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(April 20, 1996: The following is a letter sent to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. When Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy representatives appeared before the Committee on December 14, 1995 to state the Foundation's concerns about Bill C-7 (now C-8), the Committee asked us to submit proposals for amendments to the Bill. The following letter explains our proposed amendments. If you support these amendments, please let the Committee know. You can send a letter of support for these proposals to the Committee by sending it to the Chair via Mrs. Heather Lank, Clerk of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, at the address below. Or you can fax your letter to Mrs. Lank and ask her to provide copies to Committee members (her fax number is (613) 947-2104. Mrs. Lank's telephone number is (613) 990-5013). If you wish to appear before the Committee to address Bill C-8, please contact Mrs. Lank as soon as possible.)

Please note that the new Chair of the Senate committee (as of March 1996) is Senator Sharon Carstairs. Any correspondence to the Chair of the committee should therefore be addressed to her. Senator Beaudoin, the former Chair, remains a member of the committee.


February 2, 1996

The Honourable Senator Gérald-A. Beaudoin
Chair
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
The Senate
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A4

Dear Sir:

When representatives from our Foundation appeared before your committee on December 14, 1995, we expressed strong reservations about Bill C-7, the proposed Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Members of your committee invited us to propose amendments to the Bill or, in the alternative, to recommend that the Bill be withdrawn completely if we concluded that it would not be possible to amend the Bill to our satisfaction.

Members of our Foundation have reviewed the Bill and drafted a series of amendments. The amendments we propose do not address all of our many concerns with the Bill. However, if implemented, they will help to resolve several of the most pressing problems arising from the current Bill. We will therefore support the Bill in its amended form. To address the remaining issues, we propose adding a section to the Bill calling for the establishment of an independent committee to review Canada's drug laws and policies and to report to Parliament within one year. The call for an independent review of Canada's drug policies is consistent with promises for such a review made in the House of Commons on October 30, 1995.

In proposing amendments, we have focussed solely on the first ten sections of the Bill, since this is where many of the fundamental problems with the Bill arise. Our goals in proposing these amendments are as follows:

    . to reduce the violence associated with the black market in drugs

    . to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV and other lethal blood-borne infections

        (i) by reducing likelihood of high-risk injection practices by providing for the availability a substance in a form and manner that does not enhance the risk of infection

        (ii) by reducing the likelihood that users will turn to being supplied with possibly adulterated substances and unclean injection equipment at "shooting galleries"

        (iii) by reducing the need for dependent users to commit acquisitive and other crimes to obtain a supply of their drug, thereby reducing the cost to society and risk to them of being placed in a prison environment where the risk of becoming infected is extremely high

        (iv) by reducing the risk that dependent users will turn to high-risk (for the spread of infection) forms of sex to pay for drugs

        (v) through reshaping the law, to allow for a more honest and productive dialogue about avoiding the harms associated with drugs.

    . to reduce the financial burden on society that arises from unnecessary drug-related expenditures -- policing, prosecution, defence and court costs, the cost of incarceration, and the cost of supporting families of those imprisoned for certain activities which are now illegal

    . to stress the need to explore alternatives to current drug policies and laws so that the harms of drug use to users and to society alike will be kept to a minimum

    . to respect international human rights obligations

    . to reduce the unnecessary and unproductive criminalization of large numbers of Canadians for the possession of currently illegal substances.

Foundation representatives addressed many of these goals in detail when they appeared before your Committee on December 14, 1995. I will therefore not expand on these goals here. Instead, I would like to set out the principal amendments we propose. Our proposals are as follows:

    . to include a declaration of principle about the goals and aims of drug laws and policies [clause 3.1]

    . to require the appointment of an independent committee to review Canada's drug laws and policies (the review to be completed within one year of the committee's appointment) [subclauses 3.2(1) and (3)]

    . to confirm that the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to impairment continue to apply to any impairment caused by any substance regulated by the Bill [clause 3.3]

    . to control possession of substances by minors by permitting peace officers to confiscate substances held by minors [subclause 4(4)]

    . to remove the criminal prohibition for the possession by adults of small amounts of substances for personal use; the amounts of these substances to be determined by an expert advisory committee [subclause 4(1.1), Schedules IX and X] (the expert advisory committee could be include representatives from the organizations identified in the House of Commons on October 30, 1995 by the Chair of the Health subcommittee that reviewed Bill C-7)

    . to permit a peace officer to confiscate substances possessed by any person where the officer reasonably believes that the person may cause immediate harm to himself or others if he consumes the substance [subclause 4(5)]

    . to clarify the law to ensure that syringe exchange programs -- absolutely essential to reduce the further spread of HIV and hepatitis B and C infections -- are not impeded by defining "controlled substance" to include containers used to deliver substances [paragraph 2(2)(b)]

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(April 20, 1996: The following is a letter sent to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. When Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy representatives appeared before the Committee on December 14, 1995 to state the Foundation's concerns about Bill C-7 (now C-8), the Committee asked us to submit proposals for amendments to the Bill. The following letter explains our proposed amendments. If you support these amendments, please let the Committee know. You can send a letter of support for these proposals to the Committee by sending it to the Chair via Mrs. Heather Lank, Clerk of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, at the address below. Or you can fax your letter to Mrs. Lank and ask her to provide copies to Committee members (her fax number is (613) 947-2104. Mrs. Lank's telephone number is (613) 990-5013). If you wish to appear before the Committee to address Bill C-8, please contact Mrs. Lank as soon as possible.)

Please note that the new Chair of the Senate committee (as of March 1996) is Senator Sharon Carstairs. Any correspondence to the Chair of the committee should therefore be addressed to her. Senator Beaudoin, the former Chair, remains a member of the committee.


February 2, 1996

The Honourable Senator Gérald-A. Beaudoin
Chair
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
The Senate
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A4

Dear Sir:

When representatives from our Foundation appeared before your committee on December 14, 1995, we expressed strong reservations about Bill C-7, the proposed Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Members of your committee invited us to propose amendments to the Bill or, in the alternative, to recommend that the Bill be withdrawn completely if we concluded that it would not be possible to amend the Bill to our satisfaction.

Members of our Foundation have reviewed the Bill and drafted a series of amendments. The amendments we propose do not address all of our many concerns with the Bill. However, if implemented, they will help to resolve several of the most pressing problems arising from the current Bill. We will therefore support the Bill in its amended form. To address the remaining issues, we propose adding a section to the Bill calling for the establishment of an independent committee to review Canada's drug laws and policies and to report to Parliament within one year. The call for an independent review of Canada's drug policies is consistent with promises for such a review made in the House of Commons on October 30, 1995.

In proposing amendments, we have focussed solely on the first ten sections of the Bill, since this is where many of the fundamental problems with the Bill arise. Our goals in proposing these amendments are as follows:

    . to reduce the violence associated with the black market in drugs

    . to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV and other lethal blood-borne infections

        (i) by reducing likelihood of high-risk injection practices by providing for the availability a substance in a form and manner that does not enhance the risk of infection

        (ii) by reducing the likelihood that users will turn to being supplied with possibly adulterated substances and unclean injection equipment at "shooting galleries"

        (iii) by reducing the need for dependent users to commit acquisitive and other crimes to obtain a supply of their drug, thereby reducing the cost to society and risk to them of being placed in a prison environment where the risk of becoming infected is extremely high

        (iv) by reducing the risk that dependent users will turn to high-risk (for the spread of infection) forms of sex to pay for drugs

        (v) through reshaping the law, to allow for a more honest and productive dialogue about avoiding the harms associated with drugs.

    . to reduce the financial burden on society that arises from unnecessary drug-related expenditures -- policing, prosecution, defence and court costs, the cost of incarceration, and the cost of supporting families of those imprisoned for certain activities which are now illegal

    . to stress the need to explore alternatives to current drug policies and laws so that the harms of drug use to users and to society alike will be kept to a minimum

    . to respect international human rights obligations

    . to reduce the unnecessary and unproductive criminalization of large numbers of Canadians for the possession of currently illegal substances.

Foundation representatives addressed many of these goals in detail when they appeared before your Committee on December 14, 1995. I will therefore not expand on these goals here. Instead, I would like to set out the principal amendments we propose. Our proposals are as follows:

    . to include a declaration of principle about the goals and aims of drug laws and policies [clause 3.1]

    . to require the appointment of an independent committee to review Canada's drug laws and policies (the review to be completed within one year of the committee's appointment) [subclauses 3.2(1) and (3)]

    . to confirm that the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to impairment continue to apply to any impairment caused by any substance regulated by the Bill [clause 3.3]

    . to control possession of substances by minors by permitting peace officers to confiscate substances held by minors [subclause 4(4)]

    . to remove the criminal prohibition for the possession by adults of small amounts of substances for personal use; the amounts of these substances to be determined by an expert advisory committee [subclause 4(1.1), Schedules IX and X] (the expert advisory committee could be include representatives from the organizations identified in the House of Commons on October 30, 1995 by the Chair of the Health subcommittee that reviewed Bill C-7)

    . to permit a peace officer to confiscate substances possessed by any person where the officer reasonably believes that the person may cause immediate harm to himself or others if he consumes the substance [subclause 4(5)]

    . to clarify the law to ensure that syringe exchange programs -- absolutely essential to reduce the further spread of HIV and hepatitis B and C infections -- are not impeded by defining "controlled substance" to include containers used to deliver substances [paragraph 2(2)(b)]

    . to rationalize sentencing for offences involving possession of larger amounts of substances [subclause 4(3), repealing the original subclauses 4(4), 4(5), 4(6) and 4(7)]

    . to remove the criminal prohibition on the transfer among adults, for no consideration, of small amounts of substances [subclause 5(1.1)]

    . to continue to prohibit the trafficking of substances to minors, whether for consideration or not [paragraph 5(1.1)(c)]

    . under strict conditions, to remove the criminal prohibition on the importation of small amounts of substances for personal use [subclause 6(1.1)]

    . to allow the cultivation of up to 10 plants of cannabis without permit [subclause 7(1.1)] or more with a permit issued under the regulations [subclause 7(1.2)].

We stress that these are only some of the changes that will be necessary to ensure that Bill C-7 achieves the objectives of reducing harm to drug users and Canadian society alike. However, these changes will be sufficient for us to support this legislation.

Officials of the various government departments involved in developing this legislation may be critical of our proposed amendments. We merely ask you, Mr. Chairman, to invite these officials to work with us to develop more humane and effective drug policies for this country. A continued unwillingness to consider alternatives to the present system simply will not serve Canada's interests.

We will be pleased to discuss our proposed amendments in greater detail with you or the other members of the Committee. We are also prepared, on very short notice, to appear before the Committee again if you feel it would be helpful for us to explain our proposals there.

Once again, on behalf of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, I extend our thanks to you and your Senate colleagues for allowing us to participate in an open and frank discussion with you on this vitally important issue.

Yours truly,

Eugene Oscapella
for the Canadian Foundation for
Drug Policy


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