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Foundation supports Senate Committee call for drug policy review, condemns Committee's timidity about immediate reforms

Ottawa (June 14, 1996) -- The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy (CFDP) stated its support for a Senate Committee's proposal to conduct a review of Canada's laws and policies on illegal drugs. In its June 13 report to the Senate on Bill C-8, the proposed Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs "strongly urged" the creation of a joint parliamentary committee to review these laws and policies.

However, the structure of the committee must be open, objective and non-partisan, preferably with some independent representation, said a CFDP representative. "We do not need an analysis of drug policies to be directed by the same people who have been responsible for the tired and destructive policies that have scarred Canada for decades," said Glenn Gilmour, an Ottawa lawyer and founding member of the CFDP.

At the same time, the Foundation expressed profound disappointment with the Committee's refusal to recommend removing some of the worst excesses of the Bill, which replaces the Narcotic Control Act and parts of the Food and Drugs Act. "The large majority of the witnesses who appeared before the Committee recommended substantial changes to the Bill or, failing that, its complete rejection", said Eugene Oscapella, also an Ottawa lawyer and founding member of the CFDP. "The Senate Committee, like the House of Commons subcommittee that earlier heard witnesses, chose to ignore those recommendations completely in looking at possible changes to the Bill."

"We are baffled by the Committee's unwillingness to address several critical flaws in the Bill. Witnesses provided ample scientific and social policy evidence to support an informed decision by Committee members to eliminate these flaws immediately. Instead, the Committee has exhibited timidity rather than courage, supporting status quo legislation based on a failed and harmful policy of criminal prohibition. The Committee has thus further delayed attempts to move towards a humane, health-based model of dealing with drugs in society. And the Committee's call for a review of drug policy, while laudable, has allowed the Committee to pass the buck on key issues -- issues that it had the knowledge and the moral responsibility to address now", said Oscapella.

Dr. Diane Riley, also a co-founder of the CFDP, stated, "the Senate Committee has chosen to support legislation that will continue to result in ten of thousands of needless arrests and prosecutions each year, waste billions of dollars of precious public funds on ineffective criminal justice measures, and foster the deaths of thousands of Canadian citizens from HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, adulterated drugs and drugs of unknown potency. At the very least, the Committee should have recommended scrapping the Bill, rather than adding to the plethora of harms caused by our existing drug laws."

Dr. Patricia Erickson, Senior Scientist at the Addiction Research Foundation and also a founding member of the CFDP, stated, "This Bill is not insignificant at all. It is very much an issue of the future of our country. What we see in this Bill is too much of the U.S. "war on drugs" mentality. It scares us and it should. We must instead look to examples of drug policies in other countries."

The Senate will likely vote on Bill C-8 next week.

The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy is a non-profit organization founded in 1993 by several of Canada's leading specialists in drug policy. Its founding members include psychologists, pharmacologists, criminologists, lawyers, health policy advocates and public policy researchers.

The aims of the Foundation include

    . acting as a forum for the exchange of views among those interested in reform of drug policies

    . serving as a vehicle for sharing those views and for discussing significant drug policy issues with government, the public, other organizations and the media, and, where necessary,

    . recommending alternatives that will make Canada's drug laws and policies effective and humane.     

The Foundation does not encourage harmful drug use.

Contact: Eugene Oscapella (Ottawa) (613) 236-1027 or (800) 305-1106.

For further information about Canada's drug laws, Bill C-8 and the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, please visit the CFDP Web site:


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