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Updated:Thursday, 22-Nov-2007 09:23:49 PST| Accessed:39317times

Press Commentary on Bill C-26,  An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

The Conservative Government introduced the Bill in the House of Commons on November 20, 2007.   Here is some of the critical commentary in the media:
(for additional stories, visit the Media Awareness Project Drugnews web site)


Mandatory jail terms inTories' drug plan
Critic compares strategy to U.S. prohibition

 
Richard Foot
CanWest News Service,

Wednesday, November 21, 2007  National Post

The Conservative government unveiled legislation yesterday to create the first mandatory prison terms in Canada for people convicted of trafficking illicit drugs.

The proposed changes are the newest chapter in the Harper government's sweeping crackdown on crime, which includes bills before Parliament to toughen rules for repeat violent offenders, to keep accused young offenders in jail before their trials and now to impose automatic prison penalties on serious drug offenders.

Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act contains no mandatory prison sentences for anyone convicted under the act. Judges use their own discretion about whether to send drug pushers and growers to jail.

However, the new bill proposes measures including a one-year mandatory jail term for dealing drugs while using a weapon, or for dealing drugs in support of organized crime; a two-year mandatory term for dealing cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to young people, or for dealing them near a school or any place young people are known to frequent; and a mandatory six-month sentence for growing as little as one marijuana plant for the purposes of trafficking.

When the government announced plans for the antidrug bill last month, Liberal and New Democratic Party critics said the Conservatives were embracing a U.S.-style "war on drugs" that treats drug abuse as more of a criminal matter than a health issue. Opposition MPs said the government should focus more on harm-reduction programs, such as safe-injection sites and needle exchanges.

The Conservatives are also proposing to allow judges to exempt certain offenders from mandatory prison terms, on condition that they complete drug treatment court programs.

Drug treatment courts are designed to help non-violent offenders overcome their drug habits if they have trafficked in small amounts of drugs to support their addictions.

Rob Nicholson, the Minister of Justice, said yesterday the changes in the sentencing provisions are designed to target the people the government considers at the root of the drug supply problem: large-scale growers and traffickers, organized crime groups that finance their operations through drugs, and people who push drugs on children and teenagers.

"We've made it very clear that those individuals who are in the business of exploiting other people through organized crime and other aggravating factors -- through this bill, we want to get serious with those individuals and send the right message to them ... you will be doing jail time," he said. "We want to put organized crime out of business in this country."

But one expert says the changes will only help organized crime groups do more business in Canada.

"Tougher penalties for people who produce and traffic drugs will only scare the ma-and-pa producers, and organized crime will fill the gap," says Eugene Oscapella, a criminal lawyer who teaches drug policy at the University of Ottawa and once advised the Law Reform Commission of Canada on the issue.

"Organized crime doesn't care about the law. With these changes, this government is doing a service for organized crime."

Mr. Oscapella says decades of experience with tough, mandatory penalties in the United States have proven that the threat of prison terms doesn't deter drug traffickers or growers, just as similar policies never deterred organized criminals and illegal bootleggers during the U.S. prohibition on alcohol.

He says a better way to tackle the drug problem is to treat it as a health issue, and deal with the social factors behind people's addictions.

Mr. Nicholson says the government is doing exactly that, alongside its law-and-order changes.

He says the new sentencing legislation is part of the government's national antidrug strategy, announced last month, which includes programs run by Health Canada to prevent and treat drug addictions.

While the government was revealing its drug plans, a Commons committee passed its signature crime bill without amendment.

The committee finished a clause-by-clause study of Bill C-2, known as the Tackling Violent Crime Act, an omnibus of five crime bills that died when the last session of the current Parliament ended on Sept. 14. The bill was reintroduced when the House reconvened a month ago.

The bill increases mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes and impaired driving, and creates two new indictable offences -- robbery to steal a firearm and breaking and entering to steal a firearm.

As well, it requires those convicted of three or more serious sexual or violent offences to prove why they should not be jailed indefinitely, and institutes a similar reverse onus for bail for those accused of firearm offences.

It also raises the age at which youths may engage in non-exploitive sexual activity to 16 from 14.

In an extraordinary move, all four parties agreed last month to give the committee until midnight Thursday to finish its deliberations. Though the three opposition parties proposed amendments, most were ruled out of order and none were approved. Third reading is expected before the House rises on Dec. 14.

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PROPOSED DRUG LAWS

National PostLegislation proposed yesterday by the Conservative party includes the following new measures:

-Mandatory one-year jail term for dealing drugs while using a weapon, or for dealing drugs in support of organized crime;

-Two-year mandatory term for dealing cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to young people, or dealing near a school or any place young people are known to frequent;

-Mandatory six-month sentence for growing marijuana for trafficking;

-Two-year mandatory term for a marijuana grow-operation of at least 500 plants;

-A doubling of the maximum prison term for cannabis production from seven to 14 years.

-Tougher penalties for trafficking date-rape drugs.



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Proposed legislation will also allow judges to impose drug treatment over jail
 
Richard Foot, with a file by staff reporter John Bermingham
CanWest News Service
    Vancouver Province
Wednesday, November 21, 2007


A grow operation of at least 500 plants will net a mandatory prison term of two years. Dealing coke, heroin or methamphetamines to young people will also mean a two-year jail term.

A grow operation of at least 500 plants will net a mandatory prison term of two years. Dealing coke, heroin or methamphetamines to young people will also mean a two-year jail term.

The Conservative government unveiled historic legislation yesterday to create the first mandatory prison terms in Canada for people convicted of trafficking illicit drugs.

The new bill proposes:

- A one-year mandatory jail term for dealing drugs while using a weapon, or for dealing drugs in support of organized crime.

- A two-year mandatory term for dealing cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to young people, or for dealing them near a school or any place young people are known to frequent.

- A mandatory six-month sentence for growing as little as one marijuana plant for the purposes of trafficking.

- A two-year mandatory term for running a marijuana grow-operation of at least 500 plants;

- A doubling of the maximum prison term for cannabis production from seven to 14 years.

The government also proposes to allow judges to exempt certain offenders from mandatory prison terms on condition that they complete drug treatment court programs.

The proposed changes are the newest chapter in the Harper government's sweeping crackdown on crime, which includes bills before Parliament to toughen rules for repeat violent offenders, to keep accused young offenders in jail before their trials, and now to impose automatic prison penalties on serious drug offenders.

Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act currently contains no mandatory prison sentences for anyone convicted under the act. Judges use their own discretion about whether to send drug pushers and growers to jail.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the changes in sentencing provisions are designed to target the people the government considers at the root of the drug-supply problem: large-scale growers and traffickers, organized-crime groups that finance their operations through drugs, and people who push drugs on children and teenagers.

"We've made it very clear that those individuals who are in the business of exploiting other people through organized crime and other aggravating factors -- through this bill, we want to get serious with those individuals and send the right message to them . . . you will be doing jail time," he said. "We want to put organized crime out of business in this country."

But one expert said the changes will only help organized crime.

"Tougher penalties for people who produce and traffic drugs will only scare the ma-and-pa producers, and organized crime will fill the gap," says Eugene Oscapella, a criminal lawyer who teaches drug policy at the University of Ottawa.

"Organized crime doesn't care about the law. With these changes, this government is doing a service for organized crime."

Simon Fraser University drug expert Neil Boyd said the changes will only hike the price of drugs, including cannabis.

"It will make increased profitability," he said. "It will be good for dealers, who will be able to pass their risks of doing business onto consumers."

Mandatory jail terms increase the prison population, with the accompanying cost to the taxpayers, he said. "We're going to spend a lot more money putting people in jail, which doesn't make any sense, because the drug is a whole lot less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco."

Greg DelBigio, a Vancouver lawyer who chairs the national criminal justice section at the Canadian Bar Association, said the CBA believes that "mandatory minimum sentences interfere with the judicial discretion, which is necessary for ensuring that a sentence is appropriate in all of the circumstances."

But Vancouver Civil City Commissioner Geoff Plant said the drug bill is Ottawa's response "to a great sense of societal frustration."

"It's a very interesting innovation by introducing drug treatment into this package as an option. It's too soon to say whether it'll work."

Barry McKnight, who heads the drug abuse committee at the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, supports mandatory jail terms.

"In order to build safe and healthy communities we must deal with the demand reduction as well as the supply management side of the drug abuse equation," said McKnight.

The CACP drug policy, adopted in August, said police chiefs are committed to smash the criminal infrastructure that keeps the crime-cycle going and victimizes communities.

Vancouver police spokesman Const. Tim Fanning said at least 80 per cent of the city's property crime is linked to drugs.

"Anything that is going to help reduce the drug problem in our city we see as a good thing," said Fanning.
© The Vancouver Province 2007

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Mandatory terms in works for trafficking
Bill also targets drug growers. Newest stage in Tories' crime crackdown

 
RICHARD FOOT
CanWest News Service
Montreal Gazette
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Conservative government unveiled historic legislation yesterday to create the first mandatory prison terms in Canada for people convicted of trafficking illicit drugs.

The proposed changes are the newest chapter in the Harper government's sweeping crackdown on crime, which includes bills before Parliament to toughen rules for repeat violent offenders, and to keep accused young offenders in jail before their trials.

Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act currently contains no mandatory prison sentences for anyone convicted under the act.

Judges use their own discretion about whether to send drug pushers and growers to prison.

However, the new bill proposes to make mandatory: a one-year prison term for dealing drugs while using a weapon, or for dealing drugs in support of organized crime; a two-year prison term for dealing cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to young people, or for dealing them near a school or any place young people are known to frequent; a six-month prison sentence for growing as little as one marijuana plant, for the purposes of trafficking; a two-year prison term for running a marijuana grow operation of at least 500 plants; a doubling of the maximum prison term for cannabis production from seven to 14 years.

The Conservatives are also proposing to allow judges to exempt certain offenders from mandatory prison terms, on condition that they complete drug- treatment court programs.

Drug-treatment courts are designed to help non-violent offenders who have trafficked in small amounts of drugs in order to support their addictions overcome their drug habits.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said yesterday the changes in the sentencing provisions are designed to target people the government considers at the root of the drug-supply problem: large-scale growers and traffickers, organized crime groups that finance their operations through drugs, and people who push drugs on children and teenagers.

"We've made it very clear that those individuals who are in the business of exploiting other people through organized crime and other aggravating factors - through this bill, we want to get serious with those individuals and send the right message to them ... you will be doing jail time," he said. "We want to put organized crime out of business in this country." But one expert says the changes will only help organized crime groups do more business in Canada.

"Tougher penalties for people who produce and traffic drugs will only scare the ma-and-pa producers, and organized crime will fill the gap," said Eugene Oscapella, a criminal lawyer who teaches drug policy at the University of Ottawa and once advised the Law Reform Commission of Canada on the issue.

"Organized crime doesn't care about the law. With these changes, this government is doing a service for organized crime." Oscapella says decades of experience with tough, mandatory penalties in the United States have proven that the threat of prison terms doesn't deter drug traffickers or growers, just as similar policies never deterred organized criminals and illegal bootleggers during the U.S. prohibition on alcohol.

"All we need to do is look south to the U.S. to see that mandatory minimum sentences don't work," he said. "This is insane; it baffles me. I can't believe that a man as intelligent as Stephen Harper, who understand economics, cannot understand the economics of prohibition." But Nicholson says the criminal production of drugs has increased and the federal government needs to respond.

"Drug trafficking, grow-ops, a whole host of activities, have become much worse in recent years, so we've got to stay up to date with the laws of this country," he said. "I think this is a measured, reasonable response to the challenges we face.

"I just want to catch up with the bad guys."


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Victoria Times Colonist


Drug law will fill jails, expert warns

Thursday, November 22, 2007

VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s already crowded jails will need to squeeze in another 700 marijuana growers per year if new mandatory sentences are enacted, an analysis of sentencing figures suggests.

"You basically need a new prison to facilitate that," said Darryl Plecas, a criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley who studies marijuana sentencing. "You're going to have hundreds, if not thousands, of people going to jail who aren't going now."

On Tuesday, federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson unveiled legislation that would create mandatory minimum sentences for a number of drug offences, including growing marijuana.

Currently, according to recent figures, only about 10 to 15 per cent of convicted growers in B.C. serve any time in jail at all. Most get house arrest or a fine.

Based on numbers from 2002 to 2004, the most recent data available, about 850 people are convicted of growing marijuana in B.C. each year.

About 125 of those go to jail, for an average of about six months each.

That leaves more than 700 growers a year who aren't going to jail now but, if the new law is enacted, almost certainly will.

And most of them, according to data collected by Plecas, would end up in B.C.'s provincial jails.

Those jails, however, are already full.

"I'd say we're at the limit," B.C. Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Lapointe said. "There's no question that the provincial correctional centres are at capacity."

There are currently 2,735 inmates in provincial jails and about 80 per cent of them are double bunked.

B.C. Solicitor-General John Les acknowledged housing more inmates will be a challenge, but said he supports the new sentences.

"We'll find a way," he said. "We're not going to let capacity issues stand in the way of appropriately dealing with those who break the law."


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MANDATORY PRISON TERMS PROPOSED FOR DRUG GROWERS AND DEALERS

Edmonton Journal (21 Nov 2007)

Move Is Latest Front In Harper Government's War On Crime

The Conservative government unveiled historic legislation Tuesday to create the first mandatory prison terms in Canada for people convicted of trafficking illicit drugs. 

The proposed changes are the newest chapter in the Harper government's sweeping crackdown on crime, which includes bills before Parliament to toughen rules for repeat violent offenders, to keep accused young offenders in jail before their trials and now to impose automatic prison penalties on serious drug offenders. 

Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act currently contains no mandatory prison sentences for anyone convicted under the act.  Judges use their own discretion about whether to send drug pushers and growers to jail. 

However, the new bill proposes:

- - a one-year mandatory jail term for dealing drugs while using a weapon, or for dealing drugs in support of organized crime;

- - a two-year mandatory term for dealing cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to young people, or for dealing near a school or any place young people are known to frequent;

- - a mandatory six-month sentence for growing as little as one marijuana plant, for the purposes of trafficking;

- - a two-year mandatory term for running a marijuana grow operation of at least 500 plants;

- - a doubling of the maximum prison term for cannabis production from seven to 14 years. 

The Conservatives are also proposing to allow judges to exempt certain offenders from mandatory prison terms, on condition that they complete drug treatment court programs. 

Drug treatment courts are designed to help non-violent offenders who have trafficked in small amounts of drugs in order to support their addictions to overcome their drug habits. 

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Tuesday the changes in the sentencing provisions are designed to target the people the government considers at the root of the drug supply problem: large-scale growers and traffickers, organized crime groups that finance their operations through drugs, and people who push drugs on children and teenagers. 

"We've made it very clear that those individuals who are in the business of exploiting other people through organized crime and other aggravating factors -- through this bill, we want to get serious with those individuals and send the right message to them ...  you will be doing jail time," he said.  "We want to put organized crime out of business in this country."

But one expert said the changes will only help organized crime groups do more business in Canada. 

"Tougher penalties for people who produce and traffic drugs will only scare the ma-and-pa producers, and organized crime will fill the gap," said Eugene Oscapella, a criminal lawyer who teaches drug policy at the University of Ottawa and once advised the Law Reform Commission of Canada on the issue. 

"Organized crime doesn't care about the law.  With these changes, this government is doing a service for organized crime."

Oscapella said decades of experience with tough, mandatory penalties in the United States have proven that the threat of prison terms does not deter drug traffickers or growers, just as similar policies never deterred organized criminals and illegal bootleggers during the U.S.  prohibition on alcohol. 

Oscapella said a better way to tackle the drug problem is to treat it as a health issue, and deal with the social factors behind people's addictions. 

Nicholson said the government is doing exactly that, alongside its law-and-order changes.

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OTTAWA PROPOSES MANDATORY JAIL FOR GROWERS, DEALERS

Windsor Star (21 Nov 2007)

The Conservative government unveiled historic legislation Tuesday to create the first mandatory prison terms in Canada for people convicted of trafficking illicit drugs. 

The proposed changes are the newest chapter in the Harper government's crackdown on crime, which includes bills before Parliament to toughen rules for repeat violent offenders, to keep accused young offenders in jail before their trials, and now to impose automatic prison penalties on serious drug offenders. 

Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act currently contains no mandatory prison sentences for anyone convicted under the act. 

Judges use their own discretion about whether to send drug pushers and growers to jail. 

However, the new bill proposes:

- - a one-year mandatory jail term for dealing drugs while using a weapon, or for dealing drugs in support of organized crime;

- - a two-year mandatory term for dealing cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to young people, or for dealing them near a school or any place young people are known to frequent;

- - a mandatory six-month sentence for growing as little as one marijuana plant, for the purposes of trafficking;

- - a two-year mandatory term for running a marijuana grow operation of at least 500 plants;

- - a doubling of the maximum prison term for cannabis production from seven to 14 years. 

The Conservatives are also proposing to allow judges to exempt certain offenders from mandatory prison terms, on condition that they complete drug treatment court programs. 

Drug treatment courts are designed to help non-violent offenders who have trafficked in small amounts of drugs in order to support their addictions overcome their drug habits. 

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Tuesday the changes in the sentencing provisions are designed to target the people the government considers at the root of the drug supply problem: large-scale growers and traffickers, organized crime groups that finance their operations through drugs, and people who push drugs on children and teenagers. 

"We've made it very clear that those individuals who are in the business of exploiting other people through organized crime and other aggravating factors -- through this bill, we want to get serious with those individuals and send the right message to them ...  you will be doing jail time," he said.  "We want to put organized crime out of business in this country."

But one expert says the changes will only help organized crime groups do more business in Canada. 

"Tougher penalties for people who produce and traffic drugs will only scare the ma-and-pa producers, and organized crime will fill the gap," says Eugene Oscapella, a criminal lawyer who teaches drug policy at the University of Ottawa and once advised the Law Reform Commission of Canada on the issue. 

"Organized crime doesn't care about the law.  With these changes, this government is doing a service for organized crime."

Oscapella says decades of experience with tough, mandatory penalties in the United States have proven that the threat of prison terms doesn't deter drug traffickers or growers, just as similar policies never deterred organized criminals and illegal bootleggers during the U.S.  prohibition on alcohol. 

Nicholson says the criminal production of drugs has increased and the federal government needs to respond. 

"Drug trafficking, grow-ops, a whole host of activities, have become much worse in recent years, so we've got to stay up to date with the laws of this country," he says.  "I think this is a measured, reasonable response to the challenges we face. 

"I just want to catch up with the bad guys."

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TORIES LAUNCH BILL TO TOUGHEN DRUG-PEDDLING PENALTIES

Globe and Mail (21 Nov 2007)

Proposed Legislation Would Set Mandatory Prison Terms for Dealers Who Are Linked to Organized Crime or Who Traffic Near Schools

OTTAWA -- Serious drug offenders could no longer hope for leniency under new legislation introduced yesterday by the federal government.  Justice Minister Rob Nicholson offered an unusually sympathetic message for those who resort to non-violent crime to support their habits, but he also urged strong action against major producers and dealers and drug peddlers whose customers include young people. 

"For too long, Canadians have been getting mixed messages about drugs," Mr.  Nicholson told reporters.  "With today's bill, we are saying that serious drug crimes will mean serious jail times."

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act ( CDSA ) currently specifies no mandatory minimum penalties.  The amendments proposed by the government would change that. 

Mr.  Nicholson is asking for a one-year mandatory prison sentence for drug dealers linked to organized crime. 

He wants a two-year mandatory prison sentence for people who sell drugs such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to youth or who peddle their wares near schools and other places frequented by young people. 

He proposes a two-year mandatory prison sentence for those who run large marijuana grow operations and an increase in the maximum penalty permitted for cannabis production from seven to 14 years. 

And he would bring in tougher penalties for people who sell date-rape drugs. 

"The bill tabled today is aimed at serious drug offenders, not those addicted to drugs who may commit crimes to support their habits," said Mr.  Nicholson.  "Our government understands that many offenders involved in dealing only do so to support their habits and are not necessarily violent."

The proposal for mandatory minimum sentences marks the second time in as many days that the Conservatives have unveiled justice measures.  On Monday, they tabled proposed amendments to the youth crime law.  And tomorrow they will introduce laws aimed at curbing identity theft. 

The new legislation would allow the courts to impose less than the mandatory sentence if an offender successfully completes a federally funded Drug Treatment Court program that involves a blend of judicial supervision, incentives for reduced drug use and social services. 

The announcement was held at the Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services Centre in Ottawa Centre, where director Paul Welsh said he welcomed the emphasis on treatment for addiction as an alternative to incarceration. 

But Libby Davies, an NDP MP, said she believes the overall direction of the bill mirrors the U.S.  policy of waging a war on drugs. 

"The U.S.  prisons are filled with people who have been incarcerated as a result of drug crimes," she said.  "For Canada to continue with that kind of direction and to adopt that model, I think we have serious concerns about that."

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network also took issue with the mandatory sentences. 

In addition to the massive cost of a larger prison population, higher incarceration rates lead to higher infection rates of blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, the network said in a statement. 

The Justice Minister was asked if he believed that Canadian judges have been soft on this type of crime.  "It's not meant as a criticism of anyone or anybody," he responded. 


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TORIES' DRUG CRIME BILL TABLED

Chronicle Herald (21 Nov 2007)

Critic Says It Won't Work

OTTAWA -- The federal Conservatives hope legislation introduced Tuesday will eventually crack down on drug dealers and change the lives of addicts who want to go clean. 

But at least one critic predicts the bill -- if it passes -- will only increase violent crime between rival drug gangs and overload Canada's prison population. 

The proposed changes to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act would, for the first time, impose mandatory minimum prison sentences on anyone convicted of trafficking illegal drugs. 

"Drug producers and dealers who threaten the safety of our communities must face tougher penalties, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said. 

"This is why our government is moving to impose mandatory jail time for serious drug offences that involve organized crime, violence or youth. 

Among the proposed amendments, the Tories want to impose two-year mandatory prison sentences on people convicted of trafficking hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin, or those who run large marijuana grow operations of at least 500 plants. 

If passed, the legislation would also see mandatory jail sentences of one year for selling marijuana as part of an organized criminal gang or when a weapon or violence is involved. 

The legislation would also impose tougher penalties for trafficking GHB and flunitrazepam, commonly known as date-rape drugs. 

"We're sending the message that people .  .  .  we are serious about serious time for that kind of serious crime, said Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day. 

"Our communities should not become battle grounds for drug-related violence. 

However, that's just what Canadians will get with mandatory prison sentences, predicts Craig Jones, director of the John Howard Society. 

"What happens when you crack down on crime, particularly drug crime, is that you provoke turf wars between rival gangs of traffickers, Jones said from Kingston, Ont. 

"When traffickers enter into stronger competition with each other, they don't go to the courts, they don't call out the lawyers, they get out their guns and shoot each other up. 

Jones blames drug prohibition for Canada's drug-violence problem, suggesting that legalization and regulation of street drugs would reduce crime in the same way that the lifting of prohibition against alcohol did decades ago. 

The crackdown proposed by the Tories will also lead to the need for more prisons and exorbitant spending of tax dollars on incarceration, Jones predicted. 

"This is a prison growth strategy, he said. 

There is one way some convicts can avoid mandatory sentences under the proposed legislation.  It allows for exceptions if offenders successfully complete a court-imposed drug treatment program. 

However, only those convicted of non-violent offences and not involved in organized crime would qualify. 

The Drug Treatment Court program offers a mix of social service support, judicial supervision and incentives for cutting down on drug use.  Offenders who complete the program could have their sentences reduced or suspended. 

Many drug addicts turn to crime to feed their habits, said Ottawa Police Chief Vernon White. 

If they face mandatory jail time, some of those addicts may choose treatment programs to avoid going to prison, which will reduce the crime rate, White predicted. 

"A lot of the addicts we deal with are involved in criminal behaviour.  On average, a number of them will be committing four to eight crimes per day. 

"So just to drive one of those people into drug treatment will immediately become a crime prevention tool that most of us don't understand. 

The drug treatment program isn't easy, said one graduate who would only give his first name. 

After 26 years of abusing alcohol and drugs, Joe found himself in prison, and voluntarily approached Ottawa's drug treatment program determined to change the course of his life. 

"I'll make no bones about it, it's not an easy program, said Joe.  "All I had to do was what I was told ( and ) I've been clean for 16 months. 

"I never, ever in my life of abusing even imagined that I could remain clean for any amount of time. 

******


Press release from Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network  (version
française)

New anti-drug bill likely to lead to more cases of HIV

    Mandatory minimum sentences already a proven failure in the U.S.

TORONTO, Nov. 20 /CNW/ - Legislation introduced earlier today in the
House of Commons by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson will do little to reduce
drug use and instead worsen already serious public problems by resulting in
increased risk of HIV transmission, said the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.
"There's no proof that mandatory sentences reduce drug use or the
problems associated with it. In fact, there's evidence that it creates more
public-health problems than it solves," said Richard Elliott, Executive
Director. "Even conservative jurists like former U.S. Supreme Court Chief
Justice William Rehnquist have said that mandatory sentences make good
politics, but result in bad policy. Clearly, Americanizing Canada's drug laws
is not the answer."
Mandatory-sentencing policies have produced record incarceration rates of
non-violent drug users in the United States. In addition to the massive cost
of a larger prison population, higher incarceration rates lead to higher
infection rates of blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis C. Higher
infection rates ultimately result in greater health-care costs. Since most
prisoners are eventually released back into the community, the public-health
implications of imprisoning non-violent people who use drugs cannot be
ignored.
Even a detailed examination conducted for the Department of Justice
Canada in 2002 concluded that mandatory minimum sentences do not work. Such
measures, it said, are "least effective in relation to drug offences"; "drug
consumption and drug-related crime seem to be unaffected, in any measurable
way, by severe (mandatory minimum sentences)."
"Talking about 'getting tough on crime' may be politically expedient, but
when it comes to drug issues, the rhetoric isn't backed up by reason,"
concluded Elliott. "What Canada needs now is a sensible approach to drug
policy - a smart one based on solid scientific evidence, sound public-health
principles and respect for human rights."
A myths-vs.-reality backgrounder and a briefing paper entitled "Mandatory
Minimum Sentences for Drug Offences: Why Everyone Loses" are available at
www.aidslaw.ca.

About the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (www.aidslaw.ca) promotes the human
rights of people living with and vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, in Canada and
internationally, through research, legal and policy analysis, education, and
community mobilization. The Legal Network is Canada's leading advocacy
organization working on the legal and human rights issues raised by HIV/AIDS.

Disponible en français



For further information: Leon Mar, Director of Communications,
Telephone: (416) 595-1666 ext. 228, E-mail: lmar@aidslaw.ca, Website:
www.aidslaw.ca


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