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ILLE - Special Committee

Illegal Drugs (Special)


Proceedings of the Special Committee on
Illegal Drugs

Issue 5 - Evidence for September 10 - Morning Session

TORONTO, Monday, September 10, 2001

The Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs met this day at 9:30 a.m. to reassess Canada's anti-drug legislation and policies.

Senator Pierre Claude Nolin (Chairman) in the Chair.


The Chairman: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the proceedings of the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs. We are pleased to be here today as we continue our examination into the issues related to cannabis.

I would like to provide a bit of background on this committee. In the mid-1990s, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs examined a bill called the Controlled Substance and Drug Abuse Act. This act became law on illegal drugs.

After hearing three months of testimony on that bill, the committee amended it with respect to certain provisions and recommended in its report that the Senate should join the House of Commons in a joint study on illegal drugs.

It did not materialize exactly the way we had thought, which brings us to this committee. We started on this study a year ago in June, managing to hold just one day of hearings before the general election was called. When the new Parliament reconvened, we renewed our commitment to this study and we have been holding hearings on a regular basis now since last April.

The focus of this particular study is cannabis; however, many of the issues and principles involved relate directly to other illegal drugs.

In this initial phase, we are hearing primarily from expert witnesses - witnesses whose research has been peer-reviewed or who have direct working knowledge of the issues related to illegal drugs.

We have heard testimony from medical researchers, sociologists and police representatives. We intend to continue these hearings in Ottawa, meeting with public health officials and experts from such countries as the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

We are here in Toronto today because there are a number of community-based witnesses whom we wanted to hear and we thought that it would be of greater relevance and interest if we could hear that evidence at the source.

In addition to the witnesses we will hear today, we will be on the street this evening with members of your police force to observe things from their perspective. We will also visit the drug court. But what excites us most of all is that we will get our first direct taste of how the people of Canada feel about these issues.

This afternoon, following the testimony from local officials and experts we will be hearing from Canadians who have contacted us through our website or by telephoning or writing in.

We intend to hold extensive public hearings across Canada next spring following the release of some discussion documents. It is our hope that these documents will provoke a wide-ranging dialogue on the facts, which not only related to cannabis specifically, but also affect most other illegal drugs. We are very much looking forward to this afternoon's citizens' input.

We are pleased to have with us today as our first witness, Chief of Police from the Toronto Police Service, Julian Fantino.

Chief Fantino, please proceed with any opening remarks you may have, following which my colleagues and I will have some questions for you.

Mr. Julian Fantino, Chief, Toronto Police Service: Honourable senators, I would like to congratulate you on the work that you are doing with respect to a very critical issue for our country and the lifeline of our communities. I am very pleased and proud to participate in this study and I thank you for this opportunity.

Also, I am here to impart some knowledge and experience on behalf of the Toronto Police Service, but more holistically, if you will, on behalf of our community. As you know, our legitimacy comes from the community and I would like to believe that we can, on certain issues, speak candidly and in a forthright way on behalf of the greater good in the service of our community.

Let me first begin by expressing my support and adjunct position to that defined by Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, of which I am a member, respecting illicit drugs.

I stand with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in firm opposition to any type of legalization of any and all current illicit drugs in Canada, including the possession of small amounts of marijuana or other cannabis derivatives.

Having said this, however, I am in favour of considering and even endorsing sound government initiatives to decriminalize certain offences that relate to the possession of small amounts of marijuana or other cannabis derivatives. This would not mean any form of legalization; rather, a conviction would not result in a criminal record.

My endorsement, however, would be conditional in that the government institute corresponding initiatives - including appropriate prevention, education, treatment and rehabilitation, diversion, and counselling programs - as well as, of course, continued enforcement.

Regarding the issue of medicinal use of marijuana and any and all current illicit drugs, I also support the position taken by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and their concerns about the potential hazards, the health care costs, the safe storage, misuse and other vulnerabilities that must be addressed in any such scheme.

If any of the illicit drugs are to be approved for medicinal use, Health Canada and the Government of Canada must ensure that due diligence is brought to bear in all of the processes, from research to the necessary safeguards, in this proposed scheme.

Honourable senators, the following are some thoughts, facts and opinions regarding marijuana and its use and the process being established for its medicinal use in Canada.

First, I would like to ask if there is any change being considered that may compromise Canada's 1988 commitment "to control illicit cultivation, production and distribution of drugs of abuse" as defined in the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances?

Canada is currently known as a source country for high-grade marijuana. This is a matter of grave concern for Canadian law enforcement agencies, which questions Canada's reputation and commitment respecting illicit drug interdiction.

The THC content, which is the narcotic component of marijuana, has increased dramatically over the years. Marijuana should not be considered a "soft drug." Canadian-grown marijuana is being sold for up to US$18,000 per pound in New York City. This figure is also slightly less than the price of a kilogram of cocaine.

At present, only limited authority and processes exist to compel persons in control of a vehicle or other conveyance to be tested to determine the degree of impairment from the use of marijuana and other substances.

Current diversion programs - for example, "Operation Springboard" at the Old City Hall courts - seem to be working very well. The efficiency and effectiveness of this particular program is validated by a low recidivism rate of less than5 per cent. And that is very heartening to me, indeed. Such diversion programs return valuable benefits to society, including significant cost savings to the police services and the criminal justice system as a whole that is well burdened as we speak with all kinds of issues. I strongly support that these programs be continued.

Obviously, the diversion program option is not available to all offenders. The criteria for eligibility are strict and the candidates are well screened. I think that speaks to the success that has been achieved.

More than 80 per cent of criminal organizations are involved in drug trafficking. Illicit drugs are the staple commodity of organized crime enterprises, and we know that from our experience.

Illicit drugs particularly affect certain communities as they become the primary targets of drug dealers. Criminal organiz ations operating in Canada are motivated by the pursuit of profit, a great deal of which is derived through national and international drug distribution networks.

A significant degree of community-based ancillary crimes - break and enter, robbery, theft - are directly linked to the drug subculture for which violence is also constant in the fight for power and control.

What is needed to counter Canada's drug problem? I wish I had all of the answers, but I believe I can offer some.

We need a comprehensive and integrated approach balancing prevention, education, enforcement, counselling, treatment, re habilitation and diversion are, in my opinion, critical pieces that will give us some very definite positive outcomes.

We should expand the Drug Recognition Expert (D.R.E.) program along with corresponding enabling legislation to detect and prevent substance users from operating vehicles and other conveyances.

We can refocus the involvement of the criminal justice system to vigorously pursue, prosecute and severely punish organized crime groups that produce, import and distribute illicit drugs, which include marijuana and its derivatives.

Implement appropriate legislation and processes that will more efficiently and effectively deal with possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana or hashish where no other extenuating circumstances exist. I am speaking here about decriminalizing the offence where appropriate.

Drug trafficking should be designated as a "violent crime" category offence, which would result in elevated and certain penitentiary sentences and provisions.

Expedite the passage of Bill C-24. This is the organized crime bill that is currently in the Senate. This piece of legislation, in my respectful opinion to you honourable senators, is critically needed and long overdue.

We have championed that the tools necessary to law enforcement and the justice system and the greater good be embodied in contemporary effective and efficient legislation. Although it does not contain everything I would wish to have, Bill C-24 is something that we can all embrace as a great step forward in dealing with the great international and national problems we have with drug trafficking and other issues in our society.

In closing, I wish to dwell on the most important strategy of all; one which I think is the most effective dealing with substance abuse and fighting all that goes with it.

This, I think, comes down to prevention. Prevention is probably the most useful, the most efficient, and the most effective way to do anything these days. If it is predictable, it is preventable. We know what the causes are, we know what the effects are, and if we can focus on prevention, I think that we can score great advantages for our society.

Substance abuse prevention is crime prevention. It embodies all of the things we are empowered and expected to do within law enforcement, so I embrace it wholeheartedly. The saving of lives, the saving of health costs, the saving and enhancing of productivity in our society and, of course, diminishing social decay and the waste of human lives.

In simple terms, substance abuse prevention, in the reality of the day, can have a dramatic positive impact respecting safety, security and quality of life issues and circumstances of which society as a whole is deeply affected.

Finally, I cannot help but remark that over my 33 years in policing, I have witnessed a steady passage of activities, promises and visions proffered by so many people about how crime, violence, substance abuse and victimization were to be eradicated in our society.

Today, however, I feel that substance abuse problems are unprecedented. Although I know that the police have been and continue to be on the forefront of the public safety mandate, fighting for badly needed laws, programs and resources to tackle the drug problem and the ancillary community-based crime, misery and disorder that exist, for the most part, our pleadings have been ignored and that, too, is frustrating.

I am not saying that our efforts have been ignored in the main, but these things are long, long in coming. And I can tell you now, over my 33 years, as I stated, we have never had this problem to deal with from a law enforcement point of view.

Having said the foregoing, however, I sincerely wish this honourable committee success in the very difficult, but acutely important work ahead. Please be assured of my personal and professional commitment to render assistance and support in this regard.

I have also brought with me a copy of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police report, "Towards A Healthy Lifestyle, 2001 Edition: A reference guide on substance abuse issues for Canadian police officers," which I will leave with this honourable committee.

Senator Kenny: Chief, perhaps you could help the committee by putting drug use into context for us. Could you describe to us how drug use relates to your resources? How much of your resources are allocated towards dealing with it? How serious a problem is it relative to other problems?

I have been looking at a study that has been prepared by the Research Group on Drug Use for the year 2000. They indicate that in Toronto on average over the past I think six years, there has been an average of 144 deaths in Toronto related to drug use.

How does that relate to murders, for example, or car accidents or other causes of death in the city?

Mr. Fantino: Our annual murder rate is in the area of between 40 and 60, depending on various issues. We have a significant concern about drug overdose, some of which result in death. We have had, as you may recall, a number of inquests that evolved around the issue of drug overdoses.

I know that you are going out to Vancouver and you are going to hear a very daunting situation there with regard to how much more difficult a problem it is for them in terms of drug overdose deaths. However, we have had a number of them here. I recall one vividly. A young lad, Benji Hayward, who was involved in a tragic situation resulting in his death after some involvement with drugs; he was a very, very young lad. An inquest was held and a good number of recommendations were made.

There was a more recent inquest here, honourable senator, with regard to a death at a rave. There is an emerging issue of ecstasy and the rave scene and the potential danger to young people associating drugs with fun and entertainment. We have about the same numbers of traffic fatalities, 40 to 60 a year. We have many fewer drug fatalities, of course.

Having said all of that, of course, I think you will agree with me that we cannot be tolerant of any situation that in any way contributes to the demise of people. Invariably the issues for us are prevention, trying to tackle these issues as we do with every other situation.

We are preoccupied with the drug problem in this community. Some of the more vulnerable communities are more particularly targeted, as you have heard in my submissions, by the mercenary drug dealers.

I will give you an example. Perhaps 15 years ago, we were quite smug here in law enforcement about the problem that American cities were having with crack cocaine, - the emergence of crack cocaine and the violence associated with it. Suddenly, it hit us and it came in with a vengeance and it has been here ever since along with all of the ancillary crime and violence.

Again, it targets the most vulnerable communities. So it is a very serious problem, but I would like to suggest that it is not just a law enforcement problem and I know you are not suggesting that, but we have to do a better job of tackling these issues.

Senator Kenny: How much of your resources does it occupy?

Mr. Fantino: A great deal of it. We know that much of the community-based crime, as I call it, - the things that affect people directly: the things they experience and see where they live, where they play, where they work - is based on that vicious cycle of drugs and drug abuse and drug distribution.

The fight for turf, the fight for power is directly linked to the violence that is also evident in our society today. The role and involvement of gangs as distribution networks in our society, along with all of the violence that is associated with it is a significant problem.

Law enforcement is basically maxed right out. And my pleadings are not for more resources; my pleadings are for help, a community-wide societal help to deal with this issue. It is too easy for us to hope and pretend that law enforcement can deal with this issue. We fill the jails and yet we still have problems. In fact, there is a drug problem in some of the jails, and people will tell you that.

Senator Kenny: Out of a total budget, you allocate how much to drug issues?

Mr. Fantino: I do not have a specific number for you, but I can tell you that we have 17 police divisions in this city, upward of several hundred people. And within each of those, there is a contingent of people that are totally dedicated to drug work.

Moreover, the uniform patrol officers deal constantly with this issue, as well. We also have a dedicated drug unit that works on two levels: One is the organized crime elevated importing, manufacturing, distribution level and the other is at the street level.

I would say that probably one-third of our resources are sucked right up in some form or another relating to drug work.

The Chairman: Before you go on, Chief Fantino, if you can provide us with any financial information, we would be pleased to look at it as soon as you send it to us.

Mr. Fantino: I will undertake to try and get a fix on it as best as we can.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Senator Kenny: Is this work that is in cooperation with or coordinated with other levels of government? Do other police forces work together with yours?

Mr. Fantino: Yes. We have one existing joint forces unit that tackles organized crime at the very high end. This is an integrated unit that involves the RCMP, ourselves, the OPP and a number of other agencies.

We also have a special squad that deals with outlaw bikers who are very much involved in drug dealing. Then we have stand-alone projects that we do in an integrated joint forces set-up.

So there is more cooperation now than ever, but we certainly need to do a lot more from an enforcement point of view.

Senator Kenny: We are focussing principally on marijuana at this point, but I cannot resist asking you about MDMA and its use in Toronto.

I read in our briefing notes that in Ontario, there were nine related deaths. I gather it is a factor in the rave scene here. Would you care to comment on it?

Mr. Fantino: About a year ago, I took a very strong stance with regards to putting in place safeguards at raves because of the investigations that we have done, the information we have received and things that have come to our attention. It is a very volatile scene. It is a very dangerous scene for some of our young people especially because, young people are vulnerable and the drug dealers are enterprising people. They are ruthless. They are mercenary. They target raves as a place of distributing drugs such as ecstasy. And in all of our coverage of raves that we have known about, there has always been the presence of ecstasy, drug overdoses and drug dealers targeting these young people.

Senator Kenny: Have you been active in creating places where people can have these parties in a safer fashion?

Mr. Fantino: I appreciate the thrust of your question. My job is to make sure that whatever activities take place are done in a safe environment.

After an inquest where there were significant recommendations made about the rave scene, we were able to convince the city council to put in place safeguards that I think are absolutely critical in terms of protecting the young, vulnerable people who congregate to these places in city-owned facilities.

Of course, where the city does not have that authority, compliance is then optional, if you will. And we try and police those. We try to get our people in, but sometimes they are secretive. They are covert in nature and it is difficult for us to even know where they are happening.

However, if they are happening, whether it is on city property or otherwise, we are there to the extent that we can to police these events.

The Chairman: Maybe you can follow up on that in the second round of questions.

Senator Di Nino: First of all, for those who are not from Toronto, we would like to once again take a public opportunity to congratulate you on your strong commitment to making our streets safer.

Mr. Fantino: Thank you.

Senator Di Nino: You have a tough job and we have got a tough man to do it.

You expressed your views and I think the views of the CPA's firm opposition to legalization of any drugs.

You also gave us some statistics and I think you said up to U.S.$18,000 per pound for Canadian cannabis.

This is more a general question on legalization. There is a growing body of opinion that is saying because of the money involved, because of the fact that the economic issues here are so large, there are people who are saying we cannot win this war. The money involved is so big that the criminals - and I agree with you that it is mainly run by organized crime - can actually hire enough people to have their own armies and their own police forces.

In the last few years, there has been a growing body of opinion from some very interesting sources across this country that suggests that some form of legalization should take place. What are your thoughts on that?

Mr. Fantino: I am totally opposed to it. We have a form of legalized drug distribution. It is called medicinal use. Doctors prescribe it all the time for all of the right reasons after research, quality control assessments.

I think that those are responsible outcomes in an orderly society where things are done for all of the right reasons to the greater public good.

Freewheeling with drugs, to me, is dangerous. It is Russian roulette. Moreover, I feel strongly that any thought of legalizing something that is not now legal for the sake, is a societal cop-out. We have lost the war at that point. I really believe that because where do you stop? Why not legalize anything? Then you won't even need me and maybe that is not a bad idea.

However, I do not want to trivialize the issue. Your question is a very good one, but I think that that argument fails badly because then we do not need any laws, at all. There are things that we have put in place as a society that are for the greater good.

So we do have legalized drug distribution. It is called "medicinal use" and it is done, as I stated earlier, with all the checks and balances in place and accountability.

To allow it to go freewheeling will not deter organized crime because those organizations will just continue to do what they are already doing outside the system. That is why it operates. That is why it is very lucrative and that is why it is able to survive.

Senator Di Nino: Some of the medical people that I have talked to, including some who are now members of the Senate, have suggested that maybe that would be a solution that should be looked at: to bring it within the medicinal or medical kind of control and regulation that we now have.

Their statistics are pretty alarming when you take a look at how this problem has increased in the last two or three generations to the degree where it has become a plight on society. I agree with you, the ruthless and mercenary people who run this do not really give a darn about anything other than making money.

And it is for that reason that they are saying maybe we should bring it under some form of legal medicinal medical control.

Mr. Fantino: Well, I am not in a position to argue against the legitimate transfer of drugs into medicinal use for all of the right reasons, with all of the checks and balances in place. But I am in total opposition to legalizing things that are currently illegal because we cannot keep up with the threat, the challenge. We may as well fly the white flag of surrender on all issues if this is the case. Why have a "speed" limit? Just let people run.

It does not work that way. This is an orderly, sophisticated, world-leading society and we are not out of control, at least not yet. And there are many things we can do; we just have to do things better.

As I stated earlier, if all we can do, as a society, is to legalize things that are mind-altering, that are uncontrolled, that are out there for the wrong reasons, we may as well surrender. There is nothing left.

Senator Di Nino: Just for the record again, your recipe would be to make sure that the police have enough resources, et cetera. Perhaps you could repeat what it is that you think we should be doing or at least that this committee should be recommending in its report.

Mr. Fantino: We obviously have to rely on an integrated process dealing with this issue. I talked about prevention. I talked about treatment. I talked about all of those issues that need to be in place.

Speaking strictly from the point of view of enforcement, I think that the most strategic deployment and allocation of our resources would be to tackle the organized crime networks that import, distribute, manufacture the drugs and at the same time, of course, work very hard on all these other issues of education and deterrence.

Our young people are so vulnerable. We have to do a lot of hard work at the front end of all of this.

Nevertheless, if I were to ask for one singular consideration on this issue - assuming all of these other things need to be in place - we need to organize ourselves as law enforcement and we need to integrate ourselves; we need adequate resources to tackle the problem from a law enforcement point of view at the very highest end, of importing, manufacturing and trafficking.

As well, honourable senator, we should go after all of the illegal profits that are derived by those people in the process.

Senator Grafstein: Mr. Chairman, I have known Chief Fantino for some time and I am a great supporter of his. He has done a wonderful job, I think, in bringing the police closer to the people in Toronto. For that, he and the force should be congratulated.

However, the problems are obviously intense and the budgeting problems, I know - we hear about them all the time - are equally intense.

Mr. Fantino: Yes.

Senator Grafstein: No one relishes your job, but we understand the difficulties.

Our job is different from that. Our job is to focus on an illegal substance called cannabis and to see whether or not that particular substance should be treated the same or differently than other substances. That is the major function of this committee and so I would like to focus on that, if I could.

When I take a look at the statistics we have available, they are not as clear-cut because what they seem to indicate is that at least 50 per cent, for instance, of your major seizures have been cannabis. However, if you take a look at the statistical impact on the health of the population - and, again, youth, people 20 to 35, 35 and older - it seems that that is a much lower percentage of utilization than the other drugs like rave or the other hallucinogenic drugs.

I would like, if I could in the brief moments available to me, to focus purely on cannabis. It strikes me that at the outset, the one thing that we do not know is the medical impact of cannabis. There is a huge debate amongst medical researchers and some say it has tremendous possibilities for improving certain illnesses. Others say, no, as soon as you take cannabis, it immediately starts to burn your brain and increases the amount of dopamine in your brain.

There is this debate and scientists are divided. And when you talk to researchers about this, they tell you one of the reasons we are divided on this is because we do not have a long enough and thorough enough research base in order to come to some systemic conclusions. However, for the moment, it is clear that cannabis is somewhat different than the other drugs in terms of the impact on the human body.

Do you have any material that would be helpful to us in that particular search? My next question will relate to the distribution of the drugs, as best you know it. Do you have anything to help us with on the scientific aspect of this?

Mr. Fantino: The only thing I can offer is a personal observation and that is that the signs of impairment - from any number of substances, including alcohol - are a concern to us all the time when those things then translate into other activities.

I have no medical or scientific data to offer you. I would say that the presence of marijuana and its derivatives in our community is a very serious, serious problem now.

It is a problem beyond just the medical scope because what we have is, for instance, the growth of hydroponic labs all over the place. It used to be, as you know, imported. Now it is grown here. You heard me talk about how the American law enforcement agencies have considered Canada to be a source country of marijuana into the United States. But as far as medical or scientific data, Senator, I have none of that.

Senator Grafstein: However, the data that we do have indicates that very few deaths, as an example, at the extreme end can be attributed to extensive cannabis use.

Mr. Fantino: I can tell you, though, that in my eight years as a Homicide Squad officer here in Toronto I investigated many, many deaths where cannabis was present in the victim, if you will. But I would not suggest one moment that cannabis was the cause of death when gunfire, in fact, was.

Senator Grafstein: Let me test another one of your theses - with which I agree, by the way - which is that one of the ways to deal with the question of drug distribution is to deal with the supply and the distribution imports because when you are talking about U.S.$18,000 a pound, that is a lot of money.

Mr. Fantino: It is.

Senator Grafstein: It is a lot of money when you break it down to a cigarette.

Mr. Fantino: Essentially U.S. currency.

Senator Grafstein: Exactly. We are talking about real dollars here.

Is there a difference in Toronto between the distribution networks at the high end of cannabis than for the other drugs or are they the same distribution networks and the same gangs and the same groups?

Mr. Fantino: That is a good question. The activities of organized crime are basically commodity driven: whatever activity and whichever commodity results on the greatest profits.

We have also seen trends come and go. For instance, in my time doing drug work on the streets of Toronto, back in the seventies, the big to-do was speed - methamphetamine. And we were known and reputed to be the speed capital of North America at that time and there was an element of violence associated with that. Then it seemed to fade out, and then other drugs come in. So it is just the ebb and flow of availability and also marketplace.

Senator Grafstein: Again, there does not appear to be a different pattern for distribution. Obviously, the sources are different. They grow in a different place and the farms are different, but once they are grown, the distribution networks appear to be the same to you as the other drugs, the other more potent - I should not say "more potent" - the ones that are considered to be instantaneously unhealthy?

Mr. Fantino: Yes. I do not think there is any organized crime network out there that deals exclusively in marijuana, for instance. They will run to whatever opportunities exist. Very often you have these networks dealing with multiple drugs.

Senator Grafstein: I would like to deal the other end of the problem. There appears to be an increasingly high use of cannabis in age categories beyond 25 - 25 to 35, 35 to 45. Some will say it is for medicinal reasons, others will say that it is for whatever reasons; but the statistics available to us indicate that there appears to be an increasing rate of growth in use among the higher age categories.

Is there a different approach then to the containment of cannabis because it reaches older people more often than younger people and if there is not, should there be?

Mr. Fantino: We are not very selective in some of these areas. We just go after whatever the leads tell us, whatever the information is available to us. We look at these issues as opportunities, if you will, to pursue illegal activity.

However, we have raised our efforts in regard to young people because they are so vulnerable. I spoke earlier about the rave scene and the significant appearance of ecstasy, for instance. But I would have to tell you that we probably dedicate equal amount to law enforcement strategies when it is justified, when for instance we are targeting the high-end distribution networks because we know that it is marijuana today and something else tomorrow.

Yet it is the same kind of nucleus of people who do all of these things. I cannot tell you with any accuracy that we target one group versus another group. We target distribution networks more than anything regardless of what drug they are dealing.

Senator Grafstein: One final question.

Senator Kenny is here. He has been one of the great advocates in Canada about prevention as it applies to tobacco. And without taking his fire, stealing his smoke or fire, Senator Kenny has convinced many of us in the Senate that there is a disproportion ate amount of public expenditure from tobacco on prevention.

His argument is - and he has convinced many of us - that more money should be spent on prevention; not decriminalization, but prevention of smoking, per se, in young people will be of huge benefit to the economy, to reducing health costs, and to creating a healthier nation.

Applying that same argument to cannabis, I cannot remember the last time I saw any type of public policy advertisements directed towards the use of cannabis or preventing cannabis. We have talked, "Say no to drugs," but some will argue that cannabis is really not a drug.

What is your view about the allocation of scarce public resources to prevention, advertising, all of that, as opposed to decriminalization and policing?

Mr. Fantino: I am not in favour of decriminalizing it. We have talked about that, so I will park that for now. But I am in total agreement with the honourable senator that prevention, in whatever aspect, is very critical. We do it with everything else. Why not do it with drugs in a greater, much more concentrated, much more focussed way? So I am in agreement.

I am a law enforcement officer, but prevention is crime prevention. Prevention dealing with preventing people from getting into illicit drugs, using illicit drugs, being part of the problem, to me, is very important. The less work we have at our end, the better it is.

Moreover, we either pay now or we pay later anyway. Look at the extraordinary cost that we are incurring, not only from the point of view of law enforcement, but the health cost, the loss of productivity and so many other issues.

So I am totally and absolutely committed to prevention. And, in fact, we embody that in so many of our own programs, but, we have limited opportunity to do so much of this. And that is why we need an integrated, holistic, national strategy focus to dissuade people from getting into drugs to begin with.

Senator Grafstein: Now, can I complete, Mr. Chairman, with this brief anecdote?

My five-year-old grandson visited me last week, and I am a cigar smoker, not in the house, not in the backyard, not where my wife can see me, but on the streets of Toronto. My grandson walked with me down to the corner store to have a cup of coffee. He tugged on my arm and whispered to me. He said, "You know, it will kill you."

I leave that as a thought. I do not know where he learned that. He lives in New York, but he told me that - it was probably Colin Kenny who reached him and convinced him to tell his grandfather what to do, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Mr. Fantino: I think we have a great opportunity and that is why I am not one for raising the white flag of surrender. We should never think that we cannot lick this.

If we dedicate our time, energy and resources in a strategic way and deal with the young people, the impressionable young people, the future of tomorrow, I think that things will, in fact, go a lot better than we have been able to manage certainly in my time.

Senator Milne: Chief Fantino, I was raised within half a mile of this spot on Jarvis Street and on Carleton Street, and I spent a lot of time when I was a kid, knocking on doors in Regent Park and Cabbagetown with my dad.

I had a great deal of experience seeing the results of the abuse of the drug of choice of that day, which was alcohol, and I suspect it is still the drug of choice.

Since various Canadian governments have lightened the laws about alcohol, have made it more readily available, more controlled, have you seen any great increase in the use of alcohol since then?

Mr. Fantino: That is a very difficult question for me to answer. I know that alcohol abuse, if you will, is involved in so much of what we have to deal with from domestic abuse to on-the-street violence and so forth. So, from a law enforcement point of view, alcohol has been a constant presence in our work.

Senator Milne: But you do not see any great increase since it was, in effect, legalized and controlled?

Mr. Fantino: No. It has always been a problem, senator. The abuse has always been present; to what degree, I do not know.

I can tell you that with all of the information and education we have about drinking and driving, it is still a very critical issue for us. We still have far too many people who engage in alcohol abuse and then quite irresponsibly get behind the wheel causing very tragic outcomes to happen.

I am amazed at that. The potential consequences could not be clearer, we see them graphically illustrated day in and day out, and yet people still do it.

For all of our efforts, we have not gotten through to a certain element of our society.

Senator Milne: That brings me back to what you were saying. You have been in law enforcement now for more than 30 years. You said you had seen all kinds of proposals coming up to solve the problem of the illicit use of drugs and yet, obviously, they have been futile.

Mr. Fantino: Very much so.

Senator Milne: So how do you suggest that we focus? How can we focus on prevention? People have been trying to do so for more than 30 years. What do you suggest?

Mr. Fantino: I think your question is a good one and I am pleased that you have asked it. We have done so much experimenting with so much else. I think we should focus on young people as our primary strategic target for all of the things that go towards prevention.

And I think that is what we have not done. We have tried to rehabilitate those who are beyond rehabilitation. We think that we can fix everything and fix everybody, and you just have to say that some people cannot be fixed. There are some habits that cannot be altered. But, you know, we do have fertile minds out there.

And if you look at some of the work that is done by Dr. Fraser Mustard on the formative developmental stages of a child and how important it is to get to the children at very, very early stages of their life - from birth to even three years, I believe he says - and how much of a difference that is known to make.

We recognize that these issues are tried and proven and the studies and the research is there and I think it is validated, so why not? We cannot fight all the battles, we cannot win all the wars, but I believe that we can attain greater results and more strategic outcomes if we were to focus our energy, our time and our resources with critical programs that focus on children because they are our future.

We have not fixed it, senator. In my time, we have not and I do not pretend that we will before I am finished, but I think that this is fertile territory for us. The minds and the future of our children are ours to mould and that in turn, I believe, will attain the best results for us.

It will take a strategic focus. We cannot fix everything, but we have to put our efforts where it counts and I think that is the place to go. I believe in this.

Senator Wilson: I have two related questions.

We have talked a lot about prevention and I am glad you said that although you are in law enforcement, the whole issue goes beyond law enforcement. You detailed what is needed: prevention, education, counselling, rehab, and diversion - all sorts of things.

I have two questions. One is in terms of prevention. I think it is agreed and you have said that there needs to be a preventative, integrated strategy nationally. Is there anything of that nature going on in Toronto or is it mooted, at all? Is anybody taking the lead in that?

When I looked through our data on Toronto, 1999, there is a report from the Mayor's Homeless Action Task Force, for child support and some help for the Aboriginal community in terms of drugs.

I do not know if any of that has been implemented and so my question is, what strategy is there in place in Toronto or is there such, and does the police force coordinate with other agencies that are trying to develop a strategy for prevention?

Mr. Fantino: We work on prevention, but it is not our primary focus. We do a lot of work in the schools. We do a lot of work with the community.

We have recently signed an agreement among ourselves, the education boards, Parks and Recreation, and the TTC, which deals with young people at risk and all of that. But I would have to say, honestly, that I have read all the studies, senator. There is more than what you have even quoted hanging around, but we seem to be studying about the same issues. We know what the problem is.

Senator Wilson: But is there a group of people focussing on that alone in Toronto?

Mr. Fantino: I would say that there are an awful lot of people working very hard on this issue. However, I do not think that there is one united integrated concerted approach because everyone comes at this issue from a different point of view. That is why I have always advocated - although I have not said it here - for a truly committed national strategy that makes all this happen from top down.

This cannot be driven by a whole lot of people running around, trying to do good things. I mean no disrespect; there are many honourable people, including us, running around trying to do what we can. Yet there is not one integrated, united, top-down national strategy dealing with these issues.

Senator Wilson: Well, my question was whether there was a Toronto strategy.

Mr. Fantino: I would have to say that there are an awful lot of strategies, but there is not one single strategy.

Senator Wilson: There is not one. And the second one related, do you think it would be useful, should such a strategy be developed, that young people themselves be involved in that?

Mr. Fantino: I think young people have a very strong stake in all of this. And to whatever extent, of course young people should be involved and their input valued. They need to be part of the solution. Very often, we say that they are part of the problem. The majority of our young people are decent, law-abiding, honourable folks. They have a lot to offer.

Senator Wilson: Yes. And I think a lot of them would have some clues here. When I look around the room, I do not think there is anybody here under 30.

Mr. Fantino: In fact, senator, you will find that most young people are quite resistant to drugs, although they are very much exposed to them. This, again, reinforces my view.

We need to get those things in place that will help them make the right decisions when they are placed in a situation where they are exposed to anti-social, inappropriate conduct, behaviour, et cetera. Young people make those decisions every day. Why? Because at some point in time, they have been programmed. They have bought into the values. We need to do that right across the board.

Senator Wilson: Yes. I just wanted to make a point that the young people themselves are a great resource.

Mr. Fantino: Absolutely. I agree with you.

The Chairman: Chief Fantino, I have various questions, but I will limit them to what I think are the important ones.

You have talked about impaired driving under the influence of marijuana. Do you have any kinds of stats and numbers and rigorous studies?

Mr. Fantino: No, other than it is a constant, as is alcohol. We need to be able to better detect those and there are some training programs that need to be put in place for our police officers to enable them to detect some of those issues. However, I do not have statistics for you. It is very hard to prove.

The Chairman: When you say you have information in your force, do you have reports to the effect that people are involved in, for example, accidents under the influence?

Mr. Fantino: I can probably get those for you, but I do not have what numbers might apply. I would be happy to seek that out.

The Chairman: Please.

Mr. Fantino: Okay.

The Chairman: You have talked about your involvement in the schools. According to the data that we have in front of us, the striking increase in drug use and abuse in schools in the Toronto area is alarming.

Mr. Fantino: Yes.

The Chairman: My question is what kind of work are you doing in the schools or maybe I should ask what should you do in schools?

Mr. Fantino: Well, this is a good question, as well, and I guess the question I would ask is where is everyone else?

We are doing what we can in the schools. We have programs that deal with drugs, lifestyle choices, traffic safety and so on. However, I do not have the resources necessary to do comprehensive programs across all of our schools to reach all of our children.

This cannot be left to the police alone, and that has been my point all along. We have to count on everyone else to be on board. There is only limited time available for the police to go in and do some of these programs. We have to look at all of the stakeholders to be involved in programs.

We are in with the VIP Program, for instance, Values Influences and Peers. There was some experimentation being done with the DARE program, but it is too late, much too late. It is too time-consuming, too labour-intensive, and there is no measured outcome.

So, to me, all of this is band-aid and patchwork. I wish I could sit here before you today and tell you that we, the police, have any surefire answer to all of this. We, ourselves, are doing things in an as-best-as-we-can way, but somewhat not very integrated.

The Chairman: Basically, you are saying put more money, more resource, more focus, more coordinated effort.

Mr. Fantino: It has to be done strategically. We need to develop the right programs to be delivered at the right age in the right circumstances, to enable parents to have the data and information themselves.

There is a great deal of ignorance about drug use and abuse and all of that anyway. Some people glamorize it; raves and ecstasy are considered a fun thing. You know, the moment a police chief dares to raise the alarm, I am attacked by those who promote some of these activities.

We have to get our values in place. We have to get our priorities straight. We have to define what our mission is, and I applaud everyone that is working hard at this.

I talked about the very successful program that Springboard is running. But why is Springboard not all over the place if it is known to be a successful program? Do you know what I mean, senator? Like, why? Why? Why? I do not have those answers.

Somebody has to define the policy that will drive the things, that get the right things done for the right reasons in the right way that make a difference.

The Chairman: Our neighbour, the Americans, are spending more than twenty times the amount of money we are putting into all the drug programs in Canada. Do you think it would work in Canada if we would spend that level of money?

Mr. Fantino: I do not believe in spending money just for the sake of spending money. I believe that the programs and the purposes have to be well defined, well researched and implemented, and then we have to measure the results and keep working at it.

I am not impressed with how much money is being spent unless I know what the actual outcomes are. There is the accountability factor, and very often it is missing. We get that warm-and-fuzzy feeling all over because we are running programs, but does anybody really see or ask or quantify how that translates into positive significant outcomes?

I know, honourable senator, the whole issue of educating people with regards to smoking and whatever; I have seen that campaign take a great leap forward. That was done because research and all of the right information was being imparted. You know, the question is why are people still smoking?

The Chairman: One last question on raves. There were some seizures made at those rave parties. What is the purity of the MDMA found on-site?

Mr. Fantino: It varies and one of the problems is that there is no quality control. In the United States at some of these underground raves, they even have people on-site who actually test the product, which encourages its use. They think that that is helpful because they say, "Well, you know, we are running a safe rave here. We have people testing the product." So the kids go there, test the product and they take it or not take it depending on what the test result is.

However, the psychology, the message we are giving out there is that we are making it safe. We have to take a step back. These are not quality-controlled kinds of products. They are made in underground labs; they are illicit. They contain all kinds of other impurities and substances and, moreover, there is no control regarding their use and that is why you get the overdoses.

The Chairman: Do you have the labs' analyses of the content of those seizures?

Mr. Fantino: We could probably get that for you through the Office of the Coroner. I can hunt down some of that material for you.

The Chairman: We are asking that of all of our witnesses. Many questions have not been asked. I have a few, but the time is limited now. If we are agreed, we will send you those questions in writing.

Mr. Fantino: Sure.

The Chairman: Thank you, Chief Fantino. As well, I would like to thank you for the visits that we will be conducting later today.

Mr. Fantino: You will enjoy those.

The Chairman: Our next witness is Mr. Alan Young. I am sure those of us who are following the cannabis are familiar with your name, sir.

I will let you present yourself and make your case.

Mr. Alan Young, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School: I have been working in the area of marijuana legalization for roughly 10 years. I have represented hundreds of people who have gotten into trouble with the law and I have been involved and instrumental in the whole medicinal marijuana movement.

I would like to say, at the outset, that I do not mince words and I hope that I do not sound disrespectful with some of the things that I say. However, in listening to Chief Fantino, I hear things that simply do not make sense. One of the problems with intelligent law reform in this area is there is a lot of misinformation and hysterical mythology. I will give you two examples.

There was a question from the honourable senators in relation to people dying from marijuana. The one thing that is clear, and there is not a lot that is clear, is marijuana has never in the entire recorded history of mankind caused a death directly. Scientists could not determine an LD50, which is a lethal dose for marijuana. You can kill rats with sugar and caffeine. You cannot kill them with marijuana. So I just wanted to get that out as one of the bits of misinformation I heard.

The other thing, too, which troubled me immensely, was hearing a discussion of marijuana selling for US$18,000. If that is the price, I will change careers as I leave here. That has never been the price and Chief Fantino knows that because his officers testified in court that marijuana sells between $2,500 and $3,000 a pound Canadian in this country.

I just wanted to mention that because there is a problem when you have hearings of this nature and people show up without statistics and the information. I will probably say things, too, that you will question and wonder where I have arrived at these figures.

The real question - and this is what I hope is not seen as disrespectful - is why are we here today? I find it somewhat mysterious. We have had so many commissions and committees of inquiry into this issue and since 1892 with the Indian Hemp Commission, virtually every committee has come up with the same conclusion: much ado about nothing in terms of marijuana. It is not an issue that really should occupy the minds of criminal justice officials.

In Canada, we have spent years and millions of dollars for the Le Dain Commission - which is still considered one of the most exhaustive and comprehensive inquiries ever held - yet it simply collects dust in libraries for academics like myself to read and recycle.

I am also aware that another Senate committee had convened in 1996 to look at the CDSA - and we had evidence in the Clay case about this, an affidavit from Sharon Carstairs - that the senators were ready to recommend decriminalization. All in formed bodies reach the same conclusion. If they are divorced from political considerations, they all recommend decriminalization. However, Senator Carstairs said in the affidavit that they fell short of making the recommendation because the committee did not feel Parliament was ready.

When is Parliament going to be ready? When is Parliament going to act upon the Le Dain Commission? I would suggest that if this honourable group does recommend decriminalization, do not simply write a report and file it away. Show some tenacity and make sure that Parliament does not stick-handle out of this mess, as they have done about three times in the last 30 years.

Why do I have such outspoken views about decriminalization and legalization? Marijuana is one of the most benign substances on this planet. The only harm we have ever seen is in chronic users, not occasional users. And chronic users represent less than 1 per cent of the marijuana population. So we are criminalizing99 per cent of marijuana users who suffer no ill effect from using the drug.

The only documented harm upon which all scientists agree is chronic pulmonary irritation, a form of bronchitis. There is not even evidence of lung cancer. So I say, the criminal law in this country is being used to protect us from becoming a nation of coughers and wheezers, and that is not the function of criminal justice.

I have been a criminal lawyer for 20 years. I have seen murder cases; I have seen sexual assault cases. I have never seen the law being used simply to promote good health.

Now, I know Dr. Kalant appeared before you. Dr. Kalant is one of the most esteemed pharmacologists in the world in relation to cannabis and I have utmost respect for him. At the end of his very objective testimony in Clay, we asked him, "Do you believe in decriminalization?" And this is a man who has studied this issue his entire life and done all the rat studies and he still said, "Yes." And then the next question out of my mouth was, "What do you think of the 600,000 Canadians who have criminal records?" And he had one word, "Regrettable."

The Chairman: Mr. Young, my colleagues are maybe not familiar with the Clay case. Please take two minutes to explain the Clay case.

Mr. Young: A lot of what has happened in this country comes out of the Clay case, which was conducted in London, Ontario in 1997. Three weeks of evidence and seven experts from criminology, sociology, pharmacology, and medicine - very similar to what is going on here. The supernumerary judge who knew nothing about marijuana did conclude that it is relatively harmless, but that it was not the domain of a court to change public policy. That issue has now found its way to the Supreme Court of Canada and we will be arguing that in the New Year, the Clay case.

With regard harm - and Dr. Kalant will also tell you this - the suggestions of harm that you will hear from other witnesses - including possible impairment of the immune system, reproductive impairment, cognitive impairment - all comes from rat studies and has never been replicated in human population studies.

The reason why we know tobacco smoke causes cancer is not because of the rat studies which we had in the 1930s and 1940s; people only started to listen when they did human population studies and it showed that there was a greater preponderance of lung cancer among smokers.

Why do we not do human population studies? We have a population of millions in North America who have been consuming marijuana for 30 years. There is no excuse anymore not to do human population studies. Yet Canada does not fund any studies, and the NIH in the Unites States only funds rat studies. Why? Because the only existing human population study - and I admit it is flawed - is a 1970 study from Greece, Jamaica and Costa Rica. That study concluded that there is no higher incidence of morbidity or mortality in pot-smoking communities versus the general population. Human population studies are not done because they will not reap the results that governments need to maintain the prohibition.

This talk about medical harm has to be a red herring, senators. This is not the issue. Medical issues, or the promotion of good health and well-being are not criminal justice issues.

According to a 1993 Statistics Canada victimization survey, published in Juristat, 27 per cent of Canadians are afraid to walk their neighbourhoods at night and it is not because of pot smokers or pot dealers. So you must consider the millions, if not billions of dollars that are being diverted from combating serious predatory crime to chasing cannabis criminals of our own creation who are otherwise law-abiding, productive citizens.

If the promotion of good health was a criminal justice priority, I propose a new section banning the sale of oily potato chips. The gastrointestinal problems and the hospitalisation costs would far exceed anything that has to do with marijuana. Perhaps sale of liquor should be prohibited.

That is when, senators, you will see people start talking about civil liberties. I deal in the area of civil liberties; I say it is a liberty issue to choose your intoxicant as long as it does not hurt other people, and the courts do not agree. You take away the right to consume alcohol; people will understand it as a civil liberties issue.

If you want to know whether marijuana should be prohibited on pain of criminal sanction and imprisonment, the question you ask is not whether it leads to bronchitis. You ask: Is it criminogenic? Does it lead to further crime, as heroin leads to addiction, which leads to break-ins, which leads to robbery? You ask: Does it lead to family breakdown? Are we having domestic nightmares as a result of people consuming marijuana? Does it lead to the fostering of anti-social attitudes?

Those are the types of reasons why the criminal justice system should intervene. My answer to all of those questions is No, No, and No.

Marijuana has never been criminogenic; it does not lead to family breakdown; it does not lead to anti-social attitudes. If you spend five minutes with marijuana smokers, you know they will never be able to rob banks; they cannot get it together. It is an impossibility; the subject matter of good movies, but not criminal justice policy.

The only thing I can say about marijuana, from my own personal experience and from dealing with thousands of people, is that it does have a tendency to lead to critical thinking and it does have a tendency to make people who smoke question conven tional values. We all understood the experience of the sixties. But if governments are afraid of critical thinking, then we are not in a free society. If that is the justification for prohibition, then we have to reconsider our democratic principles.

Having studied the available evidence exhaustively for 20 years I am very comfortable in endorsing legalization.

I am also comfortable in saying something that most advocates do not say because it is politically incorrect: I am comfortable recommending that Canadians smoke marijuana if they so desire. It will not hurt you, it fosters a peaceful and contemplative state of being, and as Aldous Huxley noted, it may open up that reducing valve of our brain ever so slightly and lead to knowledge and insight.

Senators, I ask you today, as you go through these hearings and listen to everyone, I ask you to assist in my efforts and the efforts of millions of Canadians to put an end to this war that is ruining young lives. It is a travesty. It is a national disgrace.

I get weekly two to three calls a week otherwise law-abiding citizens who are pot smokers who have been fired from their jobs or have been denied entry into the United States or access to their children or government employment. These people have been treated like common criminals. This is the biggest problem with the marijuana prohibition: If you treat someone who is otherwise law-abiding as a common criminal, they will start to disrespect people like Chief Fantino and the other people who really do try to serve and protect our interests.

I have seen the studies that indicate the demographics of who smokes and how many people smoke in this country. I think it is a disgrace and a shame on all public officials who, in their lives, have gotten high and now sit idly by and do nothing. They do absolutely nothing to change a law that would have branded them a criminal for mistakes they have made in the past or for choices they may have made.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Young.

Before we go to questions, I would like to provide a bit of information. It might have been buried in the news when the Minister of Health announced the new regulation at the end of July, but in fact one study is underway at McGill University on the analgesic effect of marijuana on human individuals. This is a new and rather small study, but it will be available.

Mr. Young: Those are studies looking at the therapeutic value. For a criminal justice issue, if you believe medical harm is a foundation for criminal justice policy, we have to look to medical harm.

Gabriel Nahas' claim that it impairs the immune system was based on rat studies he conducted in the '70s. It is incumbent on governments to check that out in human population studies.

Donald Abrams at UCLA just did the first human population study on therapeutic use of marijuana for AIDS patients and his results were, yes, it is therapeutic for them; there no immune impairment, which is critical for an AIDS patient, and actually no major obstruction of pulmonary emphysema type diseases.

Senator Grafstein: This is anecdotal. It is not based on scientific study, but when you talk to doctors who are practitioners, highly skilled doctors, the evidence they have seen suggests to them that there is not enough evidence.

So, there appears to be a problem, prima facie. However, there are not sufficient studies to substantiate it; there is not a sufficient fact base to say it is not harmful.

And some very reputable doctors say - again, this is all anecdotal - say that cannabis, whether we are talking about regular use or chronic use, has a direct impact in burning brain cells, affecting brain cells, and that it increases the content of dopamine, which leads to significant problems.

Now, again, this is more anecdotal than it is scientific. I knew Gerry Le Dain very well and the difficulties that he had in trying to get at the fact base. So one of the systemic jobs of this committee is to sort through this material and to see if there is sufficient evidence upon which to say that it is not harmful to health.

The onus, in effect, is not on the committee to say it is healthy; the onus is on the committee to say whether it is harmful or not before it then leads to other conclusions.

What recent studies can you give us to demonstrate that it is as benign as potato chips or booze or beer or cigarettes or whatever?

That is my first question, Mr. Chairman. Let me ask my second question because it flows from that.

Do you not think it is rather weird, Professor Young, that while we are engaged in a huge cultural change in Canada and the United States to make cigarette smoking unacceptable because of lung cancer and so on, that you and others - and I am not being critical; I am just making an analytical statement - are encouraging yet another smoking habit that has to have some impact on the lungs and the nervous system? If in fact smoking is a problem, obviously marijuana smoking has got to be, if not the same problem, a similar problem.

Mr. Young: Yes. Thank you. There is a lot to respond to. In terms the suggestion there is not enough evidence, there are two things I would like to say about that.

First, the National Institutes of Health in the United States has, for 25 or 30 years, been searching for evidence of harm. There has be a point where you say, "We do not see it. We have got to give up."

Second, I do not think it is really the question of whether or not there is enough evidence. I think the question is who bears the burden of the lack of evidence? We had a Commission in 1972 that said, "We think marijuana is benign. Do further research."

Senator Grafstein: Right.

Mr. Young: When I cross-examined Bruce Rowsell, who was then a director at Health Canada, he admitted that not one study had been commissioned since the Le Dain report. You need government involvement because how else do you get marijuana legally?

Who should bear the burden of our lack of knowledge? The government should. They failed to do the studies yet they maintain the prohibition. I say suspend the prohibition, do the studies; if you get the results, bring the prohibition back. You do not saddle people with criminal records based on hunches and suspicions and speculations. That is my position.

I am not a medical doctor. Perhaps in 25 years we will find marijuana has horrific impact. I do not think so, senators. However, I do think in the interim, it is incumbent on the government to take the bull by the horns, do the studies and support their prohibition.

In terms of recent studies, there are studies that are favourable, but you know what? They do not make the press. What happens is, you do a rat study in the United States that shows evidence of addiction. Bingo. It is a beautiful story it is fear-mongering; it is hysteria. When a study that says there is no evidence, it is not a story. It is a non-issue.

So, for example, Dr. Kalant and Dr. Morgan appeared before this committee, so you know the debate over the Johns Hopkins study on cognitive impairment. Sixteen hundred patients were followed over the long term and they found no higher incidence of cognitive impairment among the pot smokers than the general population. I mentioned Don Abrams' study in San Francisco with AIDS patients. He finally was able to conclude that smoking marijuana is not hurting the immune systems of AIDS patients.

So there is a trickling of studies out there, a trickling from Europe. But basically there is a lack of funding of human population studies. I believe this is because the government prefers to live in ignorance; because it would be a lot better to maintain the prohibition by saying "'There is not enough evidence. We have to be cautious," than coming through with a human population study that shows no higher incidence of morbidity and mortality and then try to justify that to Canadians. So that my answer about not enough evidence.

In terms of your position about making smoking unacceptable, wonderful. That is not criminal justice. It is about education. It is about gentle coercion. It was very successful in the '70s and '80s; the incidence of smoking went right down. It has gone up again. I am not sure exactly why, because I think some of the public education campaigns do not speak to children. They seem kind of silly.

However, there is nothing inconsistent with advocating marijuana use while we are trying to reduce the incidence of tobacco smoking. Everybody knows that tobacco is a huge killer and the economic and social costs are astonishing.

In 1992 - and I know Eric Single was here and he was part of the Centre of Substance Abuse - they did a study of illicit drug use. In all of 1992, there were only 152 hospitalizations associated with marijuana use. That is nothing. That is like a spit in the bucket. There are greater complications from use of ASA than from marijuana.

More important, if we were to lift this veil of criminality and teach people responsible drug use, hopefully marijuana users will start using the filtration systems of water pipes or "vaporizers," which are available on the market. Perhaps they will maybe ingest marijuana. There are ways of reducing the harm from smoking, which is a dirty delivery system. It does not matter if you are smoking cigarettes, marijuana or tea.

So, yes, we should be advocating that people do not smoke, but that is not a reason why we should criminalize people for using a different choice of intoxicant than the conventional one, which is demonstrably harmful.

Senator Kenny: Mr. Chairman, it is always pleasant to have a witness who comes with passion and some insights.

My first question has to do with what is going on in this room now. You were here for Chief Fantino's testimony?

Mr. Young: The end part, yes.

Senator Kenny: Did you notice that at that time, we had four television cameras here and the press table did not have as many clerks at it as it has now? There may be a few media - I am not sure who they are - I suspect some with pens looking serious are with the media.

Why is there so much interest in what he had to say? You have come and you have said some things that strike me as being pretty interesting, too, and there seems to be less media interest in what you have to say?

This is not the first time that this has happened, so can you give us some insight as to what is going on from your perspective in society when this happens?

Mr. Young: Yes. You have actually tapped into a much more serious issue than whether or not people should be able to smoke marijuana. You have tapped into an issue relating to the control of information in a free and democratic society.

I do not have to recount all the hysterical beliefs that used to be expounded by people like Chief Fantino - not him specifically - but predecessors and people like that.

Public officials control information. That is why it is a sacred trust that they give correct information, that they do not talk about US$18,000 a pound. In the large scheme of things, I am a nobody. I am just a professor who is bit of a trouble-maker. Chief Fantino is the head law enforcement official. Canadians look up to this individual. They want information from him and they are deluded into thinking that just because it comes from a public official, it must be right. How many times in recorded history have we found governments controlling information?

This is called a "war on drugs" and one of the greatest tools of war is propaganda. I am very aware of the concern that you mentioned. That is why in 1997, I decided to challenge the constitutionality of our marijuana prohibition knowing it was probably a losing case. I am a constitutional scholar. I am quite aware of what the courts are capable of doing.

Why did I do it? Because suddenly when I appeared at court and did it in a public forum of that nature, I could get the media. And that was really what started what I consider to be a massive public education campaign in the past four years - one I am honoured and privileged to have been part of - to sort of counter some of the mythology.

This is a constant problem. I do not want to talk about the rave issue, but I heard Chief Fantino talking about it. It is the same thing going on in terms of the rave issue and in terms of the type of information being released. For example, after even the rave rally at Nathan Phillips Square, I noticed in the paper a suggestion that there were 17 arrests: five for drugs, five for this. Where is that information coming from? From the police, obviously, not from me. Why are they releasing it? Because it supports their position that there is something inherently dangerous about raves.

I think police officers - and this is no disrespect; I am a great supporter of our police - are the worst people to talk about law reform. They have a vested economic interest in this issue. They may be very cat-and-mouse about it and say, "Well, marijuana is a low priority." Look at their budgets.

In fact, the senators asked Chief Fantino how much money is being allocated for drug law and he said he was not sure. Of course he knows. They have an annual budgetary allocation.

I can tell you what I know. I made a note of it because this was shocking to me. When I was able to obtain copies of the operational budget in 1992-93 through various sources, I discovered that the morality squad - which is primarily drugs, a little bit of prostitution and gambling, but primarily drugs - has a three times greater budgetary allocation than the sexual assault squad.

This is information the public should know and this is information the police do not want the public to know. The reason so much money is spent on drugs is because it is labour- and capital-intensive. When you investigate a sexual assault, you talk to people. You interview them. When you investigate what you consider a major trafficking ring, you bring in the hardware and the software. You bring in the greatest invasion of privacy ever invented: wiretap. You have physical surveillance throughout the city. It is really, really expensive to maintain.

This is about control of information and I have fought really hard in the last couple of years to figure out how a private citizen like myself can gain access to the media. I feel I have been able to do it, but I will never be able to compete with Chief Fantino.

And similarly - I am sorry about this, too - on the medicinal marijuana front, my position is the government is trying hard and I thank them for it, but it is not working. Yet there is nothing I can do to counter Allan Rock taking media down into that bunker to show them what they are doing. It was great promotion for Canada: Canada has got this liberal progressive policy.

I tried to access media to say it is not working. It is all smoke and mirrors, but of course they are going to interview Mr. Rock and Mr. Rock's colleagues before they interview me. Access to information is a difficult issue in a free and democratic society.

Senator Kenny: Okay. I thought I heard Chief Fantino say something to the effect that "you have got to draw the line somewhere." Do you have any observations about a comment like that?

Mr. Young: I am not sure exactly what he was referring to, but if his suggestion is we have to draw the line somewhere and marijuana is going to fall on the wrong side of the line, then I just disagree with where he is drawing the line. I think millions of people disagree with him.

I could speak to you today about legalization of harder drugs and give you some of the arguments why people like Milton Freedman have suggested legalization of harder drugs. But I not going to dilute this hearing by doing that because the one thing I am certain of is that marijuana should not be lumped together with the other drugs.

I have seen some of the tragedies and the devastation from heroin and cocaine addiction. I know its potential. I have been involved with marijuana for 30 years; and, yes, I have seen some really stupid people: people we call "potheads" and "dopers." But you know what? They were pretty stupid before they started smoking.

I have yet to see the types of tragedies and devastation that you see with other drugs. That is why, if Chief Fantino is saying we have got to draw the line somewhere in the sand and marijuana unfortunately is going to go on this side of the fence because the evidence is not very clear, I simply say that shows no respect whatsoever for autonomous choice and liberty. Governments should be able to say, "We are acting in your public interest. We know clearly that this is going to hurt society and that is why we do it." They cannot say that.

Senator Kenny: Is the debate responsive to studies and examination? Or, do people come to it with values that are pretty deeply imbedded and if someone has a point of view, they are going to stick with that point of view notwithstanding what the study says?

Mr. Young: I think that is a very valuable comment. I do not think it is as entrenched as, for example, the abortion debate where a pro-lifer and a pro-choicer will never convert one another.

I do think people are somewhat responsive to the studies. I can use my mother, for example. My mother is a barometer for conservative thinking. I bombarded her in the last four years with my work because she wants to know what I am doing and even though she has not sat me down and said, "Alan, you have convinced me," I can see that she is digesting the information, starting to understand my position that we have some really serious predatory crime problems in this country and we have got to stop chasing people who are otherwise law-abiding citizens.

So I think we are responsive. That is why I think the Government of Canada has not funded any studies: It is a lot easier to maintain the prohibition in light of Emily Murphy's book, The Black Candle, the hysteria, and the "reefer madness" and all the other things that we have been exposed to, than it is to say "Oh, we have a prohibition, but we have just discovered from Johns Hopkins University that marijuana smokers aren't cogni tively impaired." It is not very easy to maintain a criminal justice policy in light of contradictory evidence.

Senator Kenny: However, implicit in the comment about drawing the line somewhere is that it is a gateway drug.

Mr. Young: Yes.

Senator Kenny: There is evidence to show that people who have used other drugs, have also used marijuana. How do you differentiate that?

Mr. Young: There is a quote that has been attributed to Mark Twain that comes in handy when you look at the gateway:"... there are lies, damned lies, and statistics." In terms of the gateway theory, it has been incontrovertibly abandoned by most informed scientists. The best information I have comes from the Clay case where a lot of the people you have heard from - Patricia Erickson, Marie-Andrée Bertrand - all testified that something like one in nine marijuana smokers try cocaine, one in twenty try heroin.

Quite frankly, to me that is a gate-closer not a gate-opener. A gate-opener is eleven out of twenty people who have smoked marijuana try heroin. So the majority, the vast majority of marijuana smokers have enough intelligence to know that just because they have discovered marijuana is safe and fun, that the other drugs aren't necessarily so.

I believe this has to do more with psychology and certain reckless types of personalities. Certain people will try anything once. Certain people will bungee-jump from the Grand Canyon; I will not. People who are not risk-aversive will go on to try something that has nothing to do with the pharmacological properties of the drug; it has to do with personality. We cannot control that by law.

Senator Di Nino: The issue is one where people have very strong opinions. This is good, because obviously what we want to hear are opinions that have some commitment behind them. Your comment in response to the question by Senator Kenny left me with a question dealing with the responsibility of the media.

There is no question that certain public figures, in particular, would attract more attention. Yet are you saying to me that the media does not care about other side of the opinion? Is it the media that is the culprit here?

Mr. Young: I did not want to come here to alienate both senators and media, but I will answer that very briefly and anecdotally.

I spent one entire summer as a legal correspondent for a major network in Canada, covering a major trial. I have seen how news is packaged. It is a business. You sell papers. And, as I said, a front page headline saying, "Marijuana: Horribly addictive," is a much better paper-seller than on saying, "Marijuana is not addictive."

Maybe we should be having committee hearings into the responsibility of the media, but then you are going to get into the whole free press issue and it would be a nightmare. It is probably just best for them to do what they do and to really foster an intelligent, informed perspective among citizens so that people understand that everything they read in a newspaper is not gospel truth. Sometimes they have to check behind the surface of the story and get their information.

Senator Di Nino: Thank you.

My question actually dealt with a totally different issue. It seems to me that this debate is focussed on the experiences of the cities and states and so forth in North America. Could you share with us some of the experiences of other nations, particularly nations that we could call the Western world where we would have a better feel for what is going on?

Mr. Young: Yes. It is a very important issue because one of the things that did come out of the Clay case in 1997 was Justice McCart saying, after we had expert evidence on international development, that North America is out of step with the rest of the western world. And that is painfully clear. I believe the only reason nothing constructive is happening in Canada is because of our close geographical proximity to the U.S.

All of Western Europe is pretty much decriminalized now. I cannot speak to Eastern Europe for the reason that information does not seem to come out of those countries. But the national newspaper in Madrid released a report indicating that there are only four EU countries that continue to enforce their law. Recently, Belgium has gone the Holland way; they will be selling in coffee shops. Northern Germany has not enforced the law for years. Portugal, Spain and Italy have all actually decriminalized in a de jure way, meaning in their books, not just de facto like Holland, which turns a blind eye.

Right now in Europe, England, France, Norway and Sweden, I believe, are enforcing the marijuana laws. Then when you turn to the Commonwealth, five of six - and I am sorry that I am not accurate on this - but five of six Australian states have moved to what is called an "expiation" system, which is really what Oregon started in the 1970s. It is a traffic ticket-type system. You are allowed to have certain quantities and if you are caught publicly with those quantities, they issue you a ticket and you just pay the fine. It is not a criminal justice issue.

I have never really understood that marginal control, why they do that. If you are going to let people do it, just let them do it. It is sort of like a licensing fee.

I believe by the time we reach 2005, Canada and the U.S. will be totally isolated on this issue. We will be the laughing stocks of the western world because we will be spending billions of dollars on this elusive game where other countries will be investing their finite criminal justice resources into serious problems.

Senator Milne: Since you have such a fertile mind, perhaps I can ask you to speculate what would be the effect on Canada-U.S. relations with their zero drug policy and ours if we went either the decriminalization or the legalization route?

Mr. Young: I do not really want to answer that because I happen to believe there will be retaliation of some sort. I know there will be. That is the way the Americans work.

I cannot begin to tell you how important it is for the Americans to have the war on drugs. It is interesting that when they pulled out of Cambodia, Nixon first declared the war on drugs. They have to have a war. That is the American phenomenon. So they are not going to let us make fun of their war.

The reason I do not want to answer it because it is shameful to think that Canada will not take an autonomous stand on this for fear of American retaliation.

I am not an economist and I do not follow NAFTA, but I see they are fighting over lumber. Well, so we will fight over marijuana. It probably is worth it for the amount of money we will save in terms of criminal justice. Should we ever sell it commercially - which is not the route I would go - an enormous amount of tax revenue would be generated. It would be much like when the provinces were able to benefit from gambling; in 1989, gambling was immoral, but by 1994 it was big business.

Senator Di Nino: Perhaps it is a little early, but would you be able to supply us with any statistics as to the kinds of questions that have been raised today and other days of this committee? The questions that focus on the European experience, those countries that have decriminalized or turned a blind eye versus the North American experience?

Mr. Young: If the committee cannot access that by its own initiative, I will do that. I do believe there was - now I cannot remember - a German fellow.

The Chairman: Cohen.

Mr. Young: Cohen. I think he would be in a better position.

I can say that there have not been a great number of follow-up studies. There has been a general feeling that the implicit decriminalization is working well. There were a few bumps in the road in Holland where they thought they would turn back the clock, but then when all the other countries joined in, they decided to maintain the policy.

The only thing I think is relevant about the European experience - and this is critical, and I am sorry I do not have precise figures - is that consumption rates among Canadian youth have always been in the range of roughly 30 per cent in the late 70s, to an all-time low of about 17 per cent "Just Say No" era of Nancy Reagan to roughly about 30 per cent currently. That is quite a few people, young people smoking marijuana.

In Holland, where you can walk down the street, go into a cafe, get a cappuccino and a joint, only approximately 9 per cent of Dutch youth are smoking marijuana. So that is always support of what I said: You make a product illegal, you entice youth. That is, I think, the only thing we need to know about the European experience. You open the gate; people aren't rushing in to get high. Suddenly you lose the allure, the forbidden fruit, the rebellious aspect. Because a lot of people smoked pot when they were younger to rebel. If it is not against the law, there is nothing to rebel against. They will find something else, but it will not be marijuana.

The Chairman: I have two questions I want to ask you. They relate to the Clay case. I do not want to undermine your strategic arguments, but can you provide the committee with the scope of your arguments?

Mr. Young: Yes.

The Chairman: One final question on the international treaties and their binding effect on our court system.

Mr. Young: Let me just talk about international treaties first because there is a think-tank in England that just came up with a study, which I have only given a cursory look to. "Drug Scope" is the name of the organization. They have exhaustively gone through the international treaties and came to the conclusion that I have been advocating for 10 years now, which is that there is nothing in the international treaties that bars us from having an alternative to a criminal justice policy.

The international treaties require control - not necessarily criminal sanction - and I have always known that. But governments have hidden behind the harsh language of the international treaties that suggest a very strong prohibitory control.

Even the 1988 Psychotropic Convention, which is fairly harsh in terms of its search powers, actually has a little provision saying for minor instances of criminality relating to drugs, governments are free to choose alternative policies such as education, treatment and things of that nature. So the international treaties are not the problem. They never have really been the problem.

In terms of Clay, if I could just encapsulate it this way - it is obviously a bit more nuanced and sophisticated - our position is that it is constitutionally improper for a government to prohibit on pain of criminal sanction relatively harmless conduct.

The principles of fundamental justice, which is part of the Charter, section 7, contain what I call the "harm principle," which has been articulated by governments of Canada for 40 years. This is: Criminal law is reserved for serious harm. I say that is actually a principle of constitutional law and if you can demonstrate that the substance or the activity is harmless, then government loses its constitutional authority to prohibit it.

We were successful in convincing the courts that marijuana is relatively harmless, but the Court of Appeal - and this is why it is in Supreme Court - set the threshold really low for lawful government action. They said as long as the government has a reasonable apprehension of some harm, even trivial harm - that is how low they set it - then it is constitutionally sound because it is really not for a court to review public policy. I sort of understand that.

What we are trying to do in the Supreme Court of Canada is once again reinforce that marijuana is relatively harmless and try to push the court to say that the proper principle is that a government must have reasonable apprehension of significant harm before they can use the criminal sanction. If we can convince the court that there has to be an apprehension of significant harm, we win the case; there is no question about it.

The B.C. Court of Appeal and the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the prohibition based upon four concerns identified in the Le Dain Commission, 1972. Frankly, a lot of those concerns are not concerns in the Year 2001. First, there was the concern of maturation process in adolescents. Well, my personal experience plus the ground-breaking study of Schedler and Block from California indicate that in terms of adolescent adjustment, the best adjusted adolescents were the drug experimenters; the worst adjusted were the chronic users, obviously; and in the middle were the "Just Say No" abstainers. Their intransigence and their sort of dogmatic "I will not get involved in this" reflected sort of a lack of flexibility that experimental drug-users did not have.

So there really is no evidence of problems with adolescent maturation. Le Dain also mentioned the car problems. That is a red herring. If we are worried about accidents in a car, there is a way - and Dr. Kalant did not tell you this, but he told us this - they can test marijuana consumption current by saliva. It is a little expensive, but if we are really worried about carnage on the streets - which does not come from marijuana - we can trace for that. We should not be prohibiting on criminal sanction what people do in the privacy of their home because a few people might not be good drivers.

The other Le Dain concern was long-term cognitive impairment. I say: Where is the evidence? Johns Hopkins showed there is no evidence. We have millions of people to test now and I think we will find that that concern was ill-founded.

Senator Wilson: Let me thank you for bringing us back to why we are here, which is the matter of cannabis.

You made the analogy with tobacco - which is not criminalized - and it happened through education, through peer pressure and so forth. It also happened because of health studies, which made it obvious that you were ruining your lungs.

Now, there is no human population study for cannabis. Why is this so? I mean, I am trying to probe - the Le Dain Commission came along and apparently Senator Carstairs said, "We will do it, but it is not yet time." What is the block? Is it a political block?

Mr. Young: Initially, it was a legitimate empirical dilemma. When people started looking at marijuana laws, which we had on the books since 1920, and the only reason that people wanted to change the law was that middle class young people were being arrested in the 1960s. We didn't care about all the black jazz musicians who were dragged through the mud in earlier days.

In any event, initially in the mid-1960s when we wanted to look at this we were concerned empirically that we did not have a long-standing body of cannabis users to study. So we did a couple of human population studies - I mentioned Greece, Costa Rica, Jamaica. The results were not supporting the prohibition. With an aging population of marijuana smokers, we have currently the largest percentage ever of 30- to 50-year-old people smoking marijuana. We have that human population to do the empirical work. Now I believe it is political.

I think the governments truly do understand that when you stop overdosing rats and when you actually look at people, you will find that it is harmless.

I happen to be reading Charles Baudelaire. In 1850 he was talking about hashish, which was brought from Egypt. He wrote something to this effect:

Take a spoonful and happiness is yours. Happiness involves exquisite pleasures. Happiness is yours in the form of a small bit of paste. Take it, have no fear, you will not die of it; your internal organs will not be harmed. It may perhaps weaken your resolve, but that is another matter.

The point is, from 1850 we knew this. If we're going to maintain a prohibition in the year 2001, it is better to maintain it in ignorance than in terms of doing control studies.

The Chairman: I knew that Les Fleurs du Mal would come up one day during the hearings of that committee. Thank you Professor Young.

Of course, our committee researcher, Dr. Sansfaçon, will be in touch with you for further information and, if possible, any information you may have in your file on the Clay case.

Mr. Young: I do not say this in a boastful way, but I believe I have the largest cannabis library in Canada.

If it would help the committee, I can have my partner send a copy of the Court of Appeal brief to you. Now, I think it really unduly summarizes our factual evidence because there are page limits in terms of facta. It also goes through Patricia Erickson's evidence, Bertrand's evidence, Single's evidence, Kalant and so on.

The Chairman: We have that kind of research. But we would like to see more statistical documents. You were referring to financial information that you received from the Metro Police. That is the kind of more focussed and precise information we would like to see.

Mr. Young: I am not sure I was supposed to even have those papers. However, the director can call me and we will negotiate what I can turn over.

The Chairman: Thank you very much, Professor Young.

Mr. Young: My pleasure.

The Chairman: Our next witness is Walter Cavalieri from the Toronto Harm Reduction Task Force. Mr. Cavalieri, please proceed.

Mr. Walter Cavalieri, President, Toronto Harm Reduction Task Force: Thank you very much for inviting me here. It is a privilege, an honour and a great opportunity and I hope I will live up to it.

I am President of the Toronto Harm Reduction Task Force, which is an alliance of individuals, community organizations, and neighbourhood groups who have been working together for about five years to reduce the harms associated with the use and distribution of drugs in Toronto.

I am also a founder of the Canadian Harm Reduction Network which is the nexus for individuals and organizations dedicated to reducing social, health and economics harms associated with drugs and drug policies across Canada.

As well, I am a researcher working on two projects at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine. One is a qualitative study of injection drug-users in Toronto, their perceptions of HIV risk, their practice of HIV risk prevention, and their experiences of services and service providers. The other is an ethnographic study of crack injunction practices in Toronto, part of a multi-city study, Toronto being the only Canadian city; the rest are in the United States.

Finally, I am an honorary member of IDUUT, the Illicit Drug Users' Union of Toronto, and of the Internet-based International Drug Users' Union.

I provided your clerk with a copy of my CV, a paper I have written on harm reduction and a paper I co-authored with Diane Riley on harm reduction and housing. I also provided a copy of more or less what I am saying today.

I will endeavour to represent, as well as I can, the voices of the hundreds of people who use illicit drugs with whom I have come in contact with since 1986, some of whom would like to be here, some of whom would be too scared or feel too unworthy to be here, and many of whom cannot be here because they are dead.

Over the past 15 years, my work with people on the street and those who use drugs - and my curiosity to know a level of truth other than that with which I had been indoctrinated - has immersed me in the street life of Toronto. I have been in seedy hotel rooms where people went to bang drugs, along railroad tracks where they lived in sheds, in alleys and laneways and other places where they surreptitiously went for some safety and privacy, to give and receive education about safer use of drugs.

More recently, together with a co-worker, I visited people who live in Toronto's first barrio - a tent city on a contaminated industrial dump - where we sat and learned about the life from a number of people including a former school teacher who lived in a spacious two-room tent. He felt safe there.

We also visited locations along the Don River where people are living between the girders under very low bridges in the most unsanitary and primitive of conditions, but they feel safe.

Others were encamped on the flood plain where at least they thought they were safe, but probably were not. We visited sites in the Rosedale Valley Ravine, some of them clearly visible from the Don Valley Parkway, but others deeper in and hidden. This is the Rosedale you do not read about in The Globe and Mail or in the National Post.

Encampments such as these also exist in Etobicoke and North York and, in fact, in every city across this country. We recently met with a number of people who were living under a bridge near downtown Toronto. There were seven or eight residents there, including one woman, ranging in age from 20 to 50, living in three tents and three hand-carpentered sheds. The traffic noise is constant day and night and oppressively loud. And like in other places that I have mentioned, there are no toilets, no places to wash, do laundry; there are no locks on doors, no heat, no air-conditioning, no garbage pick-up. Yet the people there feel safe.

I even met one man who sleeps on a beam under the Gardiner Expressway because he feels safe there. I spent a week with a community of four couples who had laid out sleeping bags against a building where the only shelter they have is from a few malnourished trees. Let me assure you that they do not do any good at all in the rain. I have been there. They constitute a family for themselves as well as others in the areas because of the presence and the support they offer to other people to help them feel safe. No - to be safe.

It is not merely that they look after one another's goods or keep sentinel for one another when they are using drugs; it is that they have scrupulously developed and maintained drug use practices that are as safe as they can be under the circumstances.

They protect one another. They protect the environment. They protect their community and do whatever they can to protect their fellow citizens. Clearly, they are trying to live and have a respected place in society.

What is it they are trying to be safe from, all of these people? One of the major things is the onslaught of persecution for the fact of their homelessness. Another is the onslaught of persecution for the fact of their use of drugs. I do not want to imply that the use of drugs and homelessness inevitably go hand in hand. It is true in some cases, drugs so deprive people of money that they lose everything and end up on the street. However, this is the minority, despite what the mythmakers would have one believe. Or that homelessness causes drug use. Well, there is a relationship.

Sometimes drugs do make the actual experience of homeless ness and its consequent social neglect and abuse a bit less unbearable. The physical, emotional and social pain of homeless ness is beyond the experience of most of us, if not all of us in this room. However, I would guess few but the most stoic here are immune to the seduction of mitigating our loneliness, our sadness, our depression or our psychic or physical pain through the use of some chemical alleviator.

Those I mentioned merely wanted to be safe from being penalized for this piece of their common humanity.

Over time, I have come to know hundreds of people who use drugs. The first I knew were successful working people. I was employed in the theatre for many years and people there use pot, psychedelics, speed, and cocaine but the most dangerous drug there - in terms of damage to performance - was that legal drug, alcohol; a drug that some people seemed quite unable to control. It ruined many an actor's life. The use of other drugs - most frequently pot and cocaine - was, by and large, benign.

Up to the point of becoming a social worker, my awareness of opiates was limited to prescription pills. One of my closest friends - a highly regarded professional - was seriously addicted to them and was supported in her addiction by a malleable and unwise physician. Eventually, they killed her through an overdose.

Of course, when I went to work with youth and later adults living on streets of Toronto, death became a constant companion and I quickly became aware, very aware of how drugs of all sorts were an overwhelming fact of life for the people I was seeing.

Yet it was when I started to develop and deliver AIDS education that went beyond condoms and basic syringe exchange that I became truly aware of drugs and how and why people lived with them as they do.

A principle of the delivery of social work is that you have faith that the person you are working with is making the best possible choices given his or her circumstances and knowledge. Given the circumstances of the people I was meeting, drug use made sense to them - and ultimately to me.

It was certainly not something I would recommend. They knew more about drugs than I ever would, but drug use became something to which I could say, "Okay. I get that. Now what is the real problem?" Often, the drug was genuinely helpful to them in getting through. Often, when other life situations would rectify, the drug use itself became controlled and sometimes would even disappear. Yes, even hard drugs like heroin, cocaine or alcohol.

Think of it. What choice does a young mother have when her child dies of SIDS and she cannot get help because she is using heroin? By the time I met the woman I am recalling now, it two years after that child died. She was in a methadone treatment program, but was now hopelessly addicted to Valium. Still, no one would see her to help her deal with the grief that the loss of that child caused in her life until she gave up Valium. I could not, in all good consciousness, say, "Come back when you have stopped using, please." That could kill her. And so I didn't.

Now, she was not a piece of cake to work with and she did not add glory to my stats on quick cures, nor did she reach perfection - but then who does? However, through patience and persistence, she ultimately did put behind her some of the grief and her Valium use fell to within the normal range.

What had happened to her and thousands of others like her in this country really happened because of our drug laws. The self-righteousness that under girds them and the pseudo-morality that they generate give licence to egregious misbehaviours on the part of many of our so-called professionals.

My current work is putting me in close contact with people who are injecting crack cocaine. This is a slightly more complex practice, say, than injecting cocaine itself because the crack - chemically a base - must be mixed with an acid so that the cocaine - which is a salt - will be released and become available for injecting. On the street, this is an inexact science. But people who do this - and there are many using lemon juice or vinegar or ascorbic acid powder - do quite well with it and have become, by trial and error, rather good chemists.

I have interviewed about 30 people in great detail about this practice and I have watched about a dozen of them actually prepare and inject crack. The most impressive bit of information I have received is less about safe or unsafe practice - and let me interject quickly here and say that the practice is much more safe than one would be led to believe because of the basic good knowledge of the users I am seeing and the effectiveness of outreach education - but about the effect of crack on people who use it.

I have so far witnessed no evidence of extreme cocaine psychosis, though I do know it occurs in some cases. For example, one person told me that every time he uses crack, he sees the "tree police" - that is, the police who are hiding in every tree with a view of his apartment - and so he is obliged to close the blinds and hide, lest they see him and come and arrest him.

What I did observe was how remarkably calming and satisfying crack was to the people who injected it; mild euphoria, relief from everyday pain and ills, and serenity were the prevailing experiences. I was very startled.

Who among those living on the street without shelter, the object of misunderstanding and scorn, of abuse and uncertainty, would not want a few minutes of feelings like this? Only a few, mind you, because that is how crack works; a hit lasts only a couple of minutes, less than a quarter hour. Then, I suppose it would be okay to drive a car, treat a patient, review case notes, file a brief, make love to your partner, feed the cat or take a walk. Taking a walk, by the way, along with smoking a joint to prolong the good feeling were the predominant activities of the people I had spoken with after they had done a hit. By and large, people behave terribly normally. I was surprised.

The truths we hear about "dangerous" drugs - the illegal ones - are frequently half-truths and treacherous mythologies main tained by those who would support prohibition no matter what the cost. The danger is that true truths about drugs are out there shared by word of mouth, determined by trial and error, and also available on the Internet worldwide. Everything that even the most well-meaning educators say is suspect if they support even one myth.

There are many reasons to use illicit drugs: A moment of peace or numbing of pain of a serious personal problem are only two. The list is very long. Most of reasons are identical to those that justify the use of legal drugs: sociability, confidence, to fit in, to cope with frustration, to escape. Sometimes people use the substances simply because they are there; others use to shake boredom, to feel normal.

Next to using a substance merely as an aid to getting by, the dominant reason that people use -on the street and elsewhere - is to self-medicate, to relieve psychic and physical pain - real pain; to forget about their troubles because nothing else works for them.

Drugs work, and it has been the dominant revelation for me about crack that it does this so well. When I consulted about this with a woman who had formerly worked on the street and used to smoke and inject a large amount of crack - I will refer to her as Mary - she wrote:

I am very surprised that you didn't know this. It is a part of my experience and one of the largest draws of the drug to break away from. I believe that crack actually saved my life on numerous occasions, and I feel that there is truth to that.

Perhaps I connected to crack and became endeared to it because it helped me many times to get through periods of great depression due to the loss of my children. On numerous occasions, I was so distraught and suicidal that there `was no sun for me.' I would indulge and, with my mind less focussed on despair and self-disgust because of indulging, I found I was able to look beyond myself at those around me.

For those who, like myself, suffer from clinical depression, the anti-depressant characteristics of crack act extremely fast. One of the side effects of clinical depression is a tendency to entertain active struggles with suicide. Now, combine this with all that one in `the life' must contend with ... What takes Prozac and other depressants a month of daily use to become fully effective, crack did for me instantly.

I ceased getting high from crack long before I quit. When depression would hit - and it is easily stimulated out there - it was extremely important that I `medicated' myself with crack.

I stayed in the life because I was afraid I would kill myself if I quit. Further, the more I encountered lack of empathy from helping professionals and the general public, the more the sense of depression developed.

When Mary was using crack, she was able to reach out to other people, both for help for herself and to help others equally. She continued:

Sometimes, to offer simple generosity meant so much to other hurting souls out there. It gave my life meaning. I could continue. I believe you get the picture of how harm reduction, especially, is a form of love and how it was while I was using, that it became a part of me. Crack was, then - not any longer now - my way out of the hell that I was in.

Mary is not unique in her experience. The difference is, she is an articulate writer. And I do want to mention that only 18 months off the street, she started school last week at one of the community colleges.

The first thing would I like you to notice is Mary is not unique. There are others like her, disadvantaged because her choice of drug is illegal. The second is, there is very little that differentiates you or me or our siblings or our children or our grandchildren from Mary. She has made bad choices; some really dumb choices, but who has not? But bad laws have compounded the effects of these choices and have caused her harm, some of which is irreparable.

Why do we not understand that bad laws and bad policies cause harm? How long can we, in good conscience, witness the horrors of the war on drugs and look away as if there were no other options?

How long do we have to wait before our government realizes that, regarding illegal drugs, prohibition - one of the longest and costliest social experiments in the history of our civilization - just does not work?

When will we provide the legal context wherein people who use drugs can properly participate in the governance of Canada and enjoy the benefits of citizenship equitably? I know it will be really weird to realize that, but I have people say they long to get to the point where they can pay taxes and be like other people.

When will the government provide adequate funds to effective ly deal with both the urban and non-urban problems that ensue from our consequences of bad drug laws and policies?

I know there is a bit of irony in here; give money now to support things that do not work until the future comes and they can be changed, but something has to be done.

How long can we continue to ignore the wisdom of European countries that have shown that there are humane, efficacious and cost-effective ways to treat people who use drugs? Why do we continue to cower before the moral agency - the so-called moral agency of the United States - in fear? In fear of what? Surely, the experience of Holland would give us an idea. Europe was aghast when Holland started to change its laws or look the other way. And what happened? Did any country invade Holland? No. Did anyone make it change its laws? No. What has happened is other countries have equalled and surpassed Holland.

Our stand on medical marijuana has received good press in the States and I think that is a very good sign. Last week, Health Canada issued a response to the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network's report on legal and ethical issues regarding injection drug use and AIDS. The response was very strong on words. The words have been around for a long time. There is no action.

Some of words are very important: "People who inject drugs must be treated as respected members of society and need and deserve more service and assistance, and not to be treated as criminals who should be isolated." Those are the words of the document. "Innovative harm reductions must be developed." "Measures must be developed, piloted and adapted and implemented in Canada as they have been in other countries." "The involvement of people who use drugs and drug-user networks in reducing harm associated with injection drug use is crucial."

These are all wonderful words, but where is the action plan? There is no action plan.

The persistent inaction of the government regarding the health and well-being of people who use drugs is criminal, and citizens continue to suffer and die as a result of this. The situation can only become worse. The major contributors to the harms associated with drug use are the laws themselves and the climate of ignorance and apathy and neglect and fear that they have fostered. These laws are the reason why there is no plan.

Heroin prescriptions and safe injecting rooms are absolutely necessary. They are intermediate steps, but they are insufficient and will never be as ubiquitous as the drugs themselves.

Canadian citizens who are using illicit drugs are still getting infected with HIV and HCV at rates much higher than members of the general population because of bad laws. They are forced into circumstances of crime and incarceration because of bad laws.

This is not their dream, their vision or their hope for the future. They are vastly and unfairly stigmatized, marginalized and ostracized. The treatment of people who use illicit drugs is one of the major stains on our health, social services, and justice system. This must change and we need your support for that change. That you are here, listening, is remarkable and greatly appreciated.

Finally, I invite you to come back and go with me to meet some of these people who have been harmed by our laws and to hear directly from them what they have to say, not as a group, but individually, as observers and interested fellow citizens of Canada open to learning.

Merely doing this was an experience that changed and focussed my life. I thoroughly believe that the humanity of the people I have been working with and whom I have come to know well will have a profound impact on you and your deliberations.

I will close, as I often close, with the words of Rabbi Hillel from the Talmud. Please take them to heart.

The rabbi asks: If not us, who? If not this way, how? If not now, when?

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Cavalieri.

Before we proceed with the questions, it needs to the clear that the committee is now dealing with cannabis.

Mr. Cavalieri: I was not given that information when I had the phone call.

The Chairman: Perhaps the Senate will give this committee a future mandate - but it is going to be future - for other drugs. Of course we will engage in a dialogue with Canadians when we reach that phase of our study.

Mr. Cavalieri: Cannabis has not been the primary objective of any of the organizations that I represent or the people whom I represent. It has been the other illicit drugs and I am not prepared to talk on cannabis particularly, except to support generally what Alan had to say.

The Chairman: Well, during the course of our work, we have never said no to a witness who wanted to talk about another illicit drug.

Mr. Cavalieri: Yes. Thank you for allowing me and not stopping me when I just started.

Senator Milne: My question is along those lines because you are with the Toronto Harm Reduction Task Force and I am not clear from your presentation just what sort of actions the Toronto Harm Reduction Task Force takes or how it is made up.

Mr. Cavalieri: Oh. I skipped that.

Senator Milne: So that is question number one. I will give them to you all at once, so that you can answer them.

I am not too sure how you define "safe" and how environmentally conscious these people are - the homeless people who are living under bridges and down the Don Valley with no sanitary facilities and no amenities. Your definition of "safe" is, I suspect, a little different than most people's definition.

Is marijuana the drug of choice among any of these homeless people that you have been dealing with and has it put any of these people into their present position?

Mr. Cavalieri: The task force was developed about five years ago out of a hearing by the Anglican Bishop of Toronto to look at the use of drugs - particularly crack - in the neighbourhood of one of his churches where it had become an issue.

We are made up of a variety of people from the community including active drug users, but also including representatives from agencies, Public Health, CAMH, St. Michael's Hospital, and some street agencies. And our aim is to develop and promote strategies that reflect our society's dedication to the development of the common weal by supporting the principles of public health and social justice.

We have been funded by SCPI, whenever we get our funding for that, to look at the issue of harm reduction and housing as a way of keeping people in housing to reduce the harm that comes from rendering them homeless because of their drug use.

The issue of "safe" is not my definition of "safe." I certainly did not feel that I would find myself safe in the places that I was visiting, especially after dark. And when I was there after dark, I do not think I felt terribly safe. It was safety from their point of view. Would they be safe from curious or hostile observers, safe from harassment, safe to be by themselves, among themselves, and not be harassed or hit upon.

With regard to the issue of marijuana amongst them, I think probably most of them use it but it is not a gateway drug for people. And you can say that most people who use marijuana end up smoking crack cocaine or others. You can say the same thing about coffee. Most people who drink coffee - most people who use marijuana had coffee before they used marijuana. You know, I do not believe the gateway theory holds and I have certainly not seen it.

I think everyone I have seen - I cannot think of anyone I have seen who hasn't used it, but it is not an issue in any of their lives. The issue is the other drugs and the fact that they cannot get good treatment, fair treatment. They cannot get treatment well when they are feeling ill. They are marginalized, put up with very bad situations within the hospitals and within agencies. They are not treated until they stop using. Marijuana is something that exists for them, but certainly it is not a problem for them and it is certainly not the gateway drug.

The Chairman: I have one question. We have heard a lot about chemists and pharmacologists, but no one has talked to us about crack cocaine. Could you explain to us exactly what it is?

Mr. Cavalieri: Crack cocaine is cocaine that has been rendered from a salt into a base by mixing it, I believe, with baking soda and cooking it. It becomes then what is called a "rock." It is a powdery lump. It is smokeable. It used to be called freebase.

To make it available for injecting, it must be converted back into a salt. To do that, people mix it with an acid. Base and acid equal salt and water.

The acids of choice here in this city are lemon juice or vinegar - vinegar that they would get from McDonald's; lemon juice from one of those squeeze lemons - or ascorbic acid, which is a powder distributed as a harm reduction initiative by the outreach workers, Public Health and other agencies.

After these two are mixed in the right proportions - which are not easy to attain because you do not know the real strength of the crack; it is so adulterated and you may miss on the potency of the vinegar or the lemon juice, but the ascorbic acid is pretty clear - it becomes a liquid that is then sucked up into the syringe and injected as cocaine.

It is apparently, what people tell me, a quicker, more efficient, better dose than they get from smoking it, but the high is very brief.

One of the initiatives that I was involved in last year was going out on the street with crack pipes to get people to smoke it rather than inject it. The crack pipes are saver because the injection is such a higher risk project. Although there are risks in smoking, they were less than in injection. We went out on the street to educate people about how it is safer to smoke. I do not think it did much good.

The Chairman: Do we understand that the price is lower than real cocaine?

Mr. Cavalieri: The price is very cheap. Real cocaine is very difficult to get in Toronto right now, except if you are rich and you have someone who will deliver it to your house, but people living close to the street will find that they can get crack for $10 or $20. For $30 they can get a lot of it. A typical hit of crack- two-tenths of a gram, I believe - is $10 worth. It is not very much and often it is not very good.

The Chairman: If the researchers think of other questions, we will follow up in writing.

Mr. Cavalieri: Wonderful. I would be willing for that.

The Chairman: Do you see a contradiction between actual prohibition and harm reduction? Is there a fundamental philo sophical problem or is it workable to have both living together, almost in parallel?

Mr. Cavalieri: I think we are going to have to have both living together because I do not foresee a time when prohibition will go, at least within my lifetime. In the interim, harm reduction is an absolute health necessity. It is a social, it is a moral necessity to help people not to die while they are getting ready to move on with their lives and hopefully make better choices.

The Chairman: In an earlier part of your testimony, you were talking about injection clinics, such as the clinics that are already opened in Switzerland.

Mr. Cavalieri: Yes.

The Chairman: That is the one that you were referring to?

Mr. Cavalieri: In Switzerland and in Australia. They are looking at it in other jurisdictions, yes. There has been a lot of talk about that here as well - both nationally and in different jurisdictions.

The Chairman: For the benefit of the committee, can you explain to my colleagues what an injection clinic is, exactly?

Mr. Cavalieri: There are several reasons why people become injured through the use of drugs or die through the use of drugs. One is that they often use alone. As well, they do not know the potency of the drug they are using because that is, again, a variable to which they cannot attest. Then there is the possibility of not just overdosing, but of unclean, unsanitary, unsafe practices.

So in some jurisdictions - initially in Switzerland, but now in other countries including Frankfurt, Germany - sites have been set up around the city where people who use drugs can come and use in an environment that is safe and comfortable. There is good light, which is often not the case. There are clean hypodermics and other equipment, which is often not the case elsewhere. There is clean water, and that is a necessity. And there are people around in case something happens.

If a person is having difficulty finding a vein, because collapsed veins are a frequent problem amongst people who inject frequently, there are nurses who can, help them access other veins, show them where the good veins are and show them how to inject safely.

These clinics are there to help people prolong their health and also to get the people off the street because it is not a joyous sight to watch people inject, let me tell you. I find some discomfort in it; it is, I think, too intimate a thing for me to watch, for some reason or other. It is private. So this gets people off the street where they are not objects of disgust or scorn or ridicule or harassment and where they can be safe and use in some comfort.

They are quite clinical usually, although I read of one in Holland, which I found on the Internet, which has a living-room space where people can relax and come down after their injection. They prohibit dealing, but people do make connections there. They socialize a bit, although they do not stay around very long. However, it is a way of networking and it is a way of access into the health care system that is far friendlier than simple rejection and judgment.

The Chairman: I see no more questions, so thank you very much, Mr. Cavalieri.

Mr. Cavalieri: Thank you very much.

The Chairman: We will follow up with a few questions if necessary.

Mr. Cavalieri: Okay. And that invitation stands. I would be delighted to take you out.

The Chairman: Our next witness is Ms Margaret Stanowski. The floor is yours for opening remarks, following which we will ask some questions.

Ms Margaret Stanowski, Executive Director, Springboard: I was also asked to introduce Wanda McPherson on my right. Wanda will be available to answer some specifics more directly on our program.

Thank you for the opportunity to describe Springboard's work in Toronto with close than 2,000 youth and adults charged with cannabis offences. For more than 30 years, Springboard has designed and delivered training programs that work in preventing and reducing crime. Through 15 Ontario locations, we engage over 400 volunteers each year in servicing 9,000 youth and adult offenders and those at risk for criminal involvement.

In 1997, Bill C-41, section 717 recognized formal alternative measures for individuals charged with simple possession of cannabis. In May 1998, with Department of Justice Canada seed funding, Springboard began delivering an adult cannabis diver sion program at Toronto's Old City Hall Court. Justice Canada also supported a cannabis diversion program for youth aged 12 to 17 in April 2000.

With dedicated program supports to crown attorneys and the identification of accountable alternatives such as public service placements, the use of diversion increased significantly. Typically, federal crown attorneys support post-charge diversions for the first-time accused only - a second arrest will normally find the youth and adult criminally prosecuted.

Crown attorneys first screen and then refer appropriate diversion cases to a Springboard staff. With informed counsel from their lawyers or duty counsels, youth and adults are accepted into the program once they acknowledge responsibility for the offence and choose to complete 25 to 40 hours of public service.

Based on individual issues, diversion participants can access such services as drug education, employment and educational training. When determining diversion conditions, any existing physical or mental health issues and the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the accused are taken into consideration.

Crown attorneys approve the diversion condition and the case is adjourned and monitored for two months to allow for completion of the diversion arrangement. The individual returns to court and if the requirements are completed, the charge is withdrawn. If not, the Crown proceeds with prosecution.

We gained public support for cannabis diversion by incrementally involving people, groups and agencies not traditionally involved in the justice system. We focussed on engaging neighbourhoods and groups in the design and supervision of public service projects and placements to service the homeless and the disadvantaged.

Our own market research on public interest, commissioned in 1997 to Dr. Tony Doob of the University of Toronto's Centre of Criminology, confirmed that the public supports cost-effective alternatives to formal criminal justice measures such as court and jail if they provide meaningful consequences and are satisfied by youth and adults.

I am now going to provide some service highlights for Springboard's diversion programs. These highlights cover periods from May 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001. In that period,1,869 youth and adults were served. Diversion participants performed over 53,000 hours of public service. Over 3,000 police witnesses did not have to appear in adult court. 180 community agencies and groups participated in designing and supervising public service projects for diversion participants. The program also achieved a 92 per cent compliance in completion of diversion requirements.

Independent research funded by Justice Canada and undertaken by Ryerson Polytechnic University on 665 diversion cases confirmed that only 32 people - or 5 per cent - incurred another criminal conviction; only six for the same or similar offences.

What does all this mean to the committee? This post-charge diversion model is effectively decriminalizing the simple pos session of cannabis offences. Independent research confirms the success of and support for such an approach.

With a community focus, these programs also provide some satisfying outcomes: They provide a timely response to criminal prosecution for violating Canadian laws without the consequences of a criminal record for employment and international travel. They enable early intervention and drug education. They benefit the community by the public service performed, and serve as a catalyst to engage public support and participation in the criminal justice system. They provide individuals with opportunities to contribute and connect to the community's resources. As well, they clearly free up court resources to focus on more serious matters.

Springboard has also achieved a key program goal by securing support for an alternative police response to the likely response for cannabis possession. The Department of Justice is now considering is a proposal for a Toronto Police Service referral program and instead of charging youth for such offences as simple marijuana possession, police will refer them to Spring board for the design of an accountable consequence such as drug education, public service or counselling for problem areas.

There are more learned witnesses speaking to this committee on the implications of cannabis use and other matters now under study. In the meantime, I can offer the committee these four considerations and recommendations.

First, diversion programs and best practices should be supported, replicated and funded as an alternative to criminalizing simple cannabis possession because these programs provide meaningful and cost-effective consequences, which the public supports, while avoiding the implications of a criminal record.

Second, the Senate committee can encourage broader use of diversion options under existing legislation such as section 717 of the Criminal Code, current police discretion, as well as support for provisions of the new Youth Criminal Justice Act for extrajudicial matters.

Third, existing federal criteria for alternative measures should be re-evaluated. The current exclusion of many first-time accused, the inclusion of other controlled substances such as ecstasy and diversion's availability to those subsequently suspected or charged of such offences are some examples requiring study.

Finally, based on the successes of well-run post-charge diversion programs, the Senate committee could broaden support for a police response at a pre-charge level for simple possession of cannabis offences. However, this approach will rely on the availability of alternative consequences and programs such as drug education and police capacity to quickly access them through collaborative service partnerships.

In closing, Springboard's diversion programs demonstrate sensible approaches for responding to cannabis offences outside of the Court system that do not challenge public concerns. These program strategies encourage local partnerships for prevention and will advance community capacity to tackle the problem use of other and more serious illegal drugs.

Senator Di Nino: Mr. Chairman. I would like to make a brief comment for full disclosure and transparency.

I have been a patron of Springboard for many years. I am very aware of and supportive of what this organization is doing. I just thought it would be appropriate for me to put this on the record. And at some later moment, if time permits, I may want to participate in the questioning, but I thought it would be appropriate for me to put that on the record.

The Chairman: That is good practice.

Senator Milne: Ms Stanowski, currently the Springboard program is confined to cannabis users?

Ms Stanowski: Correct.

Senator Milne: And you are suggesting that it should be expanded, if possible, to drugs such as ecstasy, as well.

Your recidivism rate, your statistics here are very, very impressive. We heard from the police chief earlier this morning and he was saying how good the program is. It is a de facto decriminalization of marijuana possession.

Ms Stanowski: Yes.

Senator Milne: This is a very timely presentation. I congratulate you on it because you are talking about the new Youth Criminal Justice Act and that is going to be coming before my committee almost immediately when we go back next week to Ottawa.

What sort of community groups have you involved in working with this? You said you are using an incremental approach to it?

Ms Stanowski: Yes. This is why I brought the direct deliverer of the program. Wanda?

Ms Wanda McPherson, Supervisor, Springboard Diversion Programs: We have been lucky. We have about 180 agencies currently working with us and providing opportunities both for referrals and for community service placements.

We also have Parks and Recreation, so a great many sites around the Greater Toronto Area. We have homeless shelters and the "Out of the Cold" program, which is a winter program to provide homeless with places to stay. We have community gardens where clients can go and participate; food banks, churches, temples and mosques. We have community theatres, boys' and girls' clubs, daycare centres, and seniors' residences.

We have many places that deal with addictions where we can plug people in to do their volunteer work, as well, and they can get services; a lot of settlement services. So basically, any social service you can think of in the community, that is who we target.

We want to make sure that the placements are meaningful for everybody and that if there are identified problem areas, by making them do community service at a place that offers those kind of services, we are addressing two issues at one time.

Senator Milne: You began with some seed funding from the Department of Justice. How are you now funded, because that was several years ago? Volunteer donations?

Ms Stanowski: Yes, and a lot more. As I said, we did start with seed funding. The program is currently relying - and I will say, sometimes very difficult in terms of management of the funds - on seven different funding sources, including a fee for service for adults participating in this diversion program.

Senator Milne: This program is active throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Have you expanded into other Ontario commu nities?

Ms Stanowski: Yes. We work very closely with the Elizabeth Fry Society in the Peel Region; they are also running a very comprehensive program similar to this for youth and adults.

We are being called on quite frequently right across the country to look at this program's replication. There are barriers that exist to replicating this program exist. Toronto has a volume of cases that have been charged with these offences. In more rural communities, you will find there will be agents for the Crown who will prosecute. We want to concentrate our focus for the future on police response, so that a response can occur at the time of the occurrence rather than lay a criminal charge and perhaps have that youth or adult having to travel several miles to another court.

We believe, in these matters, that the more timely the response to the incident, the more likely the impact of the consequence will be.

Senator Milne: Well, I do not quite understand that. You are concentrating in the smaller centres on a police response. Do you mean that, rather than laying charges, the police will suggest that they do community services and report back to the police?

Ms Stanowski: Yes. This is the goal. Our goal with this program has been that it will substantiate a police response in lieu of criminally charging individuals with simple possession of cannabis.

Senator Milne: So are you, in effect, educating the police forces?

Ms Stanowski: Well, we have found that the word "incremental" has been an important one. I think police need to have evidence that programs such as this one do have an impact in reducing recidivism. We have reached a point where the Toronto Police Service and Springboard have put in proposal to have this pre-charge model happen in Toronto and to serve as a model for the rest of the country.

Senator Milne: Congratulations.

The Chairman: Ms Stanowski, can you give us a picture of your clients? Are they recidivists? Are they first-time users? How old are they?

Ms McPherson: Our clients have a broad profile. I see people from the age of 13 all the way up to $ I think my oldest cannabis user was 86. This is the first time these people have ever been charged with any offence and it's all small amounts - so itis 30 grams and under who are eligible for the program.

Now, most of the people who are charged are falling intothe 18 to 24-age category, so we are looking at young people. Most of them are in university or college or high school and are using this drug recreationally. That is how they identify their use.

Very few people who have come through the program have identified their marijuana use as a program problem and, if so, we have definitely referred them on. But most people seem to be working or going to school and they are using marijuana as recreation.

The Chairman: This would be their appearance in front of the justice system?

Ms McPherson: It is the first time they have ever been in the justice system and they have been sent to see us.

The Chairman: So your client base must be very large; judging by the data we are looking at, it is immense.

Ms McPherson: Yes. The courts from the surrounding areas do not have federal prosecutors, so from Scarborough and other districts, it is all feeding into Old City Hall. So, yes, the client base is huge. We deal with a really high volume.

We are dealing with people right at their court dates. So before the next court date is set, we meet with them and explain the implications of this program so that they can make informed decisions. We give them the right to legal counsel on-site, so that, again, they can make informed decisions.

The Chairman: When do the police involve you? Do they bring you in after an arrest? Or, do they involve you before they decide to arrest and, in lieu of being there, they send you?

Ms McPherson: Right.

The Chairman: Is there preventive work from your organization in schools and colleges?

Ms Stanowski: Yes.

The Chairman: On education?

Ms Stanowski: Yes. That has been a big focus of this program.

The Chairman: Prevention?

Ms Stanowski: Prevention and reaching people early and providing opportunities for drug use.

A post-charge model for decriminalizing simple possession of marijuana shows an incremental approach, evidence of support, success.

Our experience has been that once the police witness that a post-charge diversion model is again effectively decriminalizing this offence, they are more likely to lend support for an immediate response at the time.

The Chairman: Pre-charge.

Ms Stanowski: Pre-charge diversion. This has been a goal of our program for four years.

The Chairman: Would it be possible to get from you more details on the prevention part of your work?

Ms Stanowski: Yes.

The Chairman: We have a few pages here, but I would like to see a more elaborate explanation of how it works.

What are your goals? How are those goals controlled? While I do not want to minimize the efforts made following the judicial process, I am more interested in the preventive aspects. We have data showing that 63 per cent of young Torontonians are using one or more drugs. This is a big problem. It is happening here and in Montreal and Vancouver. I would like to know more about the preventive education.

Are you saying that you are replacing the police? The police are going into the schools. I personally do not think police should go to school to explain what should be a normal behaviour. I think that more emphasis should be put on what you are doing. That is my personal opinion.

So you can provide us with that kind of more elaborate literature?

Ms Stanowski: Yes, certainly. We would be happy to.

Senator Di Nino: Margaret, I think it would be appropriate here to - let's use the term "make a pitch."

One of the difficulties - and this is not unique to this organization - that many organizations have is getting appropriate resources to be able to carry on the work that these they do.

I do not mind giving us a little plug. Tomorrow morning at dark a group of us will undertake to play 100 holes of golf - which is about 14, 15 hours of golf - with a number of sponsorships that we have been doing. This will be our seventh consecutive year to try to raise some money and we have been quite successful. We raised $75,000, $80,000, $85,000 a year on this effort.

Would you not agree that that still is a major problem for Springboard and organizations similar to Springboard?

Ms Stanowski: Yes. It is a significant challenge when there are so many competing sources for various grants. For work such as this, unless it is legislated, unless there is some requirement for it under law, it is not typically viewed as mandatory for funding. So we have to rely on alternative non-governmental supports for fund-raising.

We find, without the basis of core funding for work such as this, you are delivering it on a whim and a prayer. We have also relied upon the dedication of people such as Wanda, the passion and belief in what we have, and certainly patrons such as Senator Di Nino who has provided leadership in the effort for us to publicly raise funds to support the nature of what we do.

Sometimes it is hard to raise support for prevention, because, as it is with health, and the criminal justice system, and drug use, one does not see immediate consequences. It is a long-term process.

So again, thank you for raising that because it has been a real struggle for us to raise consistently the core funds to deliver such programs.

The Chairman: In the course of the life of your program, what part of your budget is devoted to evaluation of your results and who is performing those evaluations?

Ms Stanowski: Actually, the Department of Justice Canada has supported independent researchers. For our adult cannabis diversion program, they dedicated separate funds and flowed it directly to the university. Our youth cannabis program is awaiting evaluation through an independent source. So we tend not to build it into any of our budgets because an evaluation has to be independent and the university submits a separate request for its evaluation.

The only comment I would add on that is that these research grants and initiatives should be undertaken at the front end of the delivery of these programs. Often, they are done halfway through or after.

The Chairman: Of course. Is it possible for you to provide us with the report of those evaluations?

Ms Stanowski: I had provided the clerk with a summary of the adult diversion program; I will forward a full copy. As soon as the research on youth cannabis diversion has been completed, I will forward that report as well.

The Chairman: Do the evaluations force you to change your goals or adapt your goals?

Ms McPherson: No. It has been very surprising. The first evaluation that happened was really surprising because we were collecting the data that we needed. A few changes always need to be made.

I think this was so well thought out before we started by Marg and her entourage that when we started delivering the program, we were really clear on what we were doing and how we wanted to make it happen. The only changes we had to make related to the fact that working within the criminal justice system definitely puts a different spin on things. We had to adapt to working on somebody else's schedule and within a different system. But I think that our goals have always been pretty solid and we have been reaching them.

The Chairman: Have you been asked to export?

Ms Stanowski: Yes, we have. Vancouver is just waiting for this to happen.

The Chairman: You want to export or you have been asked?

Ms Stanowski: Yes. In fact, the replication has been included as one of our key strategic directions. There are best practices.

We have incorporated into our practice our belief of 30 years: You have to involve the public in what you do, to give them a voice in the design and delivery of these programs.

We look forward to its replicate and perhaps even a franchising opportunity. Perhaps it would end up adding an additional funding source to support work such as this.

The Chairman: I see no requests for questions. Thank you very much. We will read your documentation with interest.

The committee adjourned.

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