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Conservatives critical of Private Member Bill, saying it will legalize hard drugs

by Stephen Dafoe

On Feb. 26, Liberal Member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith introduced Bill C-236: An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (evidence-based diversion measures). Erskine-Smith had previously introduced it as Bill (C-460) before the election, but the Bill died on the Orders of Papers.

Erskine-Smith said his Bill was put forth because of the thousands of Canadians who have died from the opioid crisis. “For the first time in 40 years, according to Statistics Canada, our life expectancy has stalled, and Statistics Canada attributes that to the opioid crisis. It is a national public health crisis,” Erskine-Smith said in presenting the Bill in the House Feb. 26.

Erskine-Smith Bill would not delete the possession offense for producers and traffickers of drugs but would delete possession completely from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) for people who Erskine-Smith says need help.

“We should treat patients as patients and not as criminals,” he said. “The Bill’s focus is fundamentally to end stigma.”

Erskine-Smith contends that decriminalization in other countries has increased people seeking treatment by 60 per cent.

In a media release Tuesday, the Conservative Party of Canada criticized the Private Member’s Bill, which they mistakenly identified in the release as Bill C-235.

Conservative Deputy Opposition Whip, John Brassard, and Bob Saroya, Member of Parliament for Markham – Unionville charged the Liberals of denying a secret plan to legalize hard drugs during the election.

“Justin Trudeau and the Liberals are looking to legalize hard drugs like heroin, crack cocaine and crystal meth,” the two MPs said in a shared media statement. “These drugs are extremely dangerous; they tear families and our communities apart and do lasting damage to people who use them. They should remain illegal.”

The Conservatives say last week’s Private Members Bill is not the first time the Liberals have opened the door to legalizing hard drugs.

“At the Liberal Party’s last policy convention, Liberal members overwhelmingly supported a call to decriminalize all illicit drug use in Canada; and just last year, Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Health put forward a recommendation calling on the federal government to decriminalize the possession of dangerous hard drugs,” the statement says.

“Canadians are rightly concerned about Liberal policies that would make it easier to use hard drugs like heroin, crack cocaine and meth. These policies will do nothing to help Canadians struggling with addiction on their path to recovery and will exacerbate the opioid crisis tearing apart our communities.”

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In presenting the Bill in the House of Commons on Feb. 26, Erskine-Smith said in the context of the opioid crisis, Canadians need to treat drug use as a health issue if they want to save lives.

“I will not shy away from advocating for decriminalization, but I am aware that early on in this Parliament, I have this opportunity to introduce a bill that will be debated and voted on. In the context of the opioid crisis that has taken so many lives, I want to ensure that a measure is passed that will improve our laws and will help Canadians in need,” Erskine-Smith said.

The MP said while his Private Member’s Bill would not decriminalize drugs, it would ensure there would be an evidence-based diversion framework, as well as a principles-based framework that is built on public health principles in Canada’s national drug strategy.

“The bill is also built on the successful model of the Youth Criminal Justice Act at home,” Erskine-Smith said. “It would require police and prosecutors to ensure, before they move forward with charges, that they consider whether it is sufficient to give a warning or to refer an individual in need to a public health agency and provider.”

Conservative MPs Brassard and Saroya say their party will remain steadfast in fighting the Bill.

“While the Trudeau Liberals are focused on making dangerous drugs more accessible to Canadians, Canada’s Conservatives will remain focused on helping Canadians struggling with addiction through recovery and prevention.”

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9 Comments

  1. At this point, the conservatives have nothing to stand on. Their policies on every level are a joke – hell, their supporters still think trickle down economics works.

  2. Anyone who thinks that the chance of a possession charge has deterred any addict from obtaining these substances is an absolute fool. Criminalization has been a debacle as a technique to decrease drug use in any jurisdiction that utilizes it. A 60% increase in seeking help would save countless lives and dollars (in the cost we spend incarcerating and medically treating misuse). It is extremely well documented that decriminalization decreases community presence of these substances MUCH more effectively.

    • Absolutely nothing! Governments sell drugs, it is what they do. Take Canada for example. We have a vast, multiagency, multinational integrated taskforce that oversees everything. They oversee high drug areas, and control the drug trade. This is good. This is what they should be doing. Intelligence agencies network across the globe, and they set up the import/export/manufacture/wholesale of all drugs worldwide. This is inevitable. Drugs are basically legal, but these groups work in secret, so the revenue ends up leaving the country. It needs to stay in the country. This is preferrable to an open black market with gangs and turfwars. The police realized this with weed, and eventually progressed to others. The downside to this, is that secrecy breeds corruption. Corruption and compromise in morals leads to a steady increase in risky, criminal behaviour. It is not some two-bit criminal or street gang network that controls the drug trade. It is impossible for any entity other than a federal government or a large multinational corporation to sell illicit drugs. The surveillance dragnet, combined with the low cost and high purity of drugs compared to 2009-2012, is proof of this. Most stories of drug busts are fake or somehow improbable. Caches of 5000000$ worth of drugs is a stretch. Just legalize it all.

      How is Bill C-236 coming along?

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