalization of marijuana, removing the provisions in the Criminal Code that make it illegal for adults to possess and use the drug. What is not known is how the selling of marijuana to people over the age of majority might take shape. It is unclear if Canadians would be able to buy it in corner stores, for instance.
“How we actually move toward selling it and controlling it will be worked out with the provinces and, in some cases, municipalities,” said Trudeau in an interview with Vice News in early October. Trudeau reiterated his party’s position that children should not be permitted or encouraged to consume the drug.
“We know that the most negative impacts of marijuana are on the developing brain,” he said. “Young people shouldn’t be smoking marijuana.”
Trudeau also claimed that legalization would actually help keep pot out of the hands of kids. There is some evidence that this is true. In Colorado, which has allowed recreational use of pot among adults since 2012, the Department of Public Health and Environment has reported a (very slight) drop in marijuana use among high school students since legalization. But opponents of legalization point out that it normalizes marijuana use, and evidence suggests this leads more children and teens to believe it is not harmful.
“Putting brothels in our communities”
The Liberals have never said they would mandate brothels anywhere in Canada. Trudeau has been critical of the anti-prostitution laws currently in place, but has not come out in favour of legalizing prostitution.
The Conservative claim about brothels appears to be based on the fact that Trudeau voted against Bill C-36, an anti-prostitution bill which has since created the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA). The legislation, which criminalizes paying for sex, communicating for sex or advertising sex services, was tabled by the Conservatives in the wake of a Supreme Court of Canada decision that struck down Canada’s previous prostitution legislation.
“Illegal drug-injection sites in our neighbourhoods.”
Trudeau has indeed spoken out in support of supervised injection sites. He has also openly backed Montreal mayor Denis Coderre’s position that Montreal should move ahead with four new supervised injection sites, with or without Ottawa’s approval.
At an event held at the University of British Columbia in March, however, Trudeau made it clear that he would not loosen any of the prohibitions on hard drugs consumed by people at injection sites, or anywhere else.
“I think that there is much that we can and should be doing around harm reduction. Insite is a great model of that, and I certainly want to see more safe injection sites opened around the country,” he said.
The Liberals have never claimed they would support “illegal” injection sites. Vancouver’s Insite injection site (the only supervised injection site currently operating in Canada) was originally able to open and operate due to a legal exemption to Canada’s drug laws. A 2011 Supreme Court of Canada ruling determined that closing down Insite would be a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, paving the way for other sites to open legally across the country.
The Conservative Party has remained strongly opposed to facilities like Insite, however, enacting legislation that requires injection sites to comply with 26 specific criteria, including community and police support.