OTTAWA, Monday, March 11, 2002
The Special Senate Committee on Illegal drugs met today at 9:02 a.m. to reassess Canada's anti-drug legislation and policies.
Senator Pierre Claude Nolin (Chairman) is in the chair.
The Chairman:) I call to order this public hearing of the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs. Colleagues, I am quite pleased to welcome you today. I take this opportunity to welcome all men and women who are attending this session as well as all those who are listening to us on the radio, on television or via the committee's Web site.
Without further ado, I would like to introduce to you the senators who are sitting for today's session of this committee. Honourable Shirley Maheu represents Quebec; honourable Eileen Rossiter represents Prince Edward Island and honourable Laurier LaPierre represents Ontario. I am senator Pierre Claude Nolin and I am part of the Quebec representation in the Senate of Canada.
Honourable Colin Kenny from Ontario, who is vice-chair of the committee, and honourable Tommy Banks, senator from Alberta, are also members of the committee, but they could not attend today's session. I also have sitting beside me the Clerk of the committee, Mr. Blair Armitage, as well as the director of research of the committee, Mr. Daniel Sansfaηon.
The Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs has received the mandate to study and to report on Canadian policies concerning cannabis in its context, to study the efficiency of those policies, their approach and the means as well as the controls used to implement them. In addition to its initial mandate, the committee must examine the official policies adopted by other countries.
Canadian international responsibilities with regard to the conventions on illegal drugs, to which Canada is a signatory, will also be examined. The committee will also study the social and health effects of the Canadian drug policies on cannabis and the potential effects of alternative policies.
The committee is to table its final report at the end of August 2002. In order to adequately fill the mandate that has been given to us, the committee has established an action plan. This plan is focussed around three significant challenges. The first of these challenges is that of knowledge. In order to meet this challenge, we are hearing from an impressive range of experts, both from Canada and abroad, from various backgrounds: academic, police, judicial, medical, social and governmental. These hearings are held mainly in Ottawa and occasionally, when required, outside the capital.
The second challenge, and undoubtedly the most important one, is that of the sharing of knowledge. The committee wishes that Canadians from all parts of the country be informed and share in the information that we are collecting. Our challenge is to plan and organize a system in order to ensure that this knowledge and information is accessible and widely distributed. We will also want to know the views of the public on this information. In order to do so, we will hold in the Spring 2002 public hearings in various locations in Canada.
Finally, the third issue that the committee must examine very carefully is the matter of the guiding principles on which a Canadian policy on drugs must be based.
Before I introduce you to the distinguished experts of today's hearing, I wish to inform you that the committee maintains an up-to-date Web site. The site is accessible through the parliamentary Web site that can be reached at www.parl.gc.ca. All the committee's proceedings are posted there. It includes the briefs and the appropriate support documentation of our expert witnesses. We also keep up-to-date more than 150 links to other related sites.
I would like to say a few words about the committee room in which we are holding today's session. This room, which is called the Native People's room, was built by the Senate in 1996 to pay tribute to the peoples who were the first to inhabit the land in North America and who, nowadays, are still actively participating in the development of Canada. Five of our colleagues in the Senate represent these peoples with pride and dignity.
We are pursuing today our examination of the judicial aspects of the implementation of Canada's policy on illegal drugs and, in this regard, we will be hearing Mr. John Conroy, barrister. Later on today, the representatives of various Canadian national organizations will appear before us.
We will hear, on behalf of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Mr. Bill Marra, chair of the standing committee on community safety and crime prevention and counselor for the city of Windsor.
Thereafter, we will hear a panel of medical experts, including Dr. Henry Haddad, physician and president of the Canadian Medical Association, and Dr. Bill Campbell, physician and president of the Canadian Medical Society on Addiction. Finally, we will welcome a police panel representing the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, made up of Mr. Michael J. Boyd, chair of the drug abuse committee and the deputy chief of the Toronto Police Service, Mr. Barry King, former chair of the drug abuse committee and chief of the Brockville Police Service, as well as Mr. Robert G. Lesser, chief superintendent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Let me introduce you more thoroughly to Mr. Conroy. John Conroy, Q.C. was born in Montreal. He received his university education at the University of British Columbia where he obtained a Bachelor of Physical Education and a Bachelor of Law. He is a member of the British Columbia Bar Association and is currently the principle at Conroy and Company, in Abbotsford, British Columbia. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in January 1996.
Mr. Conroy is a member of many professional associations including the Law Society of British Columbia, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Criminal Justice Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. Mr. Conroy has held many positions including Chairman of the Canadian Bar Association National, Standing Committee of the National Criminal Justice Section on Imprisonment and Release from 1989 to the present.
Mr. Conroy has been involved in numerous notable cases. Of importance to our committee, he is counsel in R. v. Caine, currently before the Supreme Court of Canada, dealing with constitutional challenge to the inclusion of cannabis in the Narcotic Control Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, insofar as it relates to personal possession and non-medical use.
Mr. Conroy has also authored many books, articles and papers, mainly dealing with criminal law issues and more specifically with Canadian law prison. Mr. Conroy, before I give you the floor, I wish to entertain an intervention from my colleague Senator Maheu.
Senator Maheu: Speaking as co-chair of the Joint Committee of Official Languages, I should really cancel this morning's hearing, because your documents, Mr. Conroy, have not been translated into French. It is not allowed for any of our committees to sit without having bilingual documentation.
Mr. Conroy, because you are a Montrealer, you probably understand this. I happen to co-chair the committee on official languages. Your documents, unfortunately, were not translated. This is unacceptable. Our staff should know that they are not allowed to bring anything to a committee that has not been translated. Your hearing should have been delayed until the documents were prepared properly. However, because you are here, and in deference to your appearance, I would like to say that we will proceed, but I would hope that our staff and our clerk will never let this happen again. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman: You are raising a very important point and, as a Francophone, I also want this rule to be followed. However, since it is a document provided by a witness, there is no doubt that if we had received your various documents earlier and given the length of this document, we could have had them translated.
It was impossible for us to do so, but as my colleague Senator Maheu said, given the importance of your arguments in front of the Supreme Court of Canada and given that they are of great interest for the study that our committee has undertaken, we have decided to proceed.
Regarding the distribution of our witnesses' briefs, we are asking all witnesses to send us their brief as soon as possible in order to have time to have them translated. Unfortunately, the witnesses who will appear today have not sent us any documents in advance. We have had to make some research, with the help of the committee's researchers and that of the Library of Parliament, including researching the various Internet Web sites of the national organizations that will appear today.
Mr. Conroy, thank you for providing us with your factum and documentation that is before the Supreme Court of Canada. If our researchers have questions about a subject raised during your testimony, I will write to you and will expect an answer from you. Those questions and answers will also be posted on the committee's Web site.
If there are no further comments, I would ask Mr. Conroy to please proceed.
Mr. John W. Conroy, Barrister, Counsel in R. v. Malmo-Levine and Caine: Thank you for the opportunity to appear. I am sorry that the materials are not in both languages, and I agree that they should be. Unfortunately they were prepared for the Supreme Court of Canada and, with the short time notice of my appearance, they were not translated. I do not know if the court translates them, but I do not think they do.
The decisions that are on appeal the Caine case in the Provincial Court of British Columbia, and the Malmo- Levine case, in the British Columbia Supreme Court were heard together in the Court of Appeal. On the Internet, there should be a French and an English edition of the reported decision. The same should be true of the Clay case in Ontario. These three cases will be heard together in the Supreme Court of Canada. In the short-term, there should be a French edition of the actual reported decisions, which should help you.
I have prepared an outline, which should leave sufficient time for questions, because of the nature of the subject. As you have indicated, I am a criminal defence lawyer practising for almost 30 years. I was born in Montreal, but I was raised in Central Africa and then returned to Canada in the early 1960s. My father worked as a consultant to the government in Malawi then known as Niassaland in Central Africa on the growing of tobacco. In those days, tobacco was considered acceptable. If my father saw a marijuana plant as he was walking through the tobacco fields in Central Africa, he would pick it up and throw it on the ground. As a child, I knew that the Africans smoked ``dagga,'' as they called it, which was not something we paid very much attention to.
I came back to Canada in 1963, and, of course, that was the beginning of the heyday of the 1960s. I think it was just a few years later that the rate of convictions for possession of marijuana went from something like 10 or 12 per year to 60,000. That was the beginning of marijuana becoming a big issue in Canada.
As you mentioned, I chaired the committee of the Canadian Bar Association for some 15 years on imprisonment and release. Any drug law issues were referred to us on that committee as well. I have appeared before senate committees before in that capacity. I am not here on behalf of the Canadian Bar Association today. I must make that point so that I am speaking on my own opinion and not on behalf of the opinion of the bar.
I am proud, however, to remind you that the Canadian bar passed a resolution in 1976 calling for decriminalization of marijuana and in 1978 for heroin maintenance programs. The bar has been on record for many years taking a position that the current drug law approach is not appropriate and that a different approach should be taken.
I should add that, as a criminal defence counsel in British Columbia, marijuana grow operations are now our main bread and butter. We think of changing our names from criminal defence lawyers to agricultural lawyers. We refer to these clients as gardeners. The police, of course, tell us that there are so many of them and the marijuana is so much stronger than ever, the courts are not treating them heavily and treating them leniently, and that it is a big thing. I always wonder why they do all that because it seems to me they are the ones who encourage more and more people to become involved in the marijuana grow operation business, as a result of their comments. Many of the growers themselves do not have access to most of this information.
In 1993, Mr Caine asked if I would take a test case on his behalf that would raise this issue squarely. On the one hand, it is not in my vested economic interest to see a change in the drug laws because, as a criminal defence lawyer, any time you prohibit anything it puts money in my pocket.
My position is that the public interest is to change this approach, to remove drugs from the criminal justice system and to approach it from a health perspective which is a totally different approach. In my submission, that is in the public interest.
I should add that I am also counsel to the B.C. Compassion Club Society. I understand that members of the Senate have visited that society and have heard from its representatives. I am also counsel to the Victoria Club. Thus, I have been involved in a number of the medical marijuana issues.
One of the main reasons for taking Caine and Malmo-Levine together in the court of appeal was the continuing debate about marijuana. There have been several studies, with one group having all of the negative studies, while the other has all the positive studies. We thought the appropriate procedure was to put it through the court process, have the experts' testimony be examined, then cross-examined. After that, an independent judge can make findings of fact so we can try to see what has been peer reviewed and is reliable, and thus try to come to some findings of fact.
As it was essentially a pro bono case, it took a long period of time to arrange for all the experts to go through it. We are only just reaching the Supreme Court of Canada now. If you look at the judgments have provided, you will see some very significant findings of fact by the court. Those findings of fact have been carried through into the court of the appeal. The Clay case in Ontario heard from many of the same witnesses and the findings of fact in that case were remarkably similar to the findings of fact in British Columbia. We have decisions of two courts of appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal and the British Columbia Court of Appeal that are relying on these basic facts.
I should add that most of the findings came from the government's witness, Dr. Harold Kalant, who appeared before this committee. Had we known what Dr. Kalant's evidence would have been, we could have proceeded to hear his evidence and cross-examine him, because he was a significant expert in relation to this topic.
The evidence was that 95 per cent of the marijuana users in Canada are low, occasional, moderate users. Their consumption of marijuana does not impact on their health as long as they are healthy adults. The other 5 per cent are chronic users, people who smoke one or more marijuana cigarettes per day. If they continue to do that, they will ultimately get chronic bronchitis from the smoking process. The same would be true if they were to roll up the grass off their lawns and smoke that. They would inhale heated material over their large airways and cause damage to them.
There were three primary vulnerable groups: pregnant women, which we submit is something between the woman and her doctor; the mentally ill, particularly paranoid schizophrenics, or people whose families have had an incidence of that and there exists a potential for that to develop the experts tell us that is a problem for that group then, most importantly, immature youth. Young people who become involved with marijuana particularly on a regular basis seem to suffer from a disruption of their studies and the maturation process. As is the case with most intoxicants, it is recommended that they not become involved with them until they have matured.
Those are the findings. You do have a joint statement of legislative facts common to the three appeals, which provides the evidence in much greater detail. Once you have it translated, you will have the full detail there.
All six members of the courts three from British Columbia, and the three from Ontario accepted that the possession and use of marijuana in Canada does not pose a serious significant substantial risk to the Canadian public. All six judges also came to the conclusion that the risk was more than trivial. Because of that, two members of the British Columbia court of appeal said they would defer to Parliament on this social policy issue. However, the dissenting judge disagreed, saying that if a person's liberty is going to be threatened by using either the peace order and good government clause, or the criminal law power, the risk to the public must be serious, substantial or significant. A person's liberty cannot be threatened in a free and democratic society for benign conduct that does not pose any significant risk.
Section 7 of our Constitution provides that all of us have ``the right to life, liberty, and the security of the persons and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with principles of fundamental justice.'' What both courts of appeal have also accepted is the John Stuart Mill harm principle, which states that in a free and democratic society, you can do whatever you want so long as you do not impact on others' rights or cause them harm, or, as we refine it in our law, as along as one does not pose a reasoned apprehension of a risk of harm to the public. I take that from the obscenity cases.
Critical questions in the Supreme Court of Canada will be: What is the constitutional standard? What are the limits on the criminal law power? Can Parliament simply make anything a criminal offence? We know from the cases that it should normally involve some public matter, not a private matter. Underlying all of our law is this question of harm. In the obscenity cases, it was a reasoned apprehension of a risk of harm. We will argue that the test should be a risk of significant harm. The court, not Parliament should be setting that standard. In the future, the question will be, does the inclusion of a drug in the schedule if one maintains the existing framework meet that standard?
I think the critical issues for the court and this committee to consider are section 60 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and section 22 of the Narcotic Control Act. Under those acts, the Governor in Council, by order, amends the schedules by adding or taking away a drug. Parliament did not debate whether or not marijuana should be made illegal. It was simply reported to the house that there was a new drug in the schedule. That is how drugs now come to be illegal or not. If marijuana were not in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act schedule now, it would be regulated under the Natural Health Care Products Regulation or something similar.
The test, as is currently worded in section 60, is if the Governor in Council deems the amendment to be necessary in the public interest. The courts have held that term to be vague and void when coupled with the deprivation of liberty because it is unconstitutionally vague. What does ``the public interest'' mean?
What may happen is that the harm principle, at least, will be grafted on to that section. Public interest means is there a risk of significant harm to the public? If criteria are incorporated into section 56, then instead of the cabinet or the minister in the medical marijuana cases having an absolute discretion without any criteria, some criteria will be set for the exercise of that discretion. That would make it constitutional and provide us with a standard to determine whether a particular drug should fall within the criminal prohibition, or some other form of regulation.
Before I return to the main arguments that we are making in Caine and Malmo-Levine I should add Malmo-Levine is charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking, not just possession.
Because they are charged with offences, their liberty is threatened. Because of this, section 7 of the Charter is immediately engaged. Other cases from our Supreme Court have also made it clear that liberty and freedom involves a degree of personal autonomy. In a free and democratic society, a person has this personal autonomy to make decisions of fundamental personal importance to that individual. When you raise this in terms of marijuana, people say it is not of fundamental importance to possess marijuana. I agree with that. A fundamental personal importance is the choice or decision for an individual to decide what to put in his or her body whether it is a hamburger, given the obesity epidemic we have, or a particular drug. An individual's decision whether or not to do that is a decision of fundamental personal importance within the realm of personal autonomy for that individual to decide always subject to the harm principle. If you are causing harm to yourself, we generally do not put you in jail for that. We do not threaten your liberty for doing something like that if you are a healthy adult or even if you are an unhealthy adult. On the other hand, if you are doing something that does cause harm to others or presents a risk of harm to others, then you fall to the harm principle. We take the personal autonomy and the threat to liberty from an offence and we then come to the principles of fundamental justice. As I mentioned, the courts of appeal have accepted that the Mill harm principle is the principle here.
There are other principles that go with it. There is the principle of restraint in the use of the criminal law: that we should not use the criminal law except for serious matters which is a corollary of the harm principle. There is a principle against arbitrariness and irrationality in the legislative scheme. We say that too, is present here when you have comparisons to tobacco, alcohol, prescribed drugs and that hypocrisies are irrational distinctions that are made in that regard.
There does not appear to be, on the evidence, a national marijuana health problem. In the Caine case, we asked Dr. Peck from the provincial health organization if there is a marijuana health problem in this province. He said that as far as he knew there was not and, from discussions with his counterparts across the country, no-one was saying there was a major health problem from marijuana use.
The division of powers argument states that that the federal government only has authority to use the criminal law power or the peace, order and good government power on a health matter if the health issue is such that it affects the dominion as a whole or is some new matter that did not exist at the time of confederation. We say that is not the case here. There is no national problem from the possession and use of marijuana. We say this is outside the jurisdiction of the federal government. It is not a criminal law matter; it is not a peace, order and good government matter; this is something for the provinces.
This is a health issue that is a purely local and private matter in the province affecting property and civil rights. This fits, in my submission, with the harm principle. If you have little risk of harm or no risk of harm, then surely this is a provincial health responsibility. If you have a significant risk of harm that is affecting the country as a whole, then and only then should the federal government be allowed to enter into the health field through the use of the peace, order and good government power or the criminal law power. We will argue in the Supreme Court of Canada both points: first, that it is outside the jurisdiction of the federal government; and, second, that it runs afoul of section 7 of the Charter.
As you know from the medical evidence that you have heard, there are developments going on in that respect. Prior to the Parker decision in the Ontario Court of Appeal, few people knew that a doctor could prescribe a narcotic or controlled drug which included marijuana to a patient for a medical condition for which they were being treated. The only problem was how to get a legal source of supply. Doctors were not in the habit of prescribing it and no system was set up to do that.
Mr. Parker, who had a very serious epileptic condition and who over time had determined that the smoking of marijuana would stop the onset of his seizures, took a case that ultimately reached the Ontario Court of Appeal. He received a constitutional exemption and the court struck down section 56, which was the section that allowed the minister to make a medical exemption.
The section was never intended for that purpose originally, but a protocol was developed. The court's criticism of the section was that it allowed the minister to have an absolute discretion to decide whether or not grant an exemption without any criteria. A person could be very deserving and still be turned down. The court said that was unconstitutional because that forced a patient to choose between their liberty and their health.
That is why I raised section 60 earlier, because I suspect section 60 has not been a big issue in the lower courts in terms of the arguments or the decisions. My view is that will loom larger in light of the analysis that happened in Parker. It may be that the court will strike the section and give the government a year to come up with some criteria, in the same sort of way that happened in the medical area.
The medical area resulted in the new medical marijuana access regulations, which continue to cause patients to choose between their liberty and their health. It is now more difficult to get a doctor to support a patient for the use of medical marijuana than it was before under the old system. It is very cumbersome. It is the only drug in which the government tells doctors what they can prescribe it for and under what circumstances. Normally, whether you get a prescription or authorization or not is a matter between the doctor and the patient the government does not get involved in the matter. In my view, the government should not be involved in the issue at all.
That is a general overview in terms of the issues in which I have been involved. There are consultations going on right now under the natural health care products regulations. These, I understand do not deal with the question of possession and use at all. Rather, they deal with the important issue of people who are going to sell the stuff as medicine having to meet a certain standard. We all support that.
In my view, given the widespread use and popularity of cannabis particularly in British Columbia there is an urgent need for regulations to protect consumers. There are people who put all kinds of chemicals on the marijuana that they are growing. They are doing it solely for a profit to ship primarily to our neighbour to the south, and that is all they are interested in.
In the medical area, there is a big concern to ensure that the people who are using the stuff for a medical purpose are getting clean organic preferably and safe medicine that they can use without complicating the process. The same is true for the ordinary consumer.
My personal position is that there should be legalization, not just decriminalization; that this product should be regulated in much the same way as alcohol and other types of drugs; that our major drug problems are alcohol to start off with and tobacco and then following on that are prescribed drugs. The problems we have from all illicit drugs combined are primarily caused as a result of prohibition itself and economic issues that surround them.
I am happy to answer any questions that the committee might have.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Conroy. Can you inform us of the international conventions and their importance for the courts?
Mr. Conroy: They are not really that important from the court's point of view. In all of the decisions it has been pointed out that, when all of these international treaties are entered into, they are subject to the constitutional principles of the country that becomes involved in them. If we are correct and prohibition as it is currently framed is unconstitutional, then these conventions and treaties simply do not apply.
Furthermore, there are provisions in a number of the conventions and treaties that allow countries to take a different approach, a non-criminal law type of approach to possession and use of drugs. There are loopholes in the various treaties that allow governments to approach the problem as they wish.
A number of countries Holland is the one referred to most frequently but there have been quite a few more since 1976 have effectively decriminalized either by not enforcing their criminal law, which seems to be one of the more common approaches, or withdrawing from the treaties, or simply proceeding ahead and ignoring the treaties. The United States does that frequently. It picks and chooses what treaties it wishes to follow.
The Chairman: Does a treaty need to be proven, or is it known automatically by the tribunal, or must the Crown inform or produce proper evidence of the existence of those treaties? How does it work?
Mr. Conroy: If council insisted on strict proof, that could be required. In my experience, the Crown raises the treaty. I have a copy of it; I am satisfied it is real and exists. I am not going to object to it being presented. It is presented like a case or a statute, and we argue its applicability.
The Chairman: Is it binding?
Mr. Conroy: It is not binding on a court at all. In Canada, international treaties do not form part of domestic law. We must pass a statute implementing the treaty. For example, we have international treaties to repatriate prisoners international exchange of prisoners. We have a bilateral treaty and a multilateral convention to which we are party. We have enacted the Transfer of Offenders Act, and that law is the binding domestic law in Canada.
International treaties in relation to illegal drugs call upon Canada to pass certain legislation. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act was the last Canadian piece of legislation to implement our international obligations.
The Chairman: Is there a decision in the lower courts based upon those treaties?
Mr. Conroy: You will see, as you follow the levels of decision making, that the treaties took on less and less significance. They were not considered all that significant in the lower court decisions because of the issue being a constitutional question and they are all subject to our constitutional principles.
The Chairman: Mr. Conroy, you mentioned Dr. Kalant. Dr. Kalant appeared before us as a witness. With respect to the effects of cannabis, are you satisfied that the court heard complete evidence from expert witnesses as to the effects of cannabis pro and con? Was it proper evidence? Was the evidence based on opinion? Was the evidence based on studies that were peer-reviewed?
Mr. Conroy: I certainly think so. We had all of the royal commissions and other studies that have taken place dating back to the Indian Hemp Commission in the 1800s. Our experts were familiar with those.
We called a number of witnesses on the application who were cross-examined by the Crown. Issues such as peer- reviewed papers arose during cross-examination. The Crown had the opportunity to call other witnesses but chose to call Dr. Kalant. He was the government witness in Clay, Parker, and Caine.
No effort has been made by the Crown to introduce new evidence at the Court of Appeal level, for example. If a new study had arisen or a significant matter that had not been dealt with by the most recent reports, there was an opportunity to introduce new evidence. That opportunity exists in the Supreme Court of Canada as well.
Dr. Kalant became the key witness. He chaired the most recent World Health Organization committees on the subject. As a result, he was able to bring to us all of the references that were referred to by that committee. At the end of the day, as I recall, one of the reports from that committee came down and was also put before the court.
I am sure there have been more studies since, but none that the Crown has brought to our attention suggesting it should be the before the Supreme Court of Canada as an item of new evidence.
The Chairman: One of the main concerns of the police is the cognitive effects of cannabis on drivers and machinery operators. Have you heard expert testimony on that? That is one of the critical areas. Of course it is creating harm.
Mr. Conroy: We have a law in Canada that says thou shalt not drive when your ability to do so is impaired by alcohol or a drug. We also have the law relating to blood/alcohol readings, but those are limited to blood/alcohol because the Breathalyzer is an alcohol level measuring device, not a drug level measuring device.
In British Columbia, police officers had training sessions to enable them to identify people driving under the influence of marijuana. One must remember what a police officer does when he suspects a case of impaired driving. Often someone reports erratic driving or erratic driving is observed. The officers stop the vehicle and observe the person. They are entitled to ask that person to step from the vehicle, to walk the line and touch their nose, heel-to-toe all of the roadside tests to determine whether the person's motor coordination skills are such that their ability to drive is impaired. That can be done in relation to alcohol, marijuana, all sorts of other drugs. You do not have a magic machine to measure the level before you can charge someone with committing that offence.
It is determining whether motor coordination skills are a problem as it relates to a person's ability to drive. That does not mean to say they cannot continue to develop other models to make it easier to detect.
Please do not misunderstand. My position is that people who smoke marijuana should not drive; it is intoxicant and they can be distracted. However, the Robbe studies from Holland indicated that marijuana smokers paid more attention to their driving, that they slowed down and were more aware of the situation and that they did not take the kinds of risks that people take under alcohol. It was quite a different approach, if someone was intoxicated on marijuana compared to alcohol.
In terms of the accident studies there has been nothing conclusive to indicate that the consumption of marijuana is a major contributing factor in terms of accidents. They are finding marijuana in the bloodstream of people often in conjunction with alcohol in some accidents.
Part of the problem with the measurement of marijuana and we see this often in prisons is that the non-active metabolites stay in fatty deposits for long periods of time, sometimes 90 days or more. The urinalysis testing industry survives on testing for marijuana. I have represented people who admitted smoking marijuana when they were in one prison and then 90 days later they are in another prison charged with a disciplinary offence for having consumed an intoxicant. They say, ``Well, wait a minute. I have not smoked in your institution. It was way back in the other one.''
The unfortunate effect of this, much like during prohibition, is that prisoners start going to heroin and cocaine, which are drugs that are less detectable. The prohibition drives them to harder drugs that they can flush to avoid being caught in the detection system because they know the marijuana will show up.
It is my understanding that during prohibition there was a big drop in the consumption of beer and an increase in the consumption of hard liquor again because of the bulk situation.
Senator LaPierre: I have squared the circle with this. I am not on this committee; I am merely replacing a senator. I am overwhelmed by the arguments presented against the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana, as I was when I had television programs in British Columbia and made statements that the sooner we decriminalize, the better off we will be. What is the difference between decriminalization and legalization?
Mr. Conroy: That distinction arose back in the 1960s and 1970s when the arguments first arose. People took an incremental approach saying that the first approach would be to decriminalize and then later to look at legalization. The term ``decriminalization,'' takes the matter out of the criminal law, however there would still be rules and regulations governing the subject.
People said, ``How do you do that in terms of simple possession? What will you do with the trafficker or the person who is dealing or growing?'' There seems to be inconsistency.
That is why I think this issue is important terms of if you look at Malmo-Levine case. David Malmo-Levine took the facts and the expert evidence in the Caine case, and opened something called the Harm Reduction Club in a park in Vancouver. He put up signs that said: ``No mentally ill, no pregnant women, no immature youths.'' He had membership cards and people had to sign membership cards saying they would not drive while under the influence of marijuana. He had a ``safe-smoking'' guide; he would teach his customers how to reduce the impact of smoking. His approach was to say that these risks or harm have been analyzed in a black-market context and were extrapolated in terms of a trafficker or a dealer. What we should be looking at is how the commercial or government regulation of this activity reduces those harms by consumer protection. Thus, my activity in trafficking marijuana does not affect or offend the harm principle. In this way, I am ensuring that the process is less harmful than what would occur in a black- market context.
This leads us to the legalization model, instead of decriminalization. You are looking at the entire picture. We are not saying that we will only deal with simple possession, but rather everything trafficking, growing and so forth.
Senator LaPierre: Those who are opposed to this process argue health issues and so forth. When you scratch the surface, they are really arguing that this will bring about a tremendous opening of all kinds of stuff. The concern is that society's moral fibre is decreased by encouragement such activity. They used to argue that with alcohol. They are now using the same argument with marijuana.
Is there evidence that more crime is committed because people smoke marijuana?
Mr. Conroy: Absolutely not. Much of my experience is dealing with prisons and prison guards in the Fraser Valley. People say to me, ``Conroy, if we had a choice of getting a couple of pounds of marijuana or money for a new program we would never admit this publicly but we would take the couple of pounds of marijuana. We know that if the prisoners are smoking marijuana, they are not likely to be violent; they will be cool and calm.'' I am sure that still goes on, unless they do it right in the presence of a guard or something like that. The evidence is quite the contrary. There is a lack of criminality or no propensity toward criminality.
In terms of the police, my suspicion is that, as with my colleagues in the criminal defence bar and certain ad hoc prosecutions, whereby private firms benefit financially from prosecuting drug matters, the police also have a vested interest in maintaining prohibition.
I have witnessed the expansion of police powers to a tremendous degree from the early days. With wire-tapping and now telephone warrants such things, the police have expanded their powers and want to maintain that. Usually, they use the drug laws as the need for more money laundering laws, for invasion of privacy and so on. Once you get those powers, it is difficult to go back.
If we change our approach to the drug laws, we will be able to change our approach to those things as well, because they will not need such expansive police powers. There will not be anywhere near the significance of money laundering if we change our approach to drugs.
Senator LaPierre: You spoke about gardeners. We used to grow marijuana in little gardens. Oh, my god, the things I have to admit. Of course, I found that marijuana depressed me enormously, as does liquor.
I have always found that the effects of pesticides that are put on plants are more dangerous than those experienced from smoking marijuana. Should we not transfer this matter to agriculture and into the context of the rules and regulations for growing crops such as peas and beans?
Mr. Conroy: Health and agriculture are two areas that seem to follow, plus whatever model is used to regulate an intoxicating substance.
The consumer protection aspect of marijuana production in terms of consumer is an important issue. People tell me that they use various types of chemicals, and that doctors have been alarmed at the amount or how they have used them without following the instructions. Part of the problem with prohibition and the black market is that people do not follow normal rules and regulations. It is a wild frontier. They do not have peaceful ways to resolve disputes. If they have a dispute in the black market, they often resort to violence. That is because they do not have peaceful remedies. They cannot go to the courts, mediation or arbitration to solve the problem. The law itself leads to a condition where we have problems. The same is true in terms of what is put on plants and how that impacts on the consumer. I am amazed at some of the things I hear are put on the plants.
A doctor who was testing for the Compassion Club was unfortunately caught and charged. He had a licence to test marijuana, but he was supposed to test only for people who grew it legally. Out of compassion, he was taking the Compassion Club material, testing it for moulds, metals and so on in it and saying to the club that is okay so they could feel safe. However, he was breaking the current law. My submission is there is a major need to do that for the medical people, in particular.
The Chairman: When our committee was in Vancouver, we heard testimony from the B.C. Compassion Club Society. We visited the site. They use only bio-organic marijuana that is highly controlled. That might address your concern.
Senator LaPierre: September 11 re-awakened, or gave a greater vitality to the war against drugs in the United States. One of the arguments for the greater security at Canadian borders is the flow of marijuana, particularly from British Columbia into the western United States. Do you think that this may also increase the difficulty of obtaining marijuana because it has now become an object of concern in regard to security?
Mr. Conroy: It will not be a problem for people to obtain marijuana in British Columbia, but it will be getting it into the United States. The price went up. In British Columbia, the price went down and in the United States it went up. Again, most of the marijuana consumed by people in the United States is produced there. I do not know how the growers in British Columbia did such a good marketing job, saying that British Columbia marijuana is so good, because people in the United States tell me that theirs is better, at least in Northern California. However, that is what has developed. It seems to me that the police have become some of the biggest promoters of British Columbia marijuana. They are constantly reported in the media as saying that the stuff is stronger than ever, that the courts are not doing anything and that there are 15,000 growers. When people are losing jobs, they rationalize the situation and say that marijuana is not so bad and that they will go grow some in order to survive.
The price has gone up because it is harder to get it into the U.S., it has developed this reputation and there is a demand for it. This is true not only in Western Canada. If you can get ``B.C. bud'' from British Columbia to New York City, you will get three or four times the amount you would in British Columbia. Prohibition and increased restrictions have a major effect on price and on the entire structure of the market.
There are people selling marijuana seeds all over the world. You will see 12 pages on seeds in Cannabis Culture Magazine. After the anthrax scare, there was concern that all these envelopes would be irradiated and the seeds would be destroyed. Therefore, increased security has impacted the marijuana seed business. Just as with any other product, many things can affect it. However, it primarily affects price, and therefore, larger amounts are taken across the border with greater risks. There are greater penalties in the United States.
I have dealt with a number of cases in which the police have lured people into the United States in order to bust them there because a heavier penalty will be imposed than can be in Canada.
Senator Maheu: Mr. Conroy, I would like you to touch on two points that you mentioned previously. Could you elaborate a little on youth and the disruptive effect on their studies? I have not heard about this from many witnesses.
Mr. Conroy: In the evidence in Caine, Dr. Kalant referred to a number of studies in that respect. I do not have all the details in my head, but my recollection is that if people who have not yet matured start consuming marijuana some of which is fairly powerful and they develop a practice of smoking marijuana every time they are not feeling good or want to distract themselves or to escape or whatever, they do not pay enough attention to their studies or apply themselves. They can become psychologically dependent upon the marijuana, to the detriment of the work they are supposed to be doing.
A number of studies were presented to the court. I could get the references for you, but that is the gist of the evidence as I recall it.
Senator Maheu: I have heard that the government does not want to or cannot change our laws regarding the use of drugs, particularly marijuana, because of our international obligations. You talked about treaties. I am interested in cross-border trafficking into the United States. What can we expect the impact to be if the Canadian government decides to decriminalize marijuana?
Mr. Conroy: I believe that the courts will say that the current law is unconstitutional. That would create a different issue for the Government of the United States of America because our independent judiciary would have determined what our Constitution means in relation to this issue. The American government will have to take whatever steps it deems necessary.
I agree that it is difficult for the government to do something because of the relationship between Canada and the United States. When people say there is an agreement not to decriminalize, I always thought they were referring to the international or bilateral treaties. We look at the U.S. with a bit of a jaundiced view on softwood lumber and some other issues. They pick and choose.
We know that on the drug issue, it has historically been the American government that has gone around the world persuading countries to sign these treaties, and it is usually bureaucrats in Washington who pressure our bureaucrats to come up with new laws. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act was not part of the platform of the government of the day. I understand that it was driven by pressure from Washington, D.C.
We will have pressure from the Americans, but then the major consumer market is the United States. The highest incidence of convictions occurs there. I understand that places that have implemented harm reduction strategies and other such approaches have seen their consuming populations either decrease or rise only slightly.
It will not be an easy thing, but it is also not the first time that we have faced this sort of issue with the United States.
I suspect that the American people, who are major consumers of the product, will be quite happy. It is the American federal government with which we will have to deal, and it will be very interesting to see how that unfolds. During Prohibition, Canadians were considered a major source of supply for alcohol to the United States. I can envisage coffee shops along the border, or some such thing.
I am often invited to speak on this issue in the United States and give a Canadian perspective. I often encourage them all to become Canadian citizens so that we can do a reverse takeover.
The Chairman: My colleague, Senator LaPierre, used the word ``moral.'' I want to hear your views on the question of moral values as supported and defended by the Criminal Code. I have in mind prostitution and abortion, which is still in the Criminal Code, although not applied. We are hearing witnesses, reading papers and receiving e-mails on the moral aspect. They say that no matter what is said, it is morally wrong and that the Criminal Code defends their values. What do you say to that?
Mr. Conroy: What is the moral value? It is telling people what they can or cannot do with their bodies. It is the imposition of your views on others when what they do does not affect you in any way and should be none of your business. This moral value thing is nonsense. Do not forget that we are a constitutional democracy. We are no longer a parliamentary democracy. We have been a constitutional democracy since 1982, so morality is no longer a sound constitutional basis for law in a pluralistic society. That is merely one person's morals versus another's. We have no nationally defined morals.
People have strong views, be they religious or whatever. It is one thing for them to speak out, remonstrate and tell me what I or anyone else should not do. I do not mind that; that is democracy and that is good. However, trying to use the law, and criminal law in particular, to threaten my liberty in order to enforce their moral values is not acceptable in a constitutional democracy. We try to respect everyone's perspectives as best we can.
It inevitably involves a balancing act between society's or the state's interests and individual interests, but it is no longer acceptable to impose your morality on Canadian society unless it is an extremely well defined type of morality, such as ``Thou shalt not kill.'' However, where is the morality issue in the consumption of marijuana?
The Chairman: You spoke about the harm principle earlier with regard to murder. In matters that do not affect anyone else, such as abortion, you basically follow what the court said in Morgentaler?
Mr. Conroy: That is right. It involves forcing a woman to choose between her liberty and her health. It is the same basis as in the Parker decision.
The Chairman: This afternoon we will hear from chiefs of police and other organizations. They will label cannabis as dangerous. There is a significant body of evidence, although not entirely conclusive, that cannabis can have negative effects. We know what some of those are. We are still searching to understand why alcohol and marijuana do not mix when one is driving. However, the word ``dangerous'' will be used this afternoon. Why?
Mr. Conroy: I think it is because the police want to maintain their powers and that it is part of a hidden agenda. They realize that if the enforcement of drug laws is abandoned, the number of police officers will be substantially reduced. There will be less clogging of the courts and the criminal justice system. They will have less to do and fewer powers. I think that is what it comes down to.
Drug squad members say to me from time to time, ``Hey, Conroy, what are you doing? You are going to ruin a good thing.'' They much prefer to investigate drug cases, running around trying to smell marijuana grow-ops, than murder, robbery and rape cases. It is much more entertaining. I much prefer grow-op cases to murder cases.
An industry has grown up out there and drug squads run around trying to find grow-ops. They spend tonnes of taxpayers' money on what seems to me to be a low-end offence. Crimes of violence and property crimes, to my way of thinking, are far more serious than marijuana-growing operations.
I think drug enforcement is a big part of the police perspective. Police forces, and particularly senior members, have been steeped in it for the last 100 years. They were not around when opium was freely available in grocery stores back in the early 1900s and marijuana was available and on the pharmacopoeias of most nations. It has developed into this modern industry in which the police send out squads to try to find marijuana, and we defence lawyers get hired once someone is busted. We now spend all our time trying to exclude evidence, picking on police mistakes and capitalizing on them. It has become a big-time consumer of courtroom time.
The Chairman: I can understand the word ``dangerous'' in the mouths of the police organizations and I follow your argument. What about medical organizations? Does Dr. Kalant use that word in front of the court?
Mr. Conroy: No. He would describe it as a mild tranquilizer.
The Chairman: He used those words?
Mr. Conroy: I believe that is the term he used to describe marijuana. The concern often is with youth. The police with whom I speak always raise youth as a concern. There is a group of doctors who call themselves ``doctors of addictive medicine.'' Most recently, I have heard them talk about studies and graphs that show a dependency in youths, if they start consuming marijuana at an early stage, that they do not find in adults. It is something that happens during the maturation process. They are worried that kids will become addicted and then will stay that way.
We have to look at the reality of the history of marijuana consumption and ask ourselves, if that is the case, where are all these addicted persons? Many people were using marijuana in the 1960s. Today's rates of use are nowhere near what they were then. They went up in the early 1990s, and have always gone up and down no matter what the law said. If there were a major addiction problem, I am quite sure we would have seen it by now.
It disturbs me that the medical profession also calls on the aid of the criminal law to advance its agenda. Doctors can tell their patients, ``We do not think you should do this because of X, Y and Z,'' without saying, ``We need the criminal law to threaten your liberty to make you do what we think is good for your health.'' Surely we do not use the criminal law for that purpose. We use it to prevent people from harming others. If people want to smoke marijuana in the privacy of their own homes, or elsewhere, for that matter, so long as it is not impinging upon others, surely it is within the realm of things that people can do in a free and democratic society as long as they do it with their eyes open. Doctors should be providing them with as much information as they want about how what they do will affect them, and not using the criminal law to aid them in whatever their objective is. I think they forget that. They talk about the government keeping marijuana illegal because of this or that harm, but what it comes down to is the use of the criminal law.
The Chairman: I want to go back to the full meaning of the significant harm principle that you want the court to uphold. Do you mean significant harm to others?
Mr. Conroy: I mean significant harm to others or to society as a whole.
The Chairman: You do not mean significant harm to the user. That could lead to banning tobacco and alcohol.
Mr. Conroy: Right. When you consume tobacco, you are causing harm to yourself. We are not going to say, ``Do not do that to yourself or we will put you in jail.'' However, if you and many other people consume tobacco and over a period of time that becomes a burden on the health care system, you are creating a risk of harm to society as a whole. You are presenting a cost to society as a whole. That then warrants some sort of intervention by the government. Again, I would argue against a criminal law intervention, but by way of taxation or medical insurance or whatever might be appropriate to try to take the burden from the taxpayers and put it on those users who are causing the costs not toss them into jail or impose fines or put them through the criminal justice system. That does not make any sense to me. It exacerbates the problem. The cure is worse than the disease, if you will, when you put people in prison for this sort of thing.
Senator LaPierre: Is not attempting suicide a criminal offence?
Mr. Conroy: It is. If you are successful, of course, there is no one to prosecute.
Senator LaPierre: I only harm myself. I do not harm Senator Maheu by killing myself, although it might please her.
Mr. Conroy: It might not be constitutional. We have all kinds of offences on the books that I do not think are constitutional. It is an old offence that has not been considered by the courts in recent times.
Senator LaPierre: What about euthanasia?
Mr. Conroy: The Supreme Court of Canada upheld that law in the Rodrigues case.
Therefore, the attempted suicide law would probably come under a similar analysis to Rodriguez. As I recall, the court was weighing the right to life in section 7 of the Charter and the balance between society's interest in maintaining life and the individual wanting to take it away. We perhaps draw the line when it is taken to the extreme of taking your life. If you want to eat fatty foods, you can. It is not good for you and it is not good for the taxpayer. There is a major problem with obesity here and in the United States, but we do not take the criminal law approach. It would seem absurd for us to have laws that say, ``You are only allowed to consume so many calories. If you consume more, we will send you to prison or fine you.''
The Chairman: You have alluded to the marijuana medical access regulations. Do you see clients who are having problems with the application of those regulations, and how do you deal with that?
Mr. Conroy: Last week, a man who had applied back in October under the new regulations came in with his wife. He has recurring polio. He had polio when he was a child. He is over 50 now, and it has come back and is causing him immense pain. His doctors tried all sorts of things, but nothing was working. They tried cannabis and that is working for him. He had the support of a general practitioner and specialists, sent the application in October, had phoned and heard that because of the changes, the program was not going ahead or was on hold. However, I am pleased to report that he got his certificate last week.
The Chairman: He is in the third category. He needed two medical opinions.
Mr. Conroy: I think he was in category two, but he did get a certificate. My understanding is, the old and the new together total 700, but there was a question about whether the new ones were being processed or the whole thing was on hold. Until last week, I thought there was a problem, but I now understand it has been resolved. It still takes a long time. The doctors have a major problem.
The Chairman: What is the reaction of the doctors? Their national organization will testify this afternoon. They were almost issued orders not to sign. How do you deal with that?
Mr. Conroy: I would like to take them to court. It is a problem. They do not want to be the gatekeepers and I cannot blame them for that. However, they are the gatekeepers of other drugs that are far more dangerous, with lethal dose ratios that can easily kill. Aspirin has a lethal dose ratio of 9, or something like that. We have hospital admissions for non-prescribed drugs that are far more dangerous than cannabis. If therapeutic ratios were applied to cannabis, it would be low on the standard of non-prescribed drugs. The doctors' line, as I understand it, is that cannabis has not gone through the therapeutic products process and been tested against placebos and so forth. People use many other herbal remedies. Echinacea is only just going through the process now, but they do not take the same position there.
I think it is extremely hypocritical of the doctors. The studies say over 33 per cent of them smoked marijuana in medical school. Most of them know it is a benign, innocuous drug. They are saying it is the smoking process, and they are right that smoking is not a good thing, but medicine has used smoking as a method of drug administration. Until we come up with better vaporizers or other new methods that are being developed, such as pills that are placed under the tongue or sprays there is quite a market for that the epileptics, for example, need to smoke cannabis because it is the quickest way of stopping the onset of the next seizure. Until we can refine that, there will be justifiable criticism of smoking. I can accept that.
However, to say, ``It has not been studied,'' or ``We need to study it, test it and try everything else before you use marijuana,'' is being hypocritical and unrealistic about what we already know. The drug has been studied to death to try to find the bad. It has not been studied enough to find all the good things it can do. From all the evidence we have, we know that the major problem is in the smoking process and nothing else. We have a great deal of anecdotal evidence about how certain people find that it works for them when other things do not.
I have had cases of heroin addicts, who, when they hit the street, will rob to get money for heroin and end up back in prison. Therefore, when they come up for their statutory release, they try to get on the methadone program. In one case, the institution said, ``You have had periods of abstinence in here. Why? You should only get methadone if nothing else works.'' He said, ``I was smoking marijuana. I find it takes away my craving for heroin.'' He could use a soft drug to escape from the hard drug. I would say to the prison, ``Let's put him on medical marijuana.'' ``No, we cannot have medical marijuana in the prisons, but we will put him on methadone.'' They put him on methadone, a hard drug. Before he reaches statutory release, he must be stabilized on methadone for several months. He will hit the street, and hopefully that will prevent him from re-offending for a period of time. However, he does not like being on methadone, so we will try to get him on medical marijuana. It will be a matter of getting him onto a lesser drug and off a harder one. What would the medical profession say to that? They are essentially saying that he has to go on methadone first.
I appreciate that they do not want to be the gatekeepers, and I do not think they should be or need to be. The natural health care products regulations can be used. People can possess it, use it for medical or recreational purposes if they wish, and consult with their doctors if they wish. If they are using other drugs, they might want to talk to their doctors about contra-indications. Poly-drug use was the big problem in the 1960s, not marijuana. Then, at least anybody selling it and calling it ``medicine'' has to meet a certain standard, and the doctors would not have to be in control, as they are with other drugs. The doctors do not like the fact the government is telling them what they can and cannot do in relation to the drug, more so than all the other drugs over which they have power.
I have some sympathy for them, but I think there is some hypocrisy. It is not consistent with their Hippocratic oath do no harm to say, ``No, we will not prescribe for you,'' when a person finds nothing else works. People who are allergic to many other medications find that marijuana works for them.
On an anecdotal note, last week my doctor told me he tried to get his professional colleagues to support him in obtaining cannabis for a man who had unsuccessfully tried different things, but they would not. They said to try long- acting morphine. The man tried it and got terribly sick. They got him cannabis from the Compassion Club, and the man told my doctor he had his best night's sleep in 15 years. It worked for him.
That is perhaps anecdotal, but if my doctor follows that patient over the next six months, keeps testing and checking to see what is happening, surely that is no longer anecdotal. You do not have the placebos and so forth, but sometimes you go to your doctor and he says, ``Take a couple of these blue ones.''
I got a sample from the pharmaceutical industry the other day. They told me to try those.'' No one did a study on me to determine the effects of those pills.
I may go back and say that I do not like this stuff. It does not work.
A period of time observing the effects on the patient is surely more than anecdotal evidence. The medical profession relies on that in other situations. Why not in this instance?
The Chairman: Let's talk about the size of the cannabis market in B.C. You referred to it as ``huge.'' We have heard testimony to the effect that it is bigger than the lumber business. We are trying to find sound evidence to support what we are hearing. Can you help us?
Mr. Conroy: As I say, I rely on what the police say. They have the statistics and report them to the media.
I can tell you that many members of the criminal defence bar take many marijuana grow-op cases. It has become a common offence, and we hear that there are many more growers out there than are charged.
They talk about Vietnamese groups in Vancouver controlling large grow-ops. We hear of large ``mom and pop'' operations. We hear that the Hell's Angels are involved in distribution into the United States.
It is difficult to quantify it and truly know what is going on. My suspicion is that there has been a huge increase in the number of people growing marijuana in British Columbia, certainly throughout the Lower Mainland and in the Kootenay area.
It was spurred on by people's ingenuity in determining how to grow the stuff in a northern climate and make it as well as the people down south did. They found that the market was primarily the United States. The big demand was there.
People have read all about marijuana over the years and they do not see the same problems in society as they might from heroin or cocaine use. They rationalize the illegal growing operation and use it to make money.
How do you get information when you are dealing with the black market? The Fraser Valley College did a study looking at several areas of British Columbia. They compared those to a place in Alberta and another in Washington. They did comparisons on the numbers of convictions, the penalties and so on.
I could get that report for you. It might be useful to you as a comparative analysis. It had more to do with the penalty side of things. We have had a lot of ``no case'' seizures. A number of times, the police would see a grow-op, tell the people to stop growing and tear down the current crop, but not lay a charge. That was happening for a while. When it hit the media, there were questions regarding the propriety of that approach.
The Chairman: I remind you that Mr. Conroy is counsel for various accused persons and that one of his cases is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada. We will now suspend the hearing for a 10-minute break.
The Chairman: We will now hear from Mr. Bill Marra and Ms Janet Neves from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Mr. Marra was born in Switzerland and moved to Canada in April 1968. He studied at the University of Windsor, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in sociology and his Bachelor of Arts in criminology.
Mr. Marra was elected to Windsor City Council in 1994 and re-elected in 1997. He has served on many municipal committees dealing with the subject matter of our study.
In the course of the testimony, if questions need to be addressed in more depth, I will write to you and receive your answers. These questions and answers will be posted on the committee's Web site.
Mr. Bill Marra, Chair of the Standing Committee on Community Safety and Crime Prevention of the Federatio of Canadian Municipalities and Councillor for the City of Windsor: On behalf of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, FCM, I would like to thank the members of the committee for the invitation to speak to you about the impact of illegal drugs on local communities, the role of municipal government in addressing the problem and FCM's work.
As you know, FCM has been recognized as the national voice of municipal governments since 1901. FCM dedicates itself to improving the quality of life in Canadian communities. Its members include Canada's largest cities, small urban and rural communities and all provincial and territorial municipal associations, representing more than 20 million Canadians.
FCM has a long history of leadership in community safety and crime prevention. Our Standing Committee on Community Safety and Crime Prevention collaborates with a variety of organizations on criminal justice issues and builds safer communities through partnerships in crime prevention. The committee's main goal is to give municipal government leaders the tools to establish comprehensive crime prevention programs to sustain the safety of Canadian communities. Most importantly, FCM's approach to safer communities is grounded in prevention through social development.
FCM's focus on tackling the drug problem dates back to an emergency resolution passed in 1997 at our annual conference. The resolution, sponsored by the City of Vancouver, called on our organization to adopt a series of stringent anti-drug actions and to demand the support of the federal government in the fight against drug abuse. The resolution was fully supported by the hundreds of delegates at the conference.
In response, FCM conducted a study to determine whether there were similar concerns in other municipal centres across Canada. This was carried out through a needs assessment in collaboration with the National Crime Prevention Council, or NCPC, and Justice Canada in 1997. A survey was sent to 200 senior elected municipal officials, police departments, First Nations tribal councils and members of the federal-provincial-territorial working group on crime prevention to rate crime and disorder problems in terms of their effects on communities. The survey results ranked drug offences first, confirming that the drug problem was not isolated to any particular community but was of primary concern to local governments across the country.
A multitude of social, health and economic costs have been associated with drug trafficking and drug use. The most comprehensive study conducted on the overall cost of drugs to the Canadian economy produced the often-cited 1992 figure of $8.9 billion in health care costs, law enforcement costs and economic costs from loss of labour productivity.
In 1996, an annual figure of $96 million was estimated for direct costs of health care and law enforcement related to injection drug use in British Columbia. Further to the monetary impact associated with drug use, however, are the social effects to which a cost cannot be affixed, such as the value of public safety and well-being.
Personal safety is one of the most important factors in the quality of life of Canadians. Canadians are proud of their safe communities, yet municipal leaders are faced with growing threats due to the pervasive impacts of drug abuse and organized crime. Organized crime groups have been linked to the illegal drug trade, and the RCMP regards drug trafficking as a primary source of revenue for these groups. A study on the impact of organized crime for the Solicitor General of Canada noted that, of all organized criminal activities, the illicit drug trade has the strongest link to violence. Examples of violence fuelled by illicit drugs include: violence between criminals fighting over drug market share; violence against law enforcement officers; violence against the public, motivated by the need for money to purchase drugs; and random violence resulting from the disoriented state of drug users.
The health risks associated with injection drug use pose a threat to both injection drug users and the public. The risk of contracting and transmitting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C from drug use is very high. In Montreal, close to 11 per cent of all injection drug users are HIV positive. The rate of HIV infection among injection drug users in Vancouver is estimated at 25 per cent, while hepatitis C is estimated at 90 per cent.
The sanctity of human life is compromised not only through the risk of disease, but also through death resulting from drug overdoses and suicide. In 1998, 150 persons died from drug-related causes in Toronto, which was slightly above the previous 12-year annual average of approximately 144 drug-related deaths.
A number of illicit drugs have adverse effects on health. Data collected by the Canadian Community Epidemiological Network on Drug Use, or CCENDU, site in Winnipeg identified cocaine, crack cocaine, sedatives and tranquillizers as the most common substances reported in drug-related hospital admissions in Winnipeg during 2000.
Municipalities are on the front lines in combating drug-related crime. They bear the brunt of mounting costs for policing and enforcement. Their public health systems are strained by the spread of AIDS, hepatitis and other diseases related to injection drug use. They understand the frustration created by inadequate institutional capacity to carry out effective and sustained prevention and educational programs, and to treat and cure drug addictions.
Municipalities are not simply collections of problems. They are also repositories of creative and innovative problem- solving ideas. FCM uses two guiding principles in its approach to community safety and crime prevention. First, when it comes to identifying local crime problems and potential solutions, municipalities are the experts. Second, effective solutions are dependent on inter-agency cooperation and partnerships.
It is important to recognize that the municipality is the order of government closest to the people: no other government has such an immediate impact on an individual's day-to-day life. As such, municipal governments have an effective opportunity to reach the roots of drug-related problems.
Municipalities are a source of innovative approaches to prevention. Some of the areas of expertise and jurisdiction where creative solutions could be applied under a municipal drug strategy include the administration of public and community health services, where, for example, there are opportunities to develop effective approaches to prevention, focusing particularly on secondary and tertiary prevention.
There has been considerable discussion on a national level about housing recently. That is another area where creative action could support prevention. There is a strong correlation between substance abuse and homelessness. Some people argue that homelessness and unemployment are the results of drug use, but there is no evidence to support this.
It is more likely that both stem from the same root causes. Without a job or a place to live, people are condemned to a life on the street, where drug use is often taken for granted.
The delivery of social services can provide a very useful mechanism for prevention strategies. Every contact that a drug user makes with the social service system, whether through family counselling, budgeting or job placement activities, provides an opportunity for intervention by people trained in drug prevention.
The growth of community policing, with its reliance on problem-solving approaches, has helped restore the confidence of many citizens living in troubled neighbourhoods.
Municipalities exert regulatory authority over aspects of community life that can lead to innovative prevention programs. Municipal development, zoning restrictions, licensing and bylaws can be used in creative ways to reduce the potential for drug problems.
Even engineering and public works can have a role in crime prevention through means such as installing more lights on a dark street where illicit drugs are sold, or removing shrubs and bushes that can be used to conceal illegal activities.
Another form of effective crime prevention measures in the control of municipalities is recreational services. This includes parks, playgrounds, recreational programs and libraries. The advantage of prevention strategies associated with recreational services is their targeting towards young people. Most youth will not get into serious problems with drugs if there are available recreational activities, or something equally fulfilling to occupy their time.
This is very important to the growth and development of children. Recreation and physical activity have a positive impact on psychological and physical health, family interactions, peer influence, academic performance, community development and other lifestyle behaviours. Healthy children and youth often maintain healthy lifestyles as adults. Unfortunately, research shows that two-thirds of our children and youth are not sufficiently physically active for optimal growth and development. Certain groups of young people face barriers to participation in recreational and physical activity. These barriers can be linked to poverty, race and gender. If they are not able to access recreational opportunities, these people become more vulnerable to at-risk behaviours, from skipping school to substance abuse.
Through its policy and activities, FCM supports Canada's National Drug Strategy, which uses the four-pillar approach: prevention, enforcement, treatment and harm reduction. Prevention seeks to reduce the demand for drugs through education and awareness and law enforcement seeks to reduce the supply, while treatment and harm reduction strive to reduce demand and improve the health and safety of drug users and the community by minimizing the negative effects of drug use.
FCM work includes prevention efforts through the development of a primer on local crime prevention and a municipal drug strategy founded on the four-pillar approach. A recent motion passed by the FCM big city mayors' caucus supported a scientific trial of supervised drug consumption sites as a harm reduction strategy to minimize the risks of disease and death associated with severe drug use.
FCM's municipal drug strategy is a prime example of its approach to crime prevention. The project is a three-year effort developed by the Health and Enforcement in Partnership, or HEP, committee with the support of the National Crime Prevention Centre, the Solicitor General of Canada and Health Canada. FCM's municipal drug strategy helps municipal governments develop and implement local strategies with a focus on community mobilization, inter-agency cooperation and partnerships. The framework outlines principles to guide local initiatives while reflecting a national approach. While our drug strategy targets illicit drugs, its tools can be applied to alcohol or other substances in complementary, parallel initiatives.
The strategy is a three-phase project. The first phase defined some guiding principles and conducted a needs assessment of municipalities with the help of academic experts. This confirmed the need for municipal drug strategies and identified the tools and resources required to support municipal efforts in this area. We then gathered an inventory of existing programs and tools and developed a model municipal drug strategy to serve as a guide for local communities.
Phase two of the strategy, currently underway, is the pilot phase of our program, in which nine communities were selected to apply the model municipal drug strategy. The nine communities selected were: the City of Richmond, British Columbia; the City of Courtenay, British Columbia; the City of Prince Rupert, British Columbia; Strathcona County, Alberta; the City of Regina, Saskatchewan; the City of Thompson, Manitoba; Ville de Hawkesbury, Ontario; the Village of Salisbury in New Brunswick; and the City of Mount Pearl in Newfoundland.
In addition to these participating communities, other municipal governments do have a drug strategy in place, while others are currently implementing local drug strategies in parallel with the pilot phase of this project using FCM resources such as the primer that we developed a few years ago.
The third and final phase of the project will involve coordination and support of the expansion of local strategies and identification of broader issues and concerns for future consideration. A key activity during this phase will be an evaluation of the project, followed by research to determine how well the model worked, leading to improvements in the implementation of the strategy in local communities.
FCM envisions a bottom-up process that emphasizes local action under the umbrella of a nationally coordinated effort. The municipal drug strategy complements the federal strategy launched in 1987 by focusing on prevention, partnerships and a balanced approach that targets both supply and demand reduction.
The big city mayors' caucus passed a motion calling for identification of several cities to carry out scientific trials of supervised consumption sites. This motion emerged from the health concerns and growing problems of injection drug use in Canada. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 Canadians are injection drug users.
The health and social implications of injection drug use affect both the individual and the community. Harm reduction is a social strategy with the primary goal of reducing harmful effects of illicit drugs, including physical harm such as death, illness, the spread of disease and injury from drug-related accidents and violence; psychological impacts, such as increased fear of crime or violence and effects of family breakdown; societal costs resulting from the breakdown of social systems such as the family unit or personal relationships that provide stability and support; and economic costs such as the loss of productivity, health care and law enforcement costs.
Policies and programs are typically implemented to reduce the demand for drugs in the long term. It is also important for these policies to address the negative impact of drug use on Canadians today. The harm reduction approach recognizes that it is impossible to prevent all drug use, and seeks to promote health by minimizing drug- related deaths and the risk of disease that can be spread by the use of shared needles, exposure of the general population to discarded needles and blood-borne disease transmission.
Heroin deaths in Toronto have decreased annually since 1994. In 1998, 36 heroin deaths were recorded, down from 67 in 1994. The City of Toronto's drug prevention centre credited the decrease in heroin-related fatalities to the availability of methadone treatment and continuing needle exchange programs.
Most recently, Health Canada has begun exploring a pilot project to establish supervised consumption sites, operating within a legally sanctioned framework, to provide a safe and secure environment where drug users can inject away from criminal activity and in direct contact with health professionals trained in safe injection and overdose response. Such sites in Europe have resulted in increased public safety and decreased death and disease transmission.
At the big city mayors' caucus this February, a motion brought forward by the mayor of the City of Vancouver, Philip Owen, was passed unanimously. The motion recommended that three or four cities be identified to participate with Health Canada in scientific trials of supervised consumption sites. Winnipeg, Regina and Edmonton all spoke in support of the proposal, and other municipal governments such as Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Victoria and Ottawa expressed interest in participating.
FCM, along with HEP, has adopted the following guiding principles for the municipal drug strategy: Prevention is the most cost-effective intervention, stakeholder participation is paramount, and there is a need for a balance between supply reduction and demand reduction.
In examining FCM policy, FCM is opposed to the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana and other illicit drugs. This position emerged from a resolution that was passed by FCM five years ago. In light of the position taken by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Bar Association to not oppose decriminalization of cannabis, our board of directors recently passed a motion to undertake a study of the issue. We expect to bring a report back to our board in September 2002.
This decision was made about a week and a half ago in St.John's at our board meeting. It was a sensitive issue that created quite a bit of discussion. There was even concern on the nature of our presentation today with regard to our 1997 position and the fact that we are undertaking a study. There was concern that we not present it as a revisiting, that we are not reviewing. We agreed on the characterization ``undertaking a study.''
This is an issue of extreme sensitivity with a number of municipal politicians and the debate was considerable. They wanted me to state clearly that the position of 1997 remains the same but there was enough support to move forward to review the 1997 position. Those of us who argued favourably felt that, after five years and following the national debate the work of your committee, it was incumbent upon us to review our position, consider some new information, and examine the position of other national organizations. We would like to come back to our board of directors with something that is more reflective of what is happening in 2002.
I wanted to communicate the sensitivity of this issue and the fact that we gave it considerable thought. We wanted to come forward saying, yes, this was our position in 1997, but we are quite serious about reviewing this policy and getting in tune with what is happening nationally right now.
FCM continues to support efforts that reduce the supply of drugs. At our last board of directors meeting, the board passed a resolution for tougher penalties for marijuana home growers. The resolution emerged out of the growing problem of home-grow operations in southern Ontario and in other cities across Canada. We heard that in the Vancouver area they are experiencing many problems with the home-grow operations. These large-scale home-grow operations have resulted in depletion of housing conditions used for home home-grow and increased law enforcement costs and safety hazards associated with the operation.
In summary, FCM supports a balanced approach to supply reduction through enforcement and demand reduction through prevention and treatment while ensuring safety and health of the community through harm reduction.
Municipal governments are well equipped to identify and address the drug problem in their communities as they are situated closest to the problem. However, national leadership is crucial to establish a common direction for all communities across Canada. Federal funding for Canada's drug strategy launched in 1987 has dwindled in recent years.
A federal commitment to support Canada's drug strategy is needed to facilitate, expand and sustain local drug strategy efforts. The effectiveness of this national leadership will depend greatly on information gathered at the local level to determine the size of the problem, the impact of local efforts and establish national direction. Standards and resources for information gathering will need to be supported at the federal level to enable and standardize data collection for report and decision-making.
Furthermore, there is a need for significant investment by our federal government to address the root causes of crime and drug abuse, including poverty, unemployment, the lack of affordable housing, the disintegration of families and cultural alienation. Municipal governments want to work closely with other orders of government to successfully address the problems associated with illicit drugs in Canada. Collaboration, partnerships and resources are paramount to achieving this goal.
I would be happy to answer any questions.
The Chairman: Thank you for your comments in regard to revisiting or restudying the question. That probably explains why we did not receive your brief earlier. We were trying to get the briefs from our witnesses in advance to ensure that we have a French or English version.
Mr. Marra: We apologize for that. We just met last week and there was quite a bit of debate around the issue.
The Chairman: We are also quite rigid on the availability of both official languages documentation in front of the committee. We made similar comments to the previous witness. However, I think we can understand why it was impossible for you to send us your brief before. We visited FCM's Web site to prepare for this hearing this morning. On it was the statement that FCM is ``opposed to the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana based on the experience of other countries that have pursued this course unsuccessfully.'' To what other countries are you referring? Do you have evidence to support your statement that decriminalization of marijuana has failed in other countries?
Mr. Marra: That was consistent with the 1997 resolution.
The Chairman: I understand that but you are basing your point on the fact that it did not work. We want to understand where and why.
Mr. Marra: I will reference some information related to that. A resolution of European cities against drugs took place in Stockholm in 1994. Apparently, our board made reference to the discussions and decisions made in that context. I believe there were two resolutions in 1997; one cited the fact that there was a lack of success in European countries. I can certainly provide you with the information that we have on that decision.
The Chairman: You do not have to do that this morning. We will write to you and ask specific questions. One of the questions will be just to be sure that you can sustain properly what you are posting on your Web site and make sure that we understand. We also looked at those studies in Europe. We can tell you that the committee noticed a drastic change in the opinion of the various local governments in Europe in the last five years. I thought you had something specific that you could mention to the committee.
Mr. Marra: I appreciate your comments, because that is certainly the message we were trying to convey in our debate last week. It is essential that we review the position that we took in 1997. As I read further on, this was a resolution in line with the UN International Drug Control Program in resolutions adopted at the time this was almost 10 years ago in Madrid, Paris, New York and Buenos Aires. I agree that positions have changed over the last few years, let alone over the last 10 years. That was the essence of our debate. We would be happy to respond to your specific question and provide the information you have asked for.
The Chairman: When you look at the cities in Europe, there are definitely two groups. Do not look only at one; look at both. They have different approaches towards statistics. That is why it is important that you inform us of why you are basing your opinion on that.
Senator LaPierre: On page 8, you list the cities, but I will leave Senator Maheu to ask why there are no references to Quebec.
Does your federation have statistics on how many people in Canada who are under the jurisdiction of municipalities drink and drive not necessarily the number arrested but who drink above the level? Do you have any figures about that?
Mr. Marra: No, we do not.
Senator LaPierre: We do not need to be nuclear scientists to know it would be far more than 100,000. There are far more than 100,000 people who drink, even though alcohol is a legal drug.
Listening to you, I was concerned that, if I were doing a special study on alcohol as a drug or gambling as a social disease of astonishing proportion, I would find the first characteristic is that they are both supported by governments which make a lot of money on these activities.
Are we not creating two kinds of drugs and social problems? We allow a drug to be illicit and a social problem. Should the federation consider that when it thinks about the global effect of the use of drugs and the criminalization of certain activity?
Mr. Marra: I think we should. I am hoping the exercise we embarked upon a week ago will lead us to do that over the next five or six months. I do not wish to repeat myself, but the level of debate and the sensitivity at the board meeting surprised even me.
Senator LaPierre: I accept that. The problem is not with cannabis, it is with their moral values. That is what you will have to change.
Do they distribute needles in the City of Windsor?
Mr. Marra: There is a needle exchange program.
Senator LaPierre: They have to come and exchange the needles.
Mr. Marra: Yes.
Senator LaPierre: You do not go out and distribute needles and condoms?
Mr. Marra: That is correct.
Senator LaPierre: Is that not a limitation? If I were a drug user, I certainly would not want to go to city hall, or wherever it is you distribute them, and give you my needle and accept another needle from you because you will probably have me followed by the police and arrested. Do you not think that is counterproductive?
Mr. Marra: It could be. If you wish to reference the Windsor model, it is run through the local AIDS committee. It is a very good program. It is a safe program. They also run a methadone clinic. Coincidently, it operates in an area of the city I represent.
On a personal level, I agree with you and I support the initiatives. I work in the field of corrections. I have worked with youth for the last 15 years. I am representing the committee, but I also have some very strong feelings given my personal experience over the last 15 years.
Senator LaPierre: I am more interested in you than I am in FCM because you will lead that association within five years and you will have immense influence.
The problem with illicit drugs whether it be cannabis or anything else is that it is a medical and, moreover, a social problem. Do you think criminalization increases the intensity of the social problem?
Mr. Marra: I believe it does.
Senator LaPierre: I am not interested right now in the point of view of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Mr. Marra: You are asking for my opinion?
Senator LaPierre: Yes.
Mr. Marra: I believe it does. I see that on a regular basis in my profession.
Senator LaPierre: Consider the money you would save in law enforcement. The police would deal with rape and murder, not people smoking cannabis.
Mr. Marra: I agree.
Senator Maheu: Welcome, Mr. Marra and Ms. Neves. When the FCM developed the drug strategy program, I was astounded to see there was none in Quebec. I thought perhaps it was a small city program, but we have small cities in Quebec as well. We have the big city interventions, of course. I started in the municipal world, in a medium-sized city on the island of Montreal. We are now part of the big city.
Your model strategy started without any intervention from our end of the country. What have you found out? You have started your December program, phase 2. Do you anticipate a difference with the findings you had prior to December 2001?
Ms Janet Neves. Policy Analyst, Federation of Canadian Municipalities: The purpose of the model strategy for the six months of the pilot phase is to help communities implement the strategy. To participate, one criterion was for the community to express a need and interest. We looked at the size of the community, the level of commitment from local agencies in the community and their interest in working in partnership to address the problem in their community. We also looked at sustainability that there was a level of commitment for a continued program after the six-month pilot.
In essence, this phase was to assist the communities in getting started, to direct them to available resources, and to help them with some funds to hire a local drug coordinator. Thereafter, the communities would continue that strategy on their own after the six months based on the work that they had done as groundwork or a foundation prior to and then during this six-month phase.
Senator Maheu: Mr. Conway spoke prior to you about lawyers and police forces preferring to handle drug cases rather than robbery, murder or rape. Could you share with us your feelings on that? Do you find that the police are tolerant of simple possession? They are not applying the law anyway. Should it be changed? I know FCM did not want the laws changed at all at one point, and I understand why you are reviewing that decision. What do you do with police who are not interested in applying the law?
Mr. Marra: I will respond in a way that reflects my knowledge and understanding from FCM and my experience in the criminal justice system.
First, FCM's relationship with law enforcement, with Correctional Services Canada and the National Parole Board has evolved on a productive level in the last five to 10 years. We engage in these relationships to educate both sides on issues, and we want to engage these authorities to work with municipal governments. We believe that we understand and appreciate and can assess our local problems better than anyone else, as can our local police services. Through FCM, we feel we can help identify proper recourse and proper intervention.
Are the police more tolerant or understanding? When you look at community-based policing across the country, I think there has been an evolution over the last decade or so. I am proud to be a member of our police services board. We try to invest ourselves in our neighbourhoods and communities, not simply by patrolling but by getting to know the neighbourhoods, the residents, the agencies, and the youth. We try to appreciate the dynamics of the neighbourhoods. As a result, that leads to interventions with a more productive focus.
There could be some discretion exercised by the police officers. Police discretion is a cornerstone of our criminal justice system. It has to be applied with due diligence and with a full understanding of the intent of the criminal law and legislation. I believe there has been a change in approach and a better understanding from police services. There is improved availability of diversionary and preventative programs. We still have a lot to do and more programs need to be made available, but I think the relationship has evolved and things are better.
We agree with the federal government's position from 1987 with respect to the municipal drug strategy. There are four pillars to that strategy. Prevention, education and harm reduction are critical factors in which you can never invest too much money. Until you start intervening at a very young age, whether that be five-, six- or seven-year-olds and it is happening with people that young I do not think you will see the results you want to. I believe there has been an improvement.
Senator Maheu: Your list on page 8 surprised me.
I am not aware of the economic situation of all the cities. However, I can think of at least two fairly affluent Ontario communities where, depending on the officer or force, you can be nailed to the wall at the age of 17, 18 or 19 for simple possession. In other cities, you can get away with much more than simple possession and the police do not even bother about small amounts of marijuana. I do not see these cities on your list. How did you arrive at it? I know that there was a desire for them to be involved. To be more realistic, should we not be going after different kinds of cities, the fairly affluent ones?
Mr. Marra: Perhaps I can partly respond to that. These municipalities certainly expressed an interest and were prepared to engage in the relationship. Others, especially some of the major centres, probably decided not to because they have existing programs. Perhaps they felt that this was an opportunity for other municipalities that do not have the infrastructure to deliver municipal programs.
I understand what you are saying, and certainly when we have discussions at our standing committee, we hear from the major centres about the challenges they face. It is a whole different animal.
My simple answer is that these cities expressed a willingness to be part of the process. I believe that many major centres did not step forward because they have ongoing strategies. They will look at the results and compare strategies. Perhaps they will also look at phase 3 and its evaluation component. Hopefully, these tools will be provided across the country in all municipalities to implement in their jurisdictions.
The Chairman: In phase 3 you will evaluate the results. In the steps you took leading up to the implementation of your strategy, did you not evaluate prevention tools or methods used in other jurisdictions or countries to ensure that you could advise your membership properly?
Mr. Marra: We have referenced best practices from around the world. At the time I first began with FCM, there was an international crime prevention conference in Montreal at which best practices manuals on crime prevention were distributed. Certainly, a number of them focused on drug-related issues. I believe there were two best practices manuals available and those have been used as reference and resource information. That has been made available to our municipalities independently of this process. We can follow up on that question for you.
The Chairman: Do you think Canadians are properly informed?
Mr. Marra: No, I do not.
The Chairman: What do they need, education, or specific programs such as the one we just discussed?
Mr. Marra: You cannot inform people too much on this subject.
The Chairman: The Quebec government issued a little book on drugs a month ago that is almost a reprint of a book published in France in 2000. We can forward you a copy of that book. It is in French only. In the first few months after publication, 1 million copies were sold. It addresses the myths and looks at the real facts and figures on all drugs, including tobacco and alcohol. That is the kind of information you think Canada needs. I will forward you a copy.
Would it be better to invest in abuse prevention or use prevention?
Mr. Marra: I do not know that either one is better. They are equally important.
The Chairman: I am talking about investment. The Auditor General issued her first report last December. In chapter 11, it was reported that 95 per cent of the money was invested in prevention. The rest was sparsely invested in the other three pillars. We do not have a significant amount of money to invest in prevention. We should invest more. Should we invest in use or abuse prevention?
Mr. Marra: It is difficult to say which area is more important; they are equally so. More money must be invested, we can all agree on that. I was not aware of the distribution percentage. Those figures are disturbing.
In the local context, of the 120 youths aged 16 to 17, and that is a small portion of young offenders, if we have a kid in there starting to experiment and getting involved in some minor drug issues, we will work our tails off to ensure that we have some sort of an impact on that young person before he leaves to ensure that, to the best of our ability, he does not attempt that again.
One must think about what kind of outside structure to create once these youths have left. We can do some good stuff on the inside. It is when they get out that a problem arises.
I put people on probation for six years. I recall the impact of community supervision and it was not as good as it can be. It has to improve. There is a lack of structure there.
These people have been abusing for a number of months or years and are strung out, with some damage having occurred. I cannot see one as being more important than the other. We would work just as hard, if not harder, on the second person.
First, you have to clean up people. Second, the strategy becomes the same. You must create a situation where the potential impact on people when they are with you is sustained after they leave.
The gap exists between their discharge from our facilities and their return to the community. There are the other issues of homelessness, unemployment and disintegration of the family. The drug, as we would all agree, is symptomatic of all the other stuff. There must be investment in all those areas.
The Chairman: I agree.
The abuse prevention is more focused on step 3. It is more focused on specific individuals. Step 1 prevention, in schools, is really focused on the use.
In that broader program, what should be the role of the police?
Mr. Marra: I understand your description of the use of the word ``prevention.'' The police should be just as active and involved as social workers or probation officers. A police officer is the visual symbol of law enforcement in the community. Often, it has an immediate negative connotation for young people.
As I said earlier, community-based programs have changed things over the years. However, that perception of the police still exists. We see that often in the client group with which we deal.
The police should be just as involved as other service providers. They must be seen as an important part of the community that is not strictly focused on enforcement charging you or putting you in jail. The police should be seen as a proactive and preventive element. They should be seen as friendly police services that are there for the community.
What role should the police play? They should play an active and visible role.
The Chairman: The Senate studied the attitude of adolescents. We discovered that they believe that rebelling against authority is very challenging, very funny and very interesting. Do you not think that the good intentions of the police could trigger a negative or unwanted reaction? I am focusing on adolescents who are just starting to use marijuana. They are 14 or 15 and just testing it, having fun. If a police officer were to say to them ``You should not do it,'' might that be enough to make them do it again?
Mr. Marra: It certainly might be. However, I would be reluctant to abandon the possibility of the police playing a role because that attitude might prevail. We must address that attitude.
We talked about education a few minutes ago. Education of our young people starts early. That kind of attitude cannot possibly be mitigated. I do not know if there would be some value to removing them from the process. I stand to be corrected.
My focus and my comments on young people, Mr. Chairman, are biased, in that I deal, unfortunately, with some of the most damaged and troubled kids in our community. I do not have the opportunity to work with others. I can appreciate where you are coming from. I would like to see us understand why that attitude continues to prevail and how we can change it. How can we change the attitude of the 14- or 15-year-old? The first question is whether it is important to change that attitude.
The Chairman: The basic question is whether we should try to change it. Perhaps we can just inform them.
Mr. Marra: That is certainly an option. As a police services board member seeing what we do in our communities and our neighbourhoods, do I think we should start pulling back a little because of a negative attitude? No, I do not. We have to try to find out why it exists. We will be hard pressed to change the opinion of a 15-year-old who is experimenting with drugs for the first time. If we start with 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds, which is not too young, and consistently bring the message to them, not just in kindergarten or grades 1 and 2 but over the years, we will have a different demographic of 15-year-olds in the future.
The Chairman: The head of research for the committee was recently in Brussels as part of a group looking at various prevention programs, and it found the interactive program to be effective. The ``I-know, you-do-not, I-will-teach-you'' attitude, the normal classroom attitude, works to inform, but the interactive program, the role-playing, is the most effective. We can forward those results to you.
Mr. Marra: I am not surprised to hear that. The most successful of our programs in our facilities are the interactive ones. I agree with you. I am glad there is research to support that.
Senator LaPierre: If I understand your view, the police are part of the social fabric of a community. On the other hand, the police approach kids with the mentality that the use of cannabis since we are on that subject is illegal. The police tell them it is a criminal offence; they are a bunch of criminals if they use it.
Is it necessary, therefore, to train the police to be able to counsel the kids? It is part of growing up, in certain cases, to smoke cannabis, but if you are told that you are a criminal, you may turn away from that person, thus preventing him or her from providing any information or education whatsoever. Do you think that is possible?
Mr. Marra: I think it is possible and necessary. When we talk about education, it should apply across the board. I agree with you. Perhaps the reason I hold the position I do on the police issue is because I look at our community of 210,000 people and see that our police budget is $43 million. We have a significant infrastructure with significant funding. If we are able to, why not use that resource for more than strictly law enforcement when we are investing so much money per capita?
Of course, there are other dynamics. We are a border community and there are other issues. Having said that, we have a built-in infrastructure in which a tremendous number of taxpayer dollars is invested. If we have the opportunity to use that infrastructure in other ways, why not do it? I agree with you; it is education as well.
Senator LaPierre: I am concerned that whenever we talk about drugs, we talk about poor kids, kids with family problems. What about rich kids? When I lived in Vancouver, many kids in Forest Hill smoked cannabis and partook of other drugs. It seems to me that we might have to change our mentality and stop categorizing kids. Is that possible?
Second, is there a great difference, in Windsor, between the use of illicit drugs among people who are new immigrants to Canada and others?
Mr. Marra: On the first issue, I agree. The stereotypical image people have is one of poverty, homelessness and single-parent families. That is not the case. Young persons with whom we have dealt come from many different socio- economic backgrounds and different family backgrounds and cultures. I agree with you. It speaks to the issue Mr. Chairman was alluding to, of education to inform and remove those myths and stereotypes.
I cannot answer your second question. I do not have any statistics to rely upon.
The Chairman: Are you familiar with the DARE program?
Mr. Marra: Yes.
The Chairman: What do you think of it?
Mr. Marra: I think it is a good program. Our board passed a resolution endorsing the program again last week.
I believe there is a funding crisis in DARE programs across the country. In some instances, the program has been abandoned. A number of our municipal elected officials felt strongly about DARE, believed that it has a good track record and called upon the federal government and provincial jurisdictions to reinvest in it.
FCM endorses DARE, which is almost a 20-year-old program. We have been calling upon our friends in provincial and federal governments to reinvest in that.
The Chairman: We will forward you the titles of two articles reviewing DARE over a period of years, so that you can have an informed opinion on the program.
I want to discuss the issue of border cities. Of course, in Canada, everyone lives within 100 kilometres of the U.S. border. However, Windsor is actually on the border. What do we need to know that we do not know now when we write our report on cannabis? How should we deal with the reaction of our American neighbours?
Mr. Marra: That is a very good question and I will answer it to the best of my ability. Perhaps I can arrange for some information from police services to be sent to you.
There is a different dynamic in a border community. Issues arise just by virtue of the differences in legislation. A number of Americans innocently cross the border with weapons, thinking it is okay to do so because they can do it back home. They have a couple of pieces under the car seat, perhaps in a holster or in the trunk, and to their surprise, they are apprehended at the border, arrested, charged and prosecuted. I use that as an example because if we have differing legislation, there will be a reaction from the American side. How that reaction will unfold, I am not sure.
Border communities must be considered in context. There are pre-existing dynamics that are not found in other communities. Everyone was affected by September 11 to some degree, but we experienced it differently from cities not on the border.
There was a court ruling in Ontario about women being able to remove their clothing and walk around in public. Americans interpreted that to mean that it is okay for any male or female to walk through our downtown without any clothing on. Our police have been dealing with this issue because of that American interpretation and the novelty of being able to cross a border in five minutes and behave differently from the way they can in Michigan or Ohio. This is a valid question.
I cannot answer your question fully. Law enforcement individuals can give you a better perspective on that.
The Chairman: If we can get the funding, the committee will travel across the country to visit 15 communities. One idea was to get in touch with the FCM to properly identify the various communities and get your advice, because we cannot go everywhere.
Mr. Marra: Please consider my comments as an invitation to come to Windsor. We will do everything we can to supply you with information.
The Chairman: The uniqueness of those border communities needs to be addressed properly. We can say it is all the same, but it is not.
Mr. Marra: When does a local issue become a national issue? Where do you draw the line?
Senator LaPierre: Do young people coming from the United States to Windsor feel that the drug laws are laxer here and that they can go at it? Are there greater restrictions in the United States than in Canada?
Mr. Marra: Let me answer that using a different example. Our city centre has evolved into a major entertainment venue for young people. The reason is that the legal drinking age in Ontario is 19, whereas in Michigan it is 21. We have 20,000 kids coming to our downtown on a Friday or a Saturday night. That is exclusive of the casino. Their attitude is that they can go to a foreign country, party, drink at a much younger age, and if they get into trouble, are put into the drunk tank and go home the next morning with no repercussions. Perhaps that attitude also applies to the drug laws. I am not sure. It is something that needs to be considered because a border community must deal with that dynamic. The hospitality industry is an important part of our community. Therefore, we must also decide to what extent we want that to have an economic impact.
The Chairman: Thank you both very much. We will stay in touch and send you various questions that were raised, and hopefully, we will get the answers. We will send you the various documents, including the booklet from the Quebec government.
Mr. Marra: Thank you all very much.
The Chairman: For all those who have joined us during the hearing of this panel of witnesses, let me remind you that Mr. Bill Marra is the chair of the Standing Committee on Community Safety and Crime Prevention of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He is also counselor for the city of Windsor. Mr. Marra is accompanied by Janet Neves, policy analyst.
Before bringing to a close this hearing of the committee, I do want to remind all those who are interested in the proceedings of our committee that they can read and obtain information on the subject of illegal drugs by joining our Internet Web site at the following address: www.parl.gc.ca. You will find on our site the remarks of all our witnesses, their biography, and any document that they deemed necessary to provide us, as well as more than 150 Internet links related to illegal drugs. You can also use that same address to write to us by e-mail.
The committee adjourned.