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Canada: Senate Special Committee
on Illegal Drugs
The Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs released
its report on cannabis
on Wednesday, September 4, 2002, at 11a.m.. The report is on the
Committee web site. The committee's news conference can be found
To see and hear various Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio and television
reports, including interviews with advocates, click here.
committee web site (This link takes you to the committee that originally
began hearings in 2000. Its mandate ended when Parliament was dissolved
for the November 2000 federal election. The papers and evidence presented
to this committee have been received as evidence before the newly constituted
Enactment of the Controlled Drugs and Substances ActDuring the third reading debate on Bill C-7 in the House on October 30, 1995, the government announced two further initiatives dealing with drug policy. The first was the creation of a task force to examine the way that drugs are "scheduled" under Bill C-7 (now the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act). (Under the Act, drugs are listed in one or more of several schedules set out at the end of the Act. For example, cannabis was listed in Schedules II, VII and VIII. What schedule a given drug appears in determined whether penalties would apply for certain activities (for example, possession) and the severity of those penalties.) The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy was one of the groups that was to be invited to sit on the task force. The need for a reexamination of the "scheduling" of drugs remains, since the schedules in the new Act are seriously deficient. In fact, no such invitation was ever extended to the Foundation.
Bill C-7 (later renamed Bill C-8) then went to the Senate for review. Several members of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, the committee reviewing the Bill, publicly stated their support for decriminalizing marijuana. However, the reluctance of the Senate Committee to carry through with this measure baffled many observers. A Montreal Gazette article (June 14, 1996, p. A9) quoted Committee Chair Senator Sharon Carstairs as saying the Senators on the Committee dropped the idea of recommending that there be no criminal charge for having a few "joints" of marijuana because they felt it would never pass the House of Commons (the Bill would have to be returned to the House for a vote on that issue). Senator Carstairs is also quoted as saying that her committee members were also concerned that decriminalizing marijuana possession would violate several international treaties that Canada has signed (several authorities would strongly disagree with the Senator on this point). The Gazette article states further:
But Carstairs said the panel members were indeed serious about decriminalization but foresaw that a recommendation would be futile at this point. "The majority of the Senators -- and I was with them -- felt all the evidence indicated decriminalization for simple possession is the way we should be going," she said in an interview.
Call for joint Senate-House of Commons Committee (1996)
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs attached an important recommendation to its jJune 1996 report on Bill C-8 -- that a joint Senate - House of Commons committee be established to conduct an extensive review of Canadian drug laws and policies. The text of the recommendation follows:
THE Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs strongly urges that a Joint Senate and House of Commons Committee be struck to review all of Canada's existing drug laws, and policies and programs.
Without restricting its mandate, this Joint Committee should be authorized to:
reassess Government's approach to dealing with illicit drug use in Canada, its effectiveness in curtailing drug use, and its fairness of application;develop a national harm-reduction policy to minimize the negative consequences associated with illicit drug use in Canada; and recommend how such a harm-reduction policy would be implemented, including viewing drug use and abuse as primarily a health and social policy issue;study harm-reduction models adopted by other countries (treatment and alternative programs for illicit drug use); consider whether such programs should be implemented in whole or in part in Canada;examine Canada's role and international obligations under the United Nations drug conventions to determine whether alternative measures to prosecution and punishment are possible under the conventions;and if not, consider whether Canada should seek an amendment to the United Nations drug conventions which would allow alternative harm-reduction measures to permit signatory parties to comply;revisit the LeDain Commission's findings and recommendations and determine what further action is needed; [note to reader from CFDP; the LeDain Commission was Canada's last major study of the non-medical use of drugs; the Commission reported in 1973, but its proposals were never implemented]explore the health effects of cannabis use; consider whether the decriminalization of cannabis would lead to increased use and abuse, both in the short- and long-term;To see the full text of the Committee's report on Bill C-8, including the technical amendments it proposed to the Bill, please click here.explore using the Government's regulatory power under the Contraventions Act as an additional tool to implement a harm-reduction policy.In addition, the Joint Committee should undertake intensive public consultations to determine the needs of different jurisdictions across Canada, including large urban centres where the societal problems associated with the illicit drug trade are more visible. The goal should be to devise a made-in-Canada drug strategy where all levels of government work effectively together to reduce the harm associated with the use of illicit and legal drugs.
Updated: 13 Sep 2002 | Accessed: 75974 times