News / Halifax

Five tough questions: Justin Trudeau and his Sackville town hall

A large crowd took in the nearly two hour event, with people firing a variety of questions at our prime minister.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fields a question at a town hall meeting in Lower Sackville on Tuesday night.

Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fields a question at a town hall meeting in Lower Sackville on Tuesday night.

Sackville High School was packed with people on Tuesday night as people came to catch a glimpse of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his first in a series of 2018 cross-country town halls.

A peaceful yet loud outside protest in support of Abdoul Abdi greeted hundreds who waited in line to get into the heavily secured venue.

Questions from the public to the Prime Minister were wide ranging and included his thoughts on experimental treatments for people with ALS to support for the arts to treatment of Indigenous people and reconciliation.

These are some of the questions asked, with some editing for clarity and brevity.

Question: Why have you and your government made the minimum age for legal marijuana 18 rather than 21 or 25 as recommended by the Canadian Medical Association?

PM- Right now we have a system that isn’t working to protect our young people, and we’re saying that if we at least treat it as stringently as we treat alcohol it’ll be more difficult for folks who are under age to actually purchase it…Right now all those profits go into criminal pockets…They’re making all the money off of marijuana right now and there is no one controlling the quality of what’s in what’s being sold. You may or may not believe this but I’m not personally a fan of marijuana but I also recognize I’m not a fan of coffee and I’m not going to ban that for everyone…By controlling and regulating the sale of marijuana we’re going to better be able to keep it out of the hands of our kids.

Question from Carly Sutherland, whose 9-year-old son Callum has Autism is so out-of-control he can’t go to school. How does your government plan to address this crisis and where do they stand on a national autism strategy?

PM: This is something that so many families across this country face in dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and it’s something that we all have to do a better job working together to try and address. The federal government is investing significant amounts of money in the Canadian Institute for Health Research to look at how we do a better job dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We know that there are many great stakeholder/support groups out there that we continue to fund. We recognize that education and health care delivery are very much the responsibility of the provinces, but there is more that the federal government can and is doing on the research side, on the advocacy side and on the support side.

Question about Trudeau’s controversial trip to the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas:

PM: There’s a level at which this shows that our system works. We have an ethics ethics commissioner who is there to ensure that parliamentarians, all elected officials, including the prime minister, follow the rules and make sure that they’re exercising their responsibilities to serve their country in the right way and in a responsible way…What we saw through this situation was that even though yes I consider him to be, he is, a long time family friend, the ethics commissioner quite rightly points out that there should be a higher bar for friendship for someone with the position and responsibilities of the prime minister and I absolutely agree with that and I accept that and it’s why going forward every single one of my vacations will be cleared in advance with the ethics commissioner.

Question: Abdoul Abdi’s sister Fatouma Alyaan asked ‘Why are you deporting my brother?...My question to you is if it was your son, would you do anything to stop this?’

PM: As far as I know there hasn’t been any final decisions made yet.. It’s something we have to reflect on with compassion and with empathy and understanding on a case-by-case basis…We need to continue to support welcoming people from around the world but the way we continue to believe in our immigration system is to know that our immigration system is strong and rigorous and fairly applied. That there are rules and there is a framework and it goes through the evaluation process and political pressure or arbitrary decisions based on popularity or pressure..shouldn’t be at the heart of our immigration system. We have a system that is based on rules and principles but that also is compassionate and reflects on individual cases…We will do what Canada always does and try to do the right thing based on both rules and compassion not just for your brother but for everyone who comes to this country.

Question: Why do we have medical doctors who come here from different countries who are unable to integrate into the system?

PM: Whether it’s doctors or engineers, the way we ensure that people who come here with skills are able to work in their profession is something that we have to do a much better job of…Particularly in regions like Atlantic Canada…There has to be a better process of training and re-qualifying for people who arrive, because there shouldn’t’ ever be a situation in which someone picks doctors based on their country of origin because there’s a perception that some might be more qualified than others.

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