Proceedings of the Special Committee on
Issue 8 - Evidence - Afternoon Session
OTTAWA, Monday, October 29, 2001
The Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs is meeting today at 1:30 p.m. to
review Canadian legislation and policies on illegal drugs.
Senator Pierre Claude Nolin (Chairman) is in the chair.
The Chairman: I would like to reopen the public proceedings of the
Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs.
This afternoon, we will first hear from Mr. Guy Ati Dion. Mr. Dion has been
actively interested in the problems of drugs and drug addiction for some 15
years. He was trained as a psychotherapist specializing in drug addiction and
worked in a Dutch therapeutic community in the 1980s; he returned to Quebec in
the early 1990s after earning a psychology degree from the Humaniversity, an
international university located in Holland.
After returning to Quebec, he studied criminology and drug addiction. He
completed a multidisciplinary degree in humanities in 1994, a masters in
criminology in 1996 and is currently finishing a doctorate in criminology at the
University of Montreal focusing on Canadian drug policies. He is also working on
a masters in psychology from the Humaniversity in Holland. He prepared various
studies on how the police and court system deal with drug issues for the Quebec
Standing Committee on Drug Addiction in 1997, 1999 and 2001, and published work
in the periodical Psychotropes in the spring of 2001. Since 1999 he has
also been director and clinical counsellor at a psychotherapy training centre in
Quebec, at Humaniversity Quebec.
Mr. Dion, the rules are simple. You will have time to give your presentation and
then there will be a question period. We have scheduled an hour and a half for
your testimony, although some of my colleagues have to leave at 3:30. We will
listen to your presentation and begin the question period, and if the second
witness, Mr. Oscapella, arrives early enough, we will allow him to make his
presentation and then we will ask both of you questions. Although the subjects
are different, there is some overlap in your interests.
Mr. Guy Ati Dion, Ph.D. in Criminology, University of Montreal: Thank you
for having invited me. It is an honour for me to be here.
I began my doctoral studies a few years ago on police practices for drug
offences in Canada. We have legislation on narcotics - there used to be two laws
- and I felt that there was a difference between the spirit of the law and how
that law was enforced. That is what led me to do the study. Nineteen ninety-nine
marked the 25th anniversary of the final report of the Le Dain Commission. I
wondered what had happened since 1974 with respect to efforts to stop drug use
My presentation contains five points. I will not be following my written
document exactly but will be giving the gist of what is there. In point 1, I
will lay out the various indicators of the drug issue in society. On what basis
can we say that drug use is an epidemic? In point 2, I will briefly describe the
measures put in place to combat drugs in Canada between 1974 and 1999. I will
give some explanation about 1974, since there have been changes regarding the
statistics. In point 3, I will compare how the legislation is applied
differently in three Canadian provinces. It is not an exhaustive comparison but
it gives a starting point for an analysis. In point 4, I will make a comparison
between people charged with possession of cannabis and those who admit that they
use cannabis, to show the extent to which the legislation is enforced. My
conclusion will be a tentative one since I am still developing my hypothesis. I
will not be producing cut and dried answers even when the research is finished.
I imagine that, where drug policy is concerned, there are no cut and dried
Let us first talk about the indicators of drug use in Canadian society. We often
hear that drugs are a scourge. Between you and me, the various indicators used
to characterize drug use in this way are often imprecise. Some of the sources
are widely used by the media, which have an interest in selling newspapers. So
they relay this information with a fair dose of sensationalism.
One source of information on illegal drug use is national surveys. There have
been relatively few of these done in Canada. A number of provincial studies have
been done, but the methodology is often different from one to the next. A great
deal of care is needed in comparing them. The most recent Canadian survey dates
back to 1994. That is the one that we will use, and it shows, among other
things, that 7.4 per cent of Canadians 15 years of age and older said that they
had used cannabis during the previous year. If that is used as a basis for
calling drug use a scourge, it makes a pretty weak case. But we will come back
to that in point 4.
Let us now deal with the number of charges laid by police under anti-drug laws.
This is often one of the main arguments of those that say that illegal drug use
is a scourge. In the next point, we will see that these statistics cannot be
taken at face value.
Drug seizures are another indicator. The number of seizures and the amount of
drug seized vary from year to year, but estimates are often given. We have seen
that the police do the best they can, but it is impossible to get exact data on
the amounts seized or the number of seizures.
Admissions to treatment centres is yet another indicator. The more people get
treatment for drug addictions, the more obvious it is that there is a drug
problem in our society. I have indicated drug addiction and methadone here
because there are also methadone treatment programs. The more people there are
taking this treatment, the more it appears that drug use is changing. Overdoses
resulting in death and hospitalizations are other indicators that are rather
imprecise because the data lack detail. The more needle recycling programs there
are for intravenous drug users, the more it appears that the use of those drugs
As for the visibility of users, for example, I do not know whether it is still
the case, but in the 1970s, it was common to see people give each other drugs
without much interference by police on Saint-Denis Street in Montreal. So one
could get the impression that there were a lot of drugs around. Moreover, we
hear a lot about the drug trade being controlled by the Hells Angels, the Rock
Machine and other organized crime groups. The more we hear about it, the more
widespread we think the problem is.
The issue of illegal drugs is tied up with all those factors. That is why I feel
that the media play a crucial role by providing all this information. It is the
media that tell us about police activities, drug problems and the role of
I decided to concentrate on police activities because they are often the most
carefully documented. When we hear about arrests under the drug laws, these are
not estimates, even though they must be used with a great deal of caution. But
they do give us exact numbers.
And finally, what has happened in Canada since the Le Dain Commission report was
issued 25 years ago? The Le Dain Commission - which is your predecessor, in a
way - recommended various measures to increase flexibility, but we will see what
As for how valid and representative these criminal statistics are, my basic
assumption is quite simple. Police statistics are manufactured. They do not
reflect the reality of drug use in society. They tell us more about police
activities than about drug use and society.
There are various indicators, but people often use the number of reported
offences to be able to say that there is more drug activity. I decided to look
into whether that indicator accurately reflected the size of the drug problem in
Philippe Robert developed this concept of using reported criminal offences and I
have applied it in the area of drug laws. The three aspects involved are
visibility, the reporting of crimes to the police and selection. I will go
through these aspects quickly to give you an idea of how criminal statistics are
manufactured, especially in the area of drug offences.
In order for an offence to be reported, it must be visible. Drug offences fall
into four categories: possession, trafficking, importing and exporting, which
together make up one category, and cultivation or production of synthetic drugs.
It is easy to understand that possession has low visibility. Except for young
people taking drugs in parks, street trafficking has higher visibility and the
number of offences registered will vary. Obviously, importing and cultivation
will be done as secretly as possible, and offences related to this type of
activity often result from investigations or proactive efforts by the police.
Visibility depends on who is involved and where the offences take place.
In Canada, the act of taking drugs is not an offence. In France, using drugs is
a crime, while in Canada, we just have the offensive possession. If the drugs
are being taken in a private residence - unless the music is so loud that the
neighbours call the police - there is relatively little chance that the police
will find out and that an offence will be registered. So visibility is low.
The second aspect is the reporting of offences to police. Drug offences have a
low probability of being reported because they are consensual crimes or
victimless crimes. If someone buys drugs, the activity involves a buyer and a
seller, and none of the two has any interest in telling the world about it.
Prostitution crimes are somewhat similar, in that they are also what we call
That does not mean that there is no one that suffers indirectly, but no one
suffers directly from the offence, as would be the case if a theft or a murder
Some other offences, like trafficking using pagers, are increasingly difficult
to detect. There is low visibility, the offences tend not to be reported and so
there is little chance of an offence being registered.
As regards selection, the third aspect, police have to think about the reaction
of their superiors. When police officers arrest someone, they do not
automatically prepare a police report on the offence. By law, the police are
supposed to report all offences, but in some cases, the substance may be seized
and the person released with a warning that charges will be laid the next time.
This selection depends on the quality of the evidence.
Where possession and trafficking offences are concerned, it is relatively easy,
since someone is usually intercepted in possession of a substance, and if the
police can at least prove that trafficking took place, then possession is quite
easy to prove. Who is involved may also play a role, and the seriousness of the
offence is another factor in the police decision on whether to register an
offence. In practice, importing tonnes of cocaine is on a whole different level
from dealing a small amount of cannabis.
With respect to available resources, there were budget cuts in the 1990s. Some
people attribute the drop in overall crime levels to cutbacks in the various
police forces. According to some theories, crime levels went down because there
were fewer police officers and court staff to deal with arrests. The police do
not like to register offences when they know that there will be no follow up.
These three aspects have to be taken into account when we look at crime
statistics. It is true that statistics can be made to show whatever you want
them to show, but with these three aspects in mind, we can understand that the
reporting of offences by police, including those relating to drug laws, depends
on a number of factors.
I will now present a few tables with data on drug offences. The figures are from
the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, which comes under Statistics Canada
- and are provided through the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which covers all
of Canada's police forces. The police provide the CCJS with a list of all
offences, and this was one of my sources for the data on possession,
trafficking, importing and exporting, and cultivation and manufacturing. These
are secondary data. I did not collect this information, but I compared and
I would like to mention in passing that I got this document to you in a hurry.
It is not perfect, but I wanted you to at least have something in writing. I
replaced one of the tables because there was a calculation error. Before looking
at drug offences, we need to look at crime reporting in general, since if
overall crime levels are decreasing, one would expect to see the same trend for
Beginning in 1974, the number of offences reported in Canada rose. The high
point occurred in 1991, and reported crimes have been going down since then.
This is the case in Canada and in most other industrialized countries.
Various theories have been developed to explain this decrease, but it is mostly
break-and-enter offences that have gone down, and we will see that the trend for
drug offences has been different. It is important to keep in mind that crime in
general declined in the 1990s.
I am sorry that I did not have time to update these figures to include the year
2000, since we do have data available on overall crime rates, but when you need
to do a breakdown of the various drug offences, it takes longer to get the data
from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. I promise, however, that I will
send you this information as soon as it is available.
Let us look now at the number of drug-related activities for all substances and
all offences. The number of drug offences varies from year to year. Between 1981
and 1983, there was a significant drop, which is probably related to the coming
into force of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which restricted the
search-and-seizure powers of the police.
The table shows that the annual number of drug offences has been on the increase
since 1990. The figures for the year 2000 are 9 per cent higher than those for
1999. Some 88,000 offences are reported every year by the police. But there is
an increase in the level of police activity around drugs.
The next table compares drug offences with offences under the Criminal Code as a
whole. As we know, overall crime rates declined during the 1990s, and
drug-related offences increased. In 1974, drug offences accounted for 4 per cent
of all offences under the Criminal Code. There was quite a substantial drop from
1981 to 1983 when, as I already mentioned, the Charter came into being. The
number stabilized during the 1980s, decreased in the late 1980s and began rising
sharply as of the early 1990s. If we extrapolated the numbers for the year 2000,
the increase would continue.
In 1974, drug-related offences accounted for 4 per cent of all offences, while
in 1991, they accounted for 2 per cent, and that will probably rise to over 3.5
per cent in the year 2000. On the one hand, we have a drop in overall crime
rates, and on the other, we have an increase in the proportion of drug offences.
So the trends go in opposite directions.
The fact that an offence under the drug laws is registered by police does not
mean that charges are laid. The courts have a limited capacity. Just because the
police in Canada say that they register all cannabis possession offences and all
offences under the drug laws does not mean that these reported offences will
automatically be processed and that they will result in charges being laid.
This table shows figures for the period from 1974 to 1991. In 1991, something
happened, and that year can be seen as a turning point in all the tables. Some
75 per cent of all reported offences led to charges. Perhaps you will want to
explore this during the question period. There are various reasons why an
offence may or may not be prosecuted.
Since 1991, the percentage of offences resulting in charges has declined, and
beginning in 1997, fewer than 75 per cent of reported offences led to the laying
It is worth noting that the rate at which charges are laid went down mainly
beginning in the early 1990s. Given that the number of reported offences
increased over that period, the number of drug-related cases that come before
the courts has remained relatively constant.
In the next table, I have taken the total of all drug-related offences and done
a breakdown by type of substance. When we talk about drugs, we lump together a
variety of very different substances. Since your committee has a mandate to
focus on cannabis, it was important for me to make distinctions among the
various substances. It is clear that a high percentage of drug offences still
I would just like to take a moment to mention that the earlier tables covered
the period from 1974 to 1999. The rest of the tables begin only in 1977 because
the statistics were compiled differently before that year. It was not always
possible to identify whether the offence involved cannabis, cocaine or another
substance. Since an analysis was not possible, these tables deal only with the
years 1977 to 1999.
To come back to cannabis, we see that 90 per cent of all drug offences involved
cannabis in the 1970s, and that that figure dropped to 60 per cent in the early
1990s. The situation is fairly stable after that time, ranging from 70 per cent
to 72 per cent.
The second-highest number of offences, represented by the blue line, involve
cocaine. There was a strong increase in the 1980s and then a relative decrease
beginning in the early 1990s. Cocaine-related offences still account for a
considerable proportion of all drug offences. The category "other
drugs" is a miscellaneous category that includes all substances other than
heroin, cocaine and cannabis. So a number of substances are covered there.
Much research remains to be done in that category, since, as we saw this
morning, Ecstacy and some synthetic drugs are now being used more widely and are
leading to more seizures and arrests. So this "other drugs" category
contains some surprises or might at least be revealing if the statistics were
analyzed. That is one of the next sections of my thesis. About 10 per cent of
all reported offences fall into that category.
Heroin, the small black dot at the bottom of the table, accounts for 2 per cent
of all drug offences. The data on heroin for the year 2000, which are not
included in my tables, show that this is the only family of substances in which
there has been a reduction.
One theory is that since the introduction of the harm reduction program, there
has been an effort to reach intravenous drug users. My impression is that police
officers definitely have a different attitude regarding these users, but that
remains to be confirmed.
In the next table, I once again took the total number of drug offences, but this
time I sorted it by type of offence. Once again, we see that possession is the
main offence of all drug-related offences.
At the end of the 1970s, the figure was around 80 per cent. There was a drop
during the 1980s, to about 58 per cent. At that time, the police seemed to focus
more on trafficking offences. There might not necessarily have been more
trafficking going on and less possession. Given the inverse relation between the
two, we might assume that in the 1980s, police officers were targeting more the
traffickers or the people who sold drugs, rather than those who possessed drugs.
Subsequently, after 1991, we see a drop, and a levelling off as regards
possession offences. They still accounted for about 60 per cent of the total
number of offences. Trafficking offences dropped to 25 per cent of the total.
I would invite you to look at the small black dots which represent growing
offences. In the time that you have been hearing from drug experts, you must
have heard that since the 1990s, growing cannabis in Canada has been a
flourishing industry. Quebec Gold and products from British Columbia are quite
This is a growing industry, which is reflected in the increased number of
offences related to growing cannabis. What percentage of the overall market does
this represent? It would be interesting to find that out. In all regions, there
are more and more stores specialized in selling hydroponic equipment. This is
not necessarily to grow tomatoes. If there are two such stores in Saint-Jovite,
and if there are relatively few growers of hydroponic vegetables and herbs in
the region, this probably points to something else. This is one of a number of
indicators of cannabis production. So there has been a fairly significant
increase in cannabis-growing offences over the 1990s.
I have a table on offences related to cannabis possession. It might be thought
that the relatively low cannabis possession rate is not that serious. The number
of cannabis possession offences compared to the total number of drug-related
offences was approximately 75 per cent of the total in the 70s. This percentage
dropped to 38 per cent in 1991.
Since 1991, once again, we have seen an increase, and this levelled off to 50
per cent around 1995. So if I may summarize this table in one sentence, I would
say that half of the drug-related offences involved cannabis possession. That is
relatively significant in my view.
I wanted to sketch a picture of drug repression activities in Canada. Secondly,
I wanted to see whether the federal legislation was enforced in a similar
fashion in the various provinces.
In order to do this, I obtained data for each province. Drug laws are a federal
responsibility. Law enforcement is a provincial responsibility of the Ministries
of Justice and Public Security in each province. It is up to them to enforce the
I converted the absolute numbers, because sometimes they reveal the scope of the
phenomenon. This does not work that well when we try to compare different
populations, because there is no doubt that Ontario, whose population is larger
than that of the other provinces, will definitely have a greater number of
Using information from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics once again, I
took the rates per 100,000 inhabitants. These figures allow us to compare
offences within different populations and also to take population growth into
account, because the population of Canada is growing every year. It is therefore
reasonable that the number of offences reported tends to increase as well, but
we do not always know the extent of the phenomenon. The rate per 100,000
inhabitants enables us to make this calculation.
For comparison purposes, I have shown the annual figures as a single average for
the period. I reviewed a 22-year period. It becomes difficult to compare three
provinces over 22 years. I used annual averages for the 22 years to try to
determine whether there were any differences in the area of law enforcement. My
question remains: is the act enforced uniformly throughout the country?
We see the rate of offences under the drug legislation per 100,000 inhabitants.
In the middle, the wider blue line shows the Canadian average. Earlier, I
presented the annual number of offences, which varies between 50,000 and 80,000.
We now have the same indicator presented as an offence rate per 100,000
inhabitants. We find that if we take population growth into account, the rate of
offences involving substances and all offences together was 300 at the end of
the 1970s. The rate dropped to 200 offences and then increased to 260 offences
per 100,000 inhabitants. There was an increase at the end of the 1990s. I showed
the same rate for the three provinces. So we can see that there has been an
increase in Quebec, which is shown as the small pink square on the chart. Over
the 1970s and 80s, Quebec was significantly below the Canadian average, but the
rate became the same as that of the other provinces and actually exceeded the
Ontario rate. Proportionately, more drug-related offences are now reported in
Quebec than in Ontario. This was not the case formerly, when the Ontario rate
was almost three times higher than the Quebec rate. The Ontario rate is quite
representative of the Canadian trend, because Ontario accounts for 37 per cent
of the population of Canada. The Canadian rate and the Ontario rate tend to be
relatively similar. The Quebec rate reflects approximately 25 per cent of the
population of Canada. We see a rate of 400 or more drug-related offences in
British Columbia. This is much higher than the rate in other provinces. As a
result, the Canadian average falls somewhere in the middle. British Columbia
accounts for about 13 per cent of the population of Canada, and its figures
increase the Canadian average.
Police practices in British Columbia are different, but there may be more
cannabis there as well. We cannot rely solely on the number of offences reported
to estimate the size of the drug phenomenon within a province.
I have tried to simplify things by using an average of the annual rates. The
left-hand column shows the average rate for all illegal drugs in Canada.
Earlier, we saw in table 2 that the Canadian average, shown by the blue line, is
between 200 and 300 offences. The average rate of drug-related offences is 235
per 100,000 inhabitants. We see that the majority of these offences, 177.8, are
related to cannabis. This followed by cocaine, heroin and the other drugs. These
are average rates. I have shown in red and blue the rates that are different
from the Canadian average.
In Quebec the rate is average. The previous table shows that Quebec is close to
the Canadian rate. Over a 22-year period, cannabis-related offences in Quebec
were only half of the Canadian rate. Repression focused more on cocaine where
the overall rate is 144.9. When all substances are taken into account, our rate
is much lower than the Canadian one. Over the years, Quebec has been getting
closer and closer to the Canadian average.
Ontario is pretty close to the Canadian average. In British Columbia, however,
the rates are higher than the Canadian average, that is twice as high for all
drugs combined, 429 offences as opposed to 234. Once again, we can see that the
cannabis-related offences come first. Cocaine is also more important in British
Columbia than in the rest of Canada and heroin accounts for 15.8 per cent of the
Canadian average. In other words, the 3.8 per cent rate for Canada compares to a
15.8 per cent offence rate in British Columbia. There is obviously a greater
presence of heroin, as is confirmed by the facts, particularly in Vancouver.
In the next table, I took the annual rate and calculated an average which was
then broken down according to the substance. We can see that in Canada, cannabis
accounts for approximately three quarters, namely 73.5 per cent of all
drug-related offences, cocaine 13.1 per cent, other drugs 6.5 per cent and
heroin 1.7 per cent.
When we compare this breakdown with the situation in Quebec, we can see that
Quebec shows a smaller number of cannabis-related offences, namely six out of 10
as compared to 73.5 per cent in Canada. We also see that in Quebec 23.4 per cent
of the offences were related to cocaine, which is far above the Canadian
average. This is almost twice as high with respect to the other drugs as well.
It is supposedly due to the fact that in Quebec the production and consumption
rate of PCP is higher than in the rest of Canada, particularly in the Quebec
City area, and it is controlled to a large extent by organized crime. The
subject is documented. As far as the heroin level is concerned, the situation is
quite similar. Ontario is pretty much in keeping with the Canadian trend. As for
British Columbia, it is important to note that there are variations where other
drugs are relatively insignificant, that is 3.6 per cent of the total, but
heroin accounts for 3.7 per cent of the total number of drug offences, compared
to 1.7 per cent in Canada as a whole. The presence of heroin is clearly
confirmed here as well.
In table three, we look at the same data. Once again, the annual rate and the
average are for a 22-year period, but in relation to each kind of offence. In
Canada, almost seven out of 10 offences are for drug possession. A quarter of
the offences, that is 26.3 per cent, are related to trafficking. Importing and
growing are relatively minor. As far as growing is concerned, we can see that
there was an increase starting in the 1990s, it now accounts for 12 per cent.
This is something that is shown in the 22-year average. We can see that growing
was fairly minor compared to the present situation.
At the bottom of the document, for your information, I included a column and a
line indicating the rate of cannabis possession offences out of the total
number. On the average, 56 per cent of the drug offences in Canada were related
to the possession of cannabis.
In Quebec, we can see that this figure for possession is not as high as
elsewhere in Canada. Repression focuses more on trafficking, to the rate of 37.1
per cent compared to 26.3 per cent for Canada. There are twice as many cases of
importing. If we look at all the offences, there are proportionately more
trafficking and importing offences in Quebec than elsewhere in Canada. As for
possession of cannabis alone, the rate is of 37.2 per cent of the total and all
average offences over 22 years, compared to a 56 per cent rate in Canada.
Proportionately, it is not as significant.
Lastly, in British Columbia, it can be seen that the figures for trafficking and
importing are lower than average. Cultivation is slightly higher and these
figures are more in keeping with the Canadian trend.
Let me now explain each of the columns of a table I put together. I have
attempted to determine the number of people charged with possession of cannabis
as opposed to the number of people who say that they have consumed cannabis, in
order to measure the effectiveness of the Drugs Act. With official data I
calculated the population of 15 years and older for Canada, Quebec, Ontario and
British Columbia. The figures are shown in the first column.
I then used the data from the national Canada health survey of 1994, where it is
noted that in Canada 7.4 per cent of Canadians 15 and older admitted to
consuming cannabis at least once in the year.
This survey shows the same percentage for the provinces, and in Quebec the
figure is 8.6 per cent, in British Columbia 11.6 per cent and Ontario 5.1 per
I applied this percentage to the population of 15 and older and that is what is
shown in the middle column. The individuals who admitted to consuming cannabis
at least once in the course of the previous year account for 7.4 per cent of 22
million Canadians. That is the potential number of cannabis consumers. The
reference to at least once in the course of the year means that they are not
regular consumers, that is one of the limits of this survey.
If someone is asked in a telephone call whether he or she has consumed cannabis
at least once in the previous year, I am not sure whether the person will answer
yes, even if it is true. In the circumstances, 7.4 per cent is quite a high
proportion. It may be a bit higher, but we will stick to this data. In the
fourth column, we have data that comes from the Canadian Centre for Legal
Statistics indicating the number of people 15 years and older charged with
possession of cannabis.
In the last column, we see the percentage of people who were charged, as opposed
to the total number of persons who admitted to consuming; according to the
sample this was 7.4 per cent. If we assume this survey to be reliable, we can
make the appropriate transposition and the result would be that out of 100
Canadians admitting to the consumption of cannabis, only one person would be
charged with possession of cannabis. We are not talking about arrest but merely
In actual fact, it could be said that a person who consumes the substance once a
day is guilty of the offence of possession every day. The percentage of 7.4 per
cent relates to those who consume at least once in the course of a year but in
actual fact, the cases of possession of cannabis would be higher than the number
of 1,687,000 in Canada since this offence would normally have been committed
This 1 per cent average for Canada is similar to the average for British
Columbia. In the case of Quebec, the figure is only half of the Canadian average
whereas in Ontario, it is 150 per cent higher or 1.5 per cent as compared to 1
Let me now read a quotation from the Le Dain Commission in 1974:
The drawbacks resulting from the application of the law against the offence of
mere possession outweigh the advantages. Because of the above-mentioned
difficulties, this law is, of necessity, applied randomly and has an uneven
impact on users, thus giving rise to a quite understandable feeling of
injustice. Society cannot afford the personnel or the means required for a
thorough application of the law against the offence of possession.
If that was true for the 1970s, it is probably also true today, and even more
so. I would like to refer you to the percentages in the right column of the
previous graph. When legislation only applies to 1.5 per cent of the population,
its effectiveness is put into doubt.
Today, pot smokers are unimpressed with the strictness of the law. They wonder
whether they should not stop smoking up because they may be accused of
possession. Today, many Canadians are allowed to smoke marijuana without
necessarily being prosecuted.
I have summarized the preceding graphs on two slides. First, there was a
decrease in the recorded crime rate in Canada in the 1990s, after it peaked in
the 1970s and 1980s. So, as you can see, the recorded crime rate is falling.
The second point, however, is that drug offences recorded by the police in
Canada decreased in the 1980s and picked up again in the 1990s, both in terms of
absolute numbers and as a percentage of each slice of 100,000 citizens. The
percentage of drug offences, which represented 4 per cent of total offences
under the Criminal Code in 1977, fell to only 2 per cent of that total in 1991
and then climbed up to 3.4 per cent.
Third, although the number of drug offences increased in the 1990s - as
indicated by the figures - to over 80,000 recorded offences, the rate of
indictments in relation to those offences has steadily fallen each year since
1991. It stood at 57 per cent in 1999, compared to 81.3 per cent in 1977.
Fourth, the breakdown of drug offences recorded by the police in Canada from
1977 to 1999 is as follows: on average, 73.5 per cent of offences were related
to cannabis, 13 per cent to cocaine, 7 per cent to other substances which need
to be determined and 2 per cent to heroin. The remaining offences are related to
restricted drugs and controlled substances. Until 1997, Canada had two laws
dealing with drug use, but since 1977, there is only one. There has been no
change in the recorded number of offences. The other drugs include all other
substances excluding heroin, cocaine and cannabis.
The fifth point shows the total number of drug offences recorded by the police.
On average, approximately 70 per cent were related to possession. In other
words, five out of ten offences are related to possession; 26 per cent to
trafficking, 1.6 per cent to importation and 3.7 per cent to cultivation.
In the 1990s, offences related to cultivation rose markedly and represented 12
per cent of all drug-related offences in 1999. This is why the number of
recorded cultivation-related offences increased.
Point six shows that the number of offences related solely to possession of
marijuana, which stood at 77 per cent of the total in 1977, fell proportionately
to 38 per cent of all drug-related offences in 1991 and subsequently climbed to
50 per cent.
Despite the recommendation made by the Le Dain Commission in 1974, which was to
abolish this offence, offences related to the possession of marijuana still
represented half of all drug-related offences recorded by the police in Canada
Lastly, the rate of drug offences per 100,000 citizens varied between 200 and
300 from 1977 to 1999. The rate fell in the 1980s and increased again in the
1990s, most markedly between 1995 and 2000 and even through till today.
To conclude, despite the existence of federal legislation, the law on drugs is
not applied consistently in Canada from one province to the next. Further
research is needed to determine whether this is due to the higher level of
concentration of one substance or another within each province. It is something
to look into. The inconsistency amongst provinces depends on the drug situation
in each province and its cultural, demographic, geographic and social
I would briefly like to add that the number of people between the ages of 15 to
24 fell during the 1990s. The population is aging. This may also explain the
decrease in the recorded crime rate, because young people are heavier users and
more visible. They do not have as much to lose if they smoke or sell drugs in
public. We might therefore conclude that the increase in the average age of the
population and the lower degree of attention given 15- to 24-year-olds may have
helped to bring down the crime rate.
I would like to conclude by raising a few questions. Does the police have the
necessary resources to fight drug offenders under Canada's drug legislation, and
should it be a priority? You may guess that my answer is no. I believe that this
morning, even the police admitted that they were not in a position to intercept
all the drugs on the market.
Is drug use really a bad thing? This is the official line, but the average
citizen holds generally relatively moderate views on the subject.
Studies have revealed that between 10 and 15 per cent of drug users have a drug
problem or are addicted, but that most people do drugs on a moderate basis. Is
the problem due to the fact that the law treats people differently? Based on my
studies and several analyses, I believe that is the case.
Would it make sense to invest in drug rehabilitation programs? Marijuana
possession represents half of all the offences committed under our law on drugs.
If only one person out of 100 is caught and charged with possession of
marijuana, this sheds doubt on the effectiveness of the law.
The Chairman: You have pinpointed the conclusions we reached after
hearing from many witnesses. You have provided us with a very exact assessment
of how the situation evolved over the last 25 years. This information will be
very helpful to us. I would like to thank you for having accepted our
invitation. Your presentation and your research will help us greatly. Indeed, it
is quite interesting to see what the role of health care workers was from the
moment prohibition was imposed and in the ensuing years on the national and
international fronts. By the way, could you tell us what happened in 1991?
Mr. Dion: There was a combination of several factors. We are impacted by
what happens in the United States. In the 1980s, crack arrived on the American
market and its use was extremely widespread. This was also due to the media. For
instance, two basketball players died of cocaine overdoses at the end of the
1980s and their deaths made headlines. There was a movement to fight drugs.
President Reagan and his wife declared war on cocaine. This happened at the same
time as the fall of the Berlin Wall. Cynics said that because the United States
did not have an enemy, they decided to fight a new cause, which was the war on
Since the events of September 11, America's goal has become to get rid of
terrorists as well as those who produce heroin. This cause speaks to many
people, so Americans are approving huge budgets because they are fighting for a
moral cause. What happens in the United States influences Canada.
Something else happened in 1991. Hydroponic cultivation also changed the way the
drug industry worked. It is possible that organized crime became more involved.
Cocaine use dropped. Statistics show that in the 1980s more people did cocaine
because work was very important for yuppies and they used cocaine as a means of
improving their performance at work and also as a way to redefine themselves.
Statistics show that in the 1990s cocaine use dropped. Statistics show that when
the use of one type of drug subsides, people automatically do other drugs. So,
on the one hand, more people started smoking pot and on the other, hydroponic
cultivation developed new markets. Marijuana imports fell, but local markets
sprang up. If you produce cannabis in Canada, you can ship to the other
provinces. It is fairly easy to do this without getting caught.
Customs officers say that they frequently see cocaine shipments from the south
to Canada and cannabis exported from Canada to the United States. If I were a
cocaine exporter, I would not necessarily export to Canada, because the exchange
rate is not so good. The cannabis market is no doubt chiefly aimed at the United
States, and when the trucks come back, they could be transporting cocaine.
Routes have been identified.
The year 1991 also coincided with budget cuts in various government
organizations which led to a decrease in processing reported offences. There is
something to note here. It is a combination of factors that is not yet clear to
me. Statistics tell us that in 1991 the patterns of repression changed both for
possession and for trafficking. Trafficking was more prevalent in the 1980s.
There was less trafficking in the 1990s, possession and cultivation were up.
Nineteen ninety-one was the beginning of a new period that should perhaps be
more closely analyzed.
Senator Maheu: Your second table shows that the total of offences for
Quebec, with the other drugs, was almost twice the number in other provinces and
almost double the Canadian average. Have you compiled any statistics about
ecstasy, this fashionable drug that the FBI and Interpol consider as the drug of
Mr. Dion: This drug contributes to the growth in the number of offences
related to other drugs. When offences are registered, however, no particular
mention is made of this drug. In a sampling of police files, we could see when
the offences were possession-related. We could see what substances were involved
in the file. Clearly, the declared rate of consumption of ecstasy has increased
in the past years. This is why if we want to repress drugs coming from the south
on one hand - because drug repression is traditionally aimed at cocaine, heroin
and cannabis that grow in southern climates - the market may shift and synthetic
drugs could be easily manufactured.
The solution does not lie in stressing the repression of these substances
because locally, new substances may surface. These are merely rumours, but there
are several recipes already waiting in case there were a shortage of heroin,
cocaine or other substances.
These are chemical substances that involve greater risk, because we do not know
how they are taken. People swallow these drugs and hope that they will not get
an overdose. The risk is considerable. To stem a resurgence of this consumption,
we could follow the example of the Netherlands. The State makes laboratories
available to the young where they can test substances before taking them, so as
to determine the amount of active ingredients that might be of varying strength.
The procedure is fairly quick.
I worked on drug abuse with youth, and they take chemical substances like LSD,
PCP or ecstasy without knowing what they are taking. If they are not very happy
with their first try, they will try a double dose the next time to get a better
effect. This is dangerous for them because there is no way to measure dosage.
The dosage of cannabis can be measured by taking one puff at a time. This way of
ingesting the drug is dangerous, and there might be harmful consequences for
youth. Especially for them, because they often get their supplies from unknown
sources. Older drug takers make sure that the dealer knows what he is selling.
Young people buy the stuff in school basements and from unknown sources. There
is a greater risk with this kind of a substance than with cannabis.
Senator Banks: Thank you for being here. You said that in Holland they
are manufacturing some of the drugs that Senator Maheu was talking about in a
controlled environment. Are they making them available in the same sort of
under-the-table wink-wink nudge-nudge way they make cannabis available?
Mr. Dion: No. I was in Amsterdam a few weeks ago. There are now shops in
which magic mushrooms are sold. It is tolerated. With regard to Ecstasy is that
there are laboratories that send people to bars to have the patrons in those
bars test the pills or the capsules they provide.
Senator Banks: They do that to ensure that it is okay; is that what you
Mr. Dion: Yes. It is harm reduction. They say, "We will not prevent
you from taking it. If you want to take it, it is your business, but here is
what is in it." When you take medicine that your doctor prescribes, you do
not always know what is in it. The government of Holland recognizes that it
happens and would like to limit the consequences.
Senator Banks: You undertook a very valuable exercise for us. You took a
set of data and made many different comparisons that we will find useful. When
you were talking about the infractions, are those charges laid or are they
Mr. Dion: They are arrests, which is the first step. The police arrest
someone and then write a report. After that, they transmit that information to
the prosecutor. I was referring to the proportion of charges. It is not 100 per
Senator Banks: Are you saying it is not convictions?
Mr. Dion: Yes. Since 1997, it has been possible to decriminalize some
charges. Therefore, the proportion of people accused has decreased steadily
since that time. We would like to process those people who are arrested in
another way than through the courts.
Senator Banks: I am not a statistician. You talked about the dichotomy
between the fact that crime is going down and the percentage of drug-related
crime is going up. I was thinking that that is a sort of a statistical inverse
relationship. Theoretically, at least, if crime generally is going down, for
example, and drug-related crime stayed exactly the same, then its percentage
would increase. Is that right?
Mr. Dion: It would increase, but less so.
Senator Banks: It would increase as a percentage but the number of
incidents may not be increasing.
Mr. Dion: Yes.
Senator Banks: I would like your comment on something the RCMP said to us
this morning. You referred to the fact that we may have grown inured to seeing
drugs down on St. Denis Street, for example. They said that it is everywhere and
that every city has such a street. Whether it is right or wrong, the general
impression seems to be that cannabis in particular is a less harmful drug than
once was thought to be the case. Is that fact colouring the inhibition that
young people in particular have with respect to using that drug?
You mentioned research. I know the research you are dealing with is not
specifically medical research. However, practically everyone who has spoken to
the committee has suggested that, among other things, we need more research as
to the medical facts about cannabis in particular. Do you agree with that or do
you think that we know enough already? Do we know enough now to arrive at
conclusions as to what we ought to do; or do we need more research?
Mr. Dion: People's perception towards the repression of drugs tends to be
that they are becoming less afraid. In fact, many people now think it is legal
to have less than 30 grams of cannabis. That is because in the new law there is
a different category. Young people do not know the law, but they do know that
the consequences are quite insignificant. For a first offence, they will be
referred to a drug addiction centre or something.
Yes, people are less afraid of doing it publicly. People have smoked joints
openly at many demonstrations for the legalization of drugs and it is tolerated.
It is different in big cities than in rural areas. In big cities, where are many
people are using heroin and cocaine, repression of cannabis is not a priority.
However, in the rural areas where there is not so much happening, if someone
smokes a joint in the street, the response might be different.
I would like to analyze more the repression in the cities versus the
countryside. In a sense, it is two different worlds. On Sunday afternoons in
Montreal on the mountain there are big drumming jams. People openly smoke there.
The policemen who are on patrol walk around and smell it. They could not arrest
In this sense, on both sides there is a more lenient attitude that says that if
you do not make trouble, we will let you go. The trouble is that if the
policemen do not like you because of your clothes or your skin colour, then they
could take you away. This is the 1 per cent I mentioned - it is not fair. If I
am arrested, I must go through the whole judicial process that is not applied to
the 99 other people who were smoking with me. In this sense, the law is not
really respected any more.
A great deal of research has already been done. In the United States, there are
reports that when the results were not going the way the government wanted them
to go they kept them from the public. They have now started to come out. In The
Lancet a few years ago there was something published about the United
States, in concert with the United Nations, trying to hide some research.
For many years some people have been saying that they use cannabis for medicinal
reasons. Yet, we still do new research. We could listen to these people. If it
alleviates pain, why not take their experience instead of starting all over with
government-grown products and big research? Of course we can always refine the
research, but we could also listen to people who use cannabis for medicinal
reasons. They could teach us a great deal.
Senator Banks: Should we listen to the people who use cannabis for
recreational purposes as opposed to medicinal purposes?
Mr. Dion: Yes, I think so. Millions of people are using cannabis, so
sometimes we want to think for them that the drug is bad. However, if millions
of people are using cannabis, there must be a reason.
Perhaps we think that if we increase the money that we invest on repression, we
can eliminate all use of cannabis. That is impossible because they will turn to
other drugs. For thousands of years it has been in people's nature to experiment
with different kinds of consciousness.
As far as cannabis is concerned, it is not so dangerous. I would prefer that my
children experimented with this drug instead of taking ecstasy or LSD when they
do not know what is in it.
In this sense, I would also listen to why people use it. I would listen more to
people who use it in a moderate way. We always listen to people who abuse drugs,
and we find out they use it for dealing with stress or bad self esteem. This we
know. However, we never ask moderate users why they use it so we could develop
real educational and informative programs.
The Chairman: Mr. Dion, at the very beginning of your submission, you
explained the fragility of statistics. You named three important elements. I
would like to look more closely at the third element, which is selection.
I gather some of your colleagues are studying, among other things, police
attitudes with regard to drug crimes. The items used for this selection element
are: the quality of the evidence, the identity of the offender, the seriousness
of the offence - we have seen four broad categories - and the nature of
available resources. This is a more subjective item.
I gather some of your fellow researchers have studied police attitudes with
regard to similar offences. Could you elaborate on this? Why do some policemen
decide to report the offence whereas others decide not to?
Mr. Dion: This is not my field of expertise.
Senator Nolin: If you have information or a written report available in
support of what you are about to say, please do not hesitate to send it to us.
Mr. Dion: I will transmit your request to Nicolas Gagné. He will be
pleased to send you his master's thesis. It is difficult to make a pronouncement
and I do not want to over-generalize. Each police officer has his own set of
values, his own expectations and interests. In the research that Nicolas did
with patrollers from the Montreal Police Force, among others, some people wanted
to specialize in the drug squad. It was for them a way, by arresting small
consumers, small dealers, to establish a data base in order to infiltrate that
milieu. Once they had this information, it was easier for them to get promoted
within the drug squad, that has sizable budgets and somewhat more sophisticated
methods of investigation. This is one of the avenues they found.
The presence of community police is an important factor. Community police
officers set up shop in certain parts of town to keep in touch with the people.
If they arrest an individual as soon as they see him taking drugs, or if they
arrest everybody for possession of cannabis, it will not create good relations.
The presence of this kind of police in various parts of town will also change
the nature of repression, especially with regard to possession. An individual
arrested by the police might wind up with a criminal record and a $100 fine.
Thus, the officer has antagonized a part of the neighbourhood where he wanted to
establish a rapport. This element will give rise to drug squads that are
specialized in trafficking networks. It will be another kind of relationship.
This distinction will become more and more apparent as the community police
system develops. These officers perhaps think that if they arrest someone for
possession of cannabis, and the individual is in possession of one gram, he will
be told once again: "Why are you bugging me about this?" All police
officers do not have this attitude. They realize the consequences of making a
report for one gram of cannabis, when, in some cases or in most cases, nothing
will be done about it.
A Montreal policeman noted that he had patrolled with police officers in
Vancouver, and during the patrol he realized that when drugs were seized,
policemen put the drugs in a big bag without opening a file. The Montreal police
officer asked them why. They replied that if they opened a file each time they
seized some drugs, there would be no end to it.
During our research, we discovered that the rate of reported offences is very
high in Vancouver. For possession of cannabis, 20 per cent of cases are
prosecuted. Police officers are reporting so many offences that courts are
overwhelmed and the officers are saying: "Why open a file and initiate
prosecution if they will only drop the matter?" A very high rate of
reported offences does not guarantee a high rate of prosecutions. When courts
are overwhelmed, prisons are closed, there are fewer prosecutors, etc. Cases
have to be selected. This explains the drop during the 1990s.
The Chairman: Please feel free to ask Mr. Carrier to send us his research
You said that, at one time, cocaine consumption was high during the yuppie
years, when career advancement was the priority. Today, we have ecstasy. What
are the real sociological reasons underlying cannabis use?
Mr. Dion: We are living in stressful times. Cannabis - marijuana - is a
natural anxiolytic which has been used for thousands of years. American Indians
used marijuana as part of sacred rituals. Sharing a marijuana cigarette, or a
joint, is a very social activity. Marijuana use is higher among young people
aged 15 to 24. They like to share, and they need to socialize. Marijuana meets a
part of those needs.
However, the use of ecstasy in raves is something different altogether. People
take ecstasy in raves to lose themselves within a mass of people who dance all
night. That need has its roots in the large, sacred assembly of indigenous
people on many continents. In a broader context, there are specific reasons for
taking each type of drug, and even for taking it in specific ways. Among other
things, injection is a solitary activity - people who inject drugs do so alone.
This is very different from the social aspect of a group of young people who
share a marijuana joint. That is something very cultural. I would separate
substances and consumption modes into subgroups, and study each separately. I
believe that research can tell us a great deal about the individual drugs used,
and the individual ways in which they are taken, as it already does. There are
thousands, perhaps even millions, of people using these drugs, and we should not
underestimate their reasons. People are not entirely stupid. They take drugs
because they get something out of it. There are of course risks associated with
drug-taking, but there are benefits as well. When the benefits, or positive
aspects, are greater than the negative aspects, people continue taking drugs.
When the negative aspects are greater than the positive aspects, drug users are
motivated to change their habits. No human being will continue taking drugs for
years when they get absolutely nothing positive out of it. We have to take that
negative-positive balance into account.
We could prohibit every drug under the sun, but people will still want to take
drugs. If we take away their access to marijuana or other drugs, they will find
something to replace them. This is what we see in the North, where Inuit become
addicted to gasoline and correction fluid, because they are desperately unhappy
and want to escape their unhappiness any way they can.
The Chairman: Mr. Dion, thank you for accepting our invitation. As I have
told other witnesses, I am sure that we will have further questions after
reading your testimony. I will send you those questions in writing, and I hope
you will have an opportunity to answer them.
Our last witness this afternoon is well known to this committee. Eugene
Oscapella is executive director of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy. He
has been twice a witness in front of our committee. He first appeared during the
previous Parliament, and he appeared a second time on the first day of hearings
under this mandate. Mr. Oscapella will today talk to us about terrorism and
Mr. Eugene Oscapella, Executive Director, Canadian Foundation for Drug
Policy: I would like to state my appreciation for being allowed to return to
speak to this issue. When I appeared before this committee October 16, 2000, I
did briefly discuss the issue of how drug prohibition is financing terrorism,
but I do not think the issue had the immediacy it has today. Thus, I am very
thankful to be allowed back here.
We all recognize the need to attack the financing of terrorist groups. Economist
magazine said that even terrorists need money. Earlier last month on
September 19, the Justice minister said that terrorism has a certain similarity
to organized crime, and money fuels it. Therefore, we have to strike at the
ability of terrorist organizations to raise money.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I would like to speak today about the
ability of terrorist organizations to raise money, in this case, through the
prohibition of drugs. You will be hearing much in the media about how the drug
trade is funding the Taliban, the Columbian left-wing guerrillas and right-wing
I would like to convey one simple message today. The drug trade alone is doing
it; it is the criminal prohibition that makes drugs so lucrative for organized
crime and for terrorists. That is my fundamental point. If nothing else gets
across from my presentation today, that would be the point I would want to make.
We all know that some terrorism does not cost a lot to accomplish. Estimates are
that the attacks on September 11 may have cost from a few hundred thousand
dollars to a few million dollars. They certainly did not need massive amounts of
funding to carry out those attacks in the United States.
However, many of the most feared forms of terrorism, those associated with
biological weapons, chemical weapons and nuclear weapons - so-called weapons of
mass destruction - are much more expensive to carry out. In that case, the money
gained through the drug trade fostered by prohibition can be so important.
Governments have essentially taken two measures to deal with the financing of
terrorism. One is to eliminate the sources of financing and the other is to
reduce the capacity of terrorists to keep and move their money around the globe.
Therefore, we have money laundering legislation and reporting requirements and
things like this to try to deal with those issues.
I am dealing with the first issue: eliminating the very sources of financing.
The paper that I prepared for this committee specifically explains how drug
prohibition is assisting terrorists. I go again to the point that the drug trade
under a system of criminal prohibition has become a major - if not the major -
source of funding, for many terrorist groups around the world.
I thought I would start by discussing the importance of illegal drugs for
terrorists and criminal organizations. The RCMP in its criminal intelligence
reports has said that most criminal organizations in Canada receive most of
their funding through the drug trade. They do not say that it is the drug trade
created and fostered by prohibition, but we certainly know that the drug trade
is a major source of income for organized crime in this country.
In May of this year, Mr. Alain Labrousse appeared before the committee, as
members will remember. He is with the Observatoire français des drogues et des
toxicomanies in Paris. He explained the links between drugs and terrorism. Mr.
Labrousse reported to this committee that about 30 countries now have terrorists
that are financing their activities through the drug trade. He explained how it
had become a particularly important source of funding since the end of the Cold
War because there has been a decline in the level of state-sponsored terrorism.
With the diminution of state-sponsored terrorism, terrorists had to looks for
other sources of financing. What was the major source of financing they found?
I have cited Mr. Labrousse's testimony frequently in my paper. I would like to
point out one particularly salient statement and that was by the chief drugs
officer of Interpol in 1994. He said that drugs have taken over as the chief
means of financing terrorism.
Mr. John Thompson of the McKenzie Institute - the Canadian think-tank on
organized crime and terrorism - suggested that the extent to which terrorist
groups finance themselves through drugs varies considerably. Obviously, it
would, because some terrorist groups have greater access to drugs than others.
He suggested that 25 to 30 per cent of the funding for Islamic extremists might
come from drugs. He suggested that it was probably their biggest single source
A witness from Interpol testified appeared before a House of Representatives
Judiciary Committee in December 2000. They were talking about the links between
organized crime and terrorism and the drug trade. He also described the
increasing reliance of terrorist groups on drug trade profits. He said that a
significant part of the drug trafficking activity in central Asia is taking
place in conjunction with terrorist activity.
We are beginning to paint a picture of the extent to which terrorism relies on
the drug trade as a source of financing. Another witness from the Congressional
Research Service made the same point about Colombia. He said that the left-wing
guerrilla group - the FARC in Colombia - probably receives between $400 million
and $600 million U.S. tax free a year from the drug trade by either taxing or
protecting the cocaine trade within Colombia.
This is not just an issue of the Taliban. Many insurgent and terrorist groups in
multiple countries around the world are getting funding from the drug trade.
The witness from the Congressional Research Service said before the committee -
and I would like to stress this point - that funded by drug trafficking,
organizations can develop the resources, roots and networks to engage in a whole
series of other forms of criminal activity including illicit arms trading and
possible proliferation of chemical and nuclear weapons. I am pointing again to
the whole issue of how terrorist groups have come increasingly to rely on the
drug trade as a source of financing.
Let us now look at the size of this trade in illegal drugs. The United Nations
has estimated that the global trade in illegal drugs is worth about U.S. $400
billion. The figures I am using are in U.S. dollars because most of the research
on this refers to U.S. dollars and not Canadian dollars. Economist
magazine has suggested that that estimate is high and that it might only be
about $150 billion per year. By comparison, the U.S. defence budget is just
under $300 billion per year. Therefore, on an annual basis, the global trade in
illicit drugs is probably somewhat more or less than the annual U.S. defence
The enormity of the profits flowing from this prohibition can be seen in a
report about Afghanistan and Pakistan in a recent issue of the Economist.
The magazine reported that UN officials believe that about 2,800 tonnes of opium
- which would be about 280 tonnes of heroin - are in the hands of the Taliban,
al-Qaeda and other Afghan and Pakistani drug lords. They suggest the wholesale
market is worth about US$ 1.4 billion. UN officials estimate the total retail
value of this trade at between $40 billion and $80 billion. Obviously, not all
of that money will go back to the Taliban, al-Qaeda or to groups in Pakistan.
People take off their cut along the way. However, you can see this is an
extremely lucrative source of financing for both criminal and terrorist
A former high court judge of Colombia reminded us that the income of the drug
barons is greater than the American defence budget - which may be a bit of
hyperbole. However, he points out that they can subvert the instruments of the
state. We have seen that happen in Colombia. I see no reason to think that it
cannot happen in societies that are even more robust. This sort of money gives
an enormous capacity to corrupt and influence the organs of government.
Researchers and observers of this phenomenon are also saying that there is an
increasing alliance between terrorist and criminal organizations. Were the acts
in New York and Washington on September 11 criminal or terrorist? Were the
organizations behind them criminal organizations? Was the organization that led
to the bombing in Oklahoma City several years a criminal organization or a
terrorist organization? There is a blurring of the distinction between these
two. Increasingly, they are working together.
Neal Pollard, director of the Terrorism Research Center in the United States
speaks of this growing interaction between criminal and terrorist organizations.
What he says is quite frightening. He says that if terrorist interaction with
transnational crime syndicates is successful enough - especially with narcotics
traffickers - the infrastructures of these interactions might be robust enough
to provide terrorists with real opportunities for weapons of mass destruction
proliferation, including the introduction of a weapon of mass destruction into
the United States. He says that the implications of such an infrastructure are
What we in Canada, the United States, the U.K., Western Europe and many other
countries around the world are worried about right is that these organizations
now have the financial power to go ahead and engage in activities that could
lead to the use of weapons of mass destruction.
One thing we often forget and do not talk a lot about is why the criminal
prohibition of drugs makes drugs so profitable. I believe the members of this
committee are fully aware of this. However, I should like to raise it again for
the members of Canadian public who may be reading the transcript of this hearing
or watching it on television.
Consider the example of poppies. The figures I will use are United Nations
figures. The important thing to remember is that without criminal prohibition
these drugs would be much, much less valuable than they are now. If we take a
look at the example of opium - and again I go back to the UN figures - the price
that the farmer gets for a gram of opium is between three and seven cents.
According to UN figures, the retail price in Canada of that same gram is $39.
That is a multiple of between 550 and 1,300 times the cost of production of that
drug. In percentage terms, that is from 55,000 to 130,000 per cent more than the
cost of production of that drug. That is the nature of prohibition. If we
prohibit something that people want, the retail price explodes. The cost of
production remains minimal in the whole equation.
We have created this enormously lucrative market. I have figures about heroin
and cocaine as well. Independent figures on the value of cocaine show that the
retail price of a kilo of cocaine produced in Colombia and sold in the United
States is between 180 and 275 times the cost of its production. The criminal
prohibition of drugs has created this enormously profitable scheme.
Unfortunately, we see the media, the police, policy-makers and, in particular,
some American politicians describing the problem as the financing of terrorism
through the drug trade. Everyone is acknowledging that drugs are involved in the
financing of terrorism. They may or may not be to a greater or lesser extent
with the particular form of terrorism that appears to have come out of
Afghanistan. However, everyone acknowledges drugs are implicated with the trade.
What they do is completely ignore the role of prohibition in this. Thus, we are
hearing from the United States that we need more efforts to clamp down on the
drug trade. We need to tighten up the criminal prohibition of drugs. That has
not worked before, and it will not work. Prohibition alone is what makes the
drug trade so profitable.
None of the statements I mentioned earlier made by those who testified before
congressional committees or in media reports drew the link between the
profitability of drugs and their prohibition. It is a very simple point. It is
not very complex, as members of this committee well know. Prohibition inflates
the price of drugs enormously, but no one is talking about that. That is what is
fundamentally wrong because that will dictate different responses to the problem
if we ignore the role of prohibition. Prohibition is being ignored as a cause of
We even saw this in a recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. I refer to
the dissenting opinion of two judges in a 1998 decision in Pushpanathan,
an immigration case. The two dissenting judges said that:
The financial and military power of these organizations [essentially propped up
by drug trafficking] threatens to undermine the political and economic stability
of numerous countries, and indeed the entire international community.
They went on to say that:
Illicit drug trafficking now threatens peace and security at a national and
international level. It affects the sovereignty of some states, the right of
self-determination and democratic government, economic, social and political
stability and the enjoyment of human rights.
These statements are accurate. Yes, drug trafficking is problematic. However,
nowhere do these dissenting judges discuss the role of prohibition in making
drug trafficking so lucrative. Nowhere do they appear to recognize that the
prohibition of drugs is behind the profits, the power, the violence, the
corruption and the terrorism associated with the drug trade.
We must recognize that the profits derived by terrorists from opium, heroin and
other illegal drugs are purely a consequence of their criminal prohibition. As
one of my colleagues said, the Taliban are not selling baby food. They are not
selling baby food because there is no money in selling baby food. They are
selling drugs because there is money in selling drugs. Prohibition greases the
wheels of terrorism, just as it greases the wheels of organized crime.
There are other implications as well of drug prohibition for terrorism. One such
implication is that these enforced prohibitionist foreign policies can have
terrible consequences for countries. Colombia is perhaps the best example. We
are defoliating parts of the Colombia. We are creating an environmental disaster
by going after crop eradication programs. We are enriching the fighting groups,
the paramilitaries and left-wing guerrilla groups through the drug trade as
well. However, we are defoliating areas of Colombia, causing tremendous
environmental consequences and adverse health consequences.
We are, I believe, also tolerating some horrific human rights abuses by
organizations simply because they seem to be on the side of suppressing the drug
trade. We are willing to accept what they do much less critically than we
otherwise would, simply because they are working on the side of prohibition.
For several years now, we have seen Colombian politicians and policy-makers
speaking out about what prohibition has done to their country. Prohibition is
doing tremendous harm to countries such as Colombia and to many other countries
around the world.
These people want us to move away from prohibition. If we do not, if we keep
ramming these prohibitionist policies down their throats, we will continue to
create hostility. This allows them to perpetrate human rights abuses. It creates
enormous hostility in the country. Sometimes these people will attack. Our
prohibitionist policies may actually lead to hostility against the countries
that impose these policies.
We are also diverting enormous resources from where they might do some good to
where they are not doing any good and, in fact, causing positive harm. In recent
weeks, you have probably seen reports of the U.S. government shifting the
activities of its drug enforcement administration people away from drugs and
into counter-terrorism. That is exactly what I am speaking of. They have
focussed on drugs and perhaps have not put the resources they needed into
dealing with counter-terrorism. Now, that is not to say that had they put those
resources into counter-terrorism, September 11 would not have happened. No one
can say that. However, many people argue we are wasting our resources.
Five years ago, Professor Arnold Trebach, one the founders of the American Drug
Policy Foundation, spoke at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He said the
All of us would be infinitely safer if the courageous efforts of anti-drug
agents in the U.S, Israel and other countries were focused on terrorists aimed
at blowing up airliners and skyscrapers than at drug traffickers seeking to sell
the passengers and office dwellers cocaine and marijuana.
This was a rather prophetic comment five years ago.
I am making the case for dismantling prohibition. I think it is quite apparent.
Other people have come and will come before this committee and say, "We do
not need to dismantle prohibition. We can take other steps to reduce the harms
associated with drugs to get at the financing. We can beef up our
money-laundering legislation." However, that has not worked to date and I
still do not have any real reason to believe that money-laundering legislation
will have a significant impact on the flow of money from the drug trade to
criminal and terrorist organizations. We have all learned much about the
financial transfer system known as "hawala," which is not amenable to
The traditional measures that we have chosen to deal with drugs have been, I
believe, a colossal failure. Let us take the issue of reducing the supply of
drugs through more effective policing. The United States - the most powerful
nation on earth - is hoping, according to an Associated Press report, to get 18
per cent of the illegal drugs destined for its shores in 2002. That is less than
one-fifth. Its goal is to get one-fifth of the drugs coming to its borders.
Right now it is getting about one-tenth of the drugs destined for its borders,
according to the Associated Press.
On October 1, a representative from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, when
Mr. White pressed him on the issue, said law enforcement in Canada was only able
to stop about 10 per cent of the Cdn. $7 to Cdn. $10 billion annual trade in
illegal drugs in Canada.
We have the most powerful nation on the earth stopping maybe between one-tenth
and one-fifth of the drugs coming into the country; and ours is stopping
one-tenth. That is not a significant inhibition on the financing of terrorist
organizations through the drug trade. What we call supply reduction does not
Crop substitution does not work. It may temporarily get farmers to plant
different crops, but the long-term history shows that crop substitution does not
work. Crop eradication, fumigation efforts and things like this also do not work
in the long run. They cause tremendous hostility amongst the local inhabitants
who are subject to this. As well, there are serious environmental consequences.
The traditional measures people will talk about before this committee do not
have the capacity to affect the profits flowing to criminal and terrorist
organizations. Money-laundering clearly, as I said, does not work.
The other problem is that these things deflect attention from the real issue. We
say, "We will put more effort into policing. We will do more crop
eradication. We will do more drug education. We will do more demand reduction.
We will do more drug testing." However, this simply deflects attention from
the hard issue we must face, and that is the impact of prohibition of drugs.
These other measures nibble around the margins of the problem but leave the core
issue of prohibition still intact.
Obviously, there is no complete solution to drugs. Ending prohibition will not
resolve all problems associated with drugs. I will not go into the presentation
I made last year and the presentation that many other people have made before
this committee about the futility and harm associated with prohibition.
One thing we can do is diminish the profitability of the drugs for terrorist
organizations around the world. We cannot maintain prohibition and yet still
hope to deprive terrorists and criminal organizations of the profits associated
with the drug trade. It is as simple as that. Without prohibition, the drug
trade would not be a factor in terrorism. Because of prohibition, the drug trade
is now the major source of financing of terrorism, according to many people. We
must decide which drug policy we want: one that fosters terrorism, and finances
and enriches terrorists, or one that does not.
Ending prohibition will not end terrorism. There are other sources of financing
for terrorism. However, prohibition has given terrorists a true cash cow. It is
an easy source of income. Terrorist groups in Colombia will continue to kidnap
people, but that is nowhere near as lucrative a source of income as the drug
trade. They will continue to rob banks; they will continue to traffic arms; they
will continue to extort money out of expatriates; they will continue to cajole
people into giving to charities that are really fronts for terrorist
organizations. Those things will not stop, but some of the anti-terrorist
measures that governments are now considering might have a chance of dealing
with those issues. However, they do not have a hope of dealing with the
financing of terrorism.
I do not think there is anything more I can say, Mr. Chairman. I think I have
beaten the issue to death. I hope I have made my points. I would be pleased to
answer questions from members of the committee.
Senator Kenny: I think there will not be many people debating your thesis
at this table, Mr. Oscapella. Could you enlighten us as to how one takes the
Mr. Oscapella: The question is how one takes the profit out of
prohibition. As the Economist magazine has said, and as the Fraser
Institute has said: legalize, regulate, discourage.
Senator Kenny: Everything?
Mr. Oscapella: Yes. You have to look at that. As you all know, drugs were
legal in this country in the early part of the twentieth century. Unfortunately,
through years of propaganda and misinformation, we have built up an enormous
fear about what would happen if we dismantled prohibition. That ultimately is
where we must go. There is no real middle ground because the other measures that
are put in place to deal with drugs under a prohibitionist system cannot have a
sufficient impact to take the profitability of the trade out.
Senator Kenny: How do you assess the control part? If you were
legalizing, you would have a situation where Health Canada or a body like that,
would take a look at the product and examine whether it was healthy thing for
the individual to take or not. In all likelihood, none of the drugs that we see
now would be deemed healthy. Thus, you are back behind the eight ball again
because it is it is deemed legal but the process of introducing them into the
market would be blocked.
Mr. Oscapella: I take the example of alcohol, a case where the United
States had prohibition. It moved away from prohibition.
Senator Kenny: I concede that both alcohol and tobacco are here. We
recognize that prohibition is not the right way to resolve problems with alcohol
and tobacco. Having said that, if you are re-introducing something into a legal
market, is it not going to have to go through certain tests? If you were
introducing tobacco into the Canadian market, it would not get over the first
Mr. Oscapella: It might not. However, look at the harms associated with
prohibition. There will be some harm associated with the consumption of this
drug by some people. Tobacco is probably the most egregious example because we
know it is highly addictive for most people who use it. There is ample evidence
As with many other things, there are potential harms associated with consumption
of certain drugs. We know that. I am not by any means trying to argue that drugs
are harmless. However, there are many other things that we allow in society that
we have chosen to regulate rather than to prohibit.
Fatty foods are one example. We know that bad diet is a leading contributor to
death in this country. Heart disease, with bad diet as a major contributor, is
one of the leading causes of death, but we do not prohibit certain foods. We
might warn people. We might try educating people, and we might try to figure out
why people are eating so much of that bad stuff. That is what we really need to
do with drugs, as well.
Senator Kenny: Could you characterize the extent of control? In your
view, should it be warnings, education, or that sort of thing? You would not see
a more regular rigorous control system than that?
Mr. Oscapella: There are multiple possibilities between absolute
prohibition and total legalization, as you well know. One option might be a
heroin maintenance programs. The vast bulk of heroin consumed in this country is
probably consumed by a relatively small number of people who have dependency
problems with it. You could probably eliminate at substantial part of that
market through heroin maintenance programs.
Such a program would not be as extensive a legalization as we have with alcohol.
It still boggles my mind that we have cannabis as an illegal substance, but
nonetheless we have. That could easily be dealt with through a regulatory system
similar to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. We could have rules and adult
consumption regulations to encourage people who do sell it to sell it only to
adults and have honest education.
Ultimately, with all drugs we must look at why people are using them. We need a
legal regulatory regime. There is entire panoply of pressures from
decriminalizing to legalizing to medicalizing, as the case of heroin. We must
figure out why people want to use drugs in a way that is dangerous.
There might be an increase in use of heroin if we changed our laws, if we
liberalized our drug laws. However, that drug use would probably become much
safer. The role of the government in something like this should be quality
control. That is, the government should assure that potential harms of the drug
are reduced to the extent that it can be. We have quality controls on the
production of alcohol so that people do not go blind from improperly prepared
alcohol or do not die from alcohol poisoning the way they used to under a
prohibitionist system. People still do die from alcohol overdoses but not from
improperly prepared alcohol.
The role of the government should be in discouraging harmful forms of
consumption. It is an educational role. It should be looking at why people are
using drugs in a way that is harmful. Why can most us of in this room consume
alcohol without significant harm, yet we know that 5 per cent to 10 per cent of
the Canadian public cannot? Should we not be focussing on that 5 per cent to 10
per cent and worrying less about the people who use drugs with relatively minor
Senator Kenny: What are the international consequences of the policy you
Mr. Oscapella: If we go to a single border perimeter around this country,
we could not do much independent of the Americans. That is one of my great
Under international law, we have the right to withdraw from any of the drug
control treaties. There are also international human rights instruments that say
that we should not do things that violate the fundamental rights of people. I
would at least try to argue that these international human rights instruments
should trump the drug control treaties in any event.
We have capacity to back out of all these treaties. The politics of that is
another issue, I agree. However, each one of these drug control treaties to
which we are party says that we can back out of the treaty.
Senator Kenny: You have been talking costs. What are the economic costs
of following the course of action that you are suggesting?
Mr. Oscapella: I cannot predict the economic costs. I can say that we are
taking away that major source of financing from terrorists. I do not believe
that there would be a significant increase in consumption of drugs.
Senator Kenny: That was not my question. I meant that in the event that
we did not have a common border and the Americans continued with their approach,
one could assume that we would see a significant change in their border control
policies. Do you think that would have significant economic costs to Canadians?
Mr. Oscapella: Yes, that must be a concern. Look at the example in the
Netherlands. They have the Schengen agreement in the European Union. The
Netherlands for a long time has been dragging the rest of Europe along. It is
hard to think of Canada as dragging the United States anywhere, but perhaps over
time. There is a significant body of opinion in the United States that does not
support the current system for dealing with drugs in that country, so there
might be some hope.
Yes, the very real practical issue is the possible consequences for our borders.
We could retain Draconian penalties as we now have for exporting drugs. Life
imprisonment is the penalty for exporting drugs. Those are the penalties under
the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. I have no difficulty with retaining
those penalties if people are concerned about that.
However, there is a practical matter if we went to a perimeter defence of North
America. It would limit our options in the pursuit of an independent drug
policy, as in the pursuit of many other independent policies, as well.
Senator Forrestall: I appreciate and understand what you are saying. Many
have been listening to this argument for a long time and are still at a loss as
to how to go about it. You suggested that we could reduce significantly the
amount of money for terrorism activities from the illicit trade in drugs, but
could we do it alone?
Mr. Oscapella: No.
Senator Forrestall: Would Canada not simply become a cheap source of the
material that could then be sold in countries that did not have similar laws?
Mr. Oscapella: You would need international cooperation on this. It is
difficult to go alone except to the extent that if you retain very strict
penalties for the export of drugs. To the extent that we believe that the
criminal law does any good at all, we would retain those things.
However, a regulated market in some ways might stand a better chance of
controlling the flow of drugs than a market that is not regulated. Ultimately,
we need international cooperation on this. Canada's withdrawal from prohibiting
drugs would not, in and of itself, cripple the financing of terrorist
We need to look at the other countries that are the principal consumers of the
drugs that are now financing terrorist organizations. Thus, we need to look at
the United States, the $20 billion per year that Europe is generating for
criminal and terrorist organizations through the purchase of heroin or opium.
It must be an international effort. It is not something that we can do
effectively alone, although it is one more argument that we have to take
forward. We created this international prohibitionist mess through international
cooperation, unfortunately. We have to have international cooperation to move
out of it. However, I believe there is a lot of opportunity for change coming
This committee heard Peter Cohen last May. There is a lot of movement in Europe
now to back away from prohibition and to rethink it. Europe can now be a
substantial counterweight to the United States, where the government has very
strongly retained its prohibitionist mentality, despite the fact that there is a
very strong movement in the U.S. for change as well.
I believe we will see change. One of the things that myself and other people are
trying to do is to raise the awareness of people in general, governments and
citizens, of exactly the mechanism by which terrorists are getting their
financing through the trade in prohibited drugs. That is one more argument that
I hope the Europeans will look at. It is one more argument I hope the American
government will look at.
Obviously, the terrorists do not want this. The terrorists love the cash cow of
prohibition. That should be a signal to us. Organized crime loves prohibition.
That should also be a signal to us. If these organizations that we are fighting
love what prohibition gives them, perhaps we should rethink prohibition.
Senator Forrestall: Are you suggesting there is a lesson in the ending of
the prohibition on alcohol?
Mr. Oscapella: Yes, very much so. Unfortunately, the prohibition of
alcohol gave a tremendous boost to organized crime in the United States and
Senator Forrestall: I thought they did very well.
Mr. Oscapella: Yes, they did very well from it. When we look at the
numbers, we see that the lowest estimate is $150 billion per year that goes to
criminal and terrorist organizations, while at the highest it is up to $400
billion per year. Over a year, that amounts to trillions of dollars that are
being diverted to an illegal market - something which empowers organizations
tremendously. Yes, that is very much the lesson. The longer we perpetuate
prohibition, the more damage we do.
It is enormously complicated and complex to go ahead and rethink prohibition.
However, we need to do it. I hope that is one of the directions in which this
committee will go. I hope you will start to ask how we can dismantle prohibition
to reduce the whole myriad range of harms associated with prohibition now.
Senator Forrestall: Have you done any original research into this matter
from the view of attracting to a common purpose the ending of prohibition? You
speak in terms that I do not understand. I do not understand it in terms of the
money, how they get it and how they transfer it.
Are there bodies within the United Nations, the World Health Organization or the
international police movements, for example, that have been examining or looking
at this structure or the process? If that kind of work is being done, how many
countries would it take to make a significant impact?
Mr. Oscapella: First, I do not know if I have ever done any original
research because all these ideas have been put out before. As to how much it
would take to get a critical mass, as the Chair has suggested, I do not really
know. I know that the wealthy countries certainly consume most of the illegal
drugs. Currently, the United States, Canada and the European countries are the
major markets for illegal drugs in the world. If the European Union and North
America came onside, that would be a significant move. If we were to take the
OECD countries, for example, we could do much through that.
As to whether any international organizations have been looking at this matter,
I doubt it very much. No one seems to talk about prohibition being a problem.
Everyone talks about the drug trade being the problem. They have not taken their
analysis past the point of the drug trade being the problem to the point of
admitting that, in fact, it is the prohibition that makes these drugs so
attractive to sell.
If they have not even gone that far, then I doubt if they have done much work on
what mechanisms we would use to dismantle prohibition. The prohibition of
alcohol ended very quickly. It took a lot of politics to get it going; but,
basically, in one day the law was changed.
Senator Forrestall: You make an excellent point. However, I would feel
much more comfortable in supporting it if I felt that there were sufficient
numbers to make it worthwhile. For us to change our laws and try to change our
customs and habits in Canada by ourselves is futile.
Mr. Oscapella: You are right. However, there are some measures we can
take that will resolve some of the problems associated with prohibition within
Canada. Canada acting alone to stem the flow of drug money to terrorists will
not work. There are certainly many other reasons for ending prohibition in
Canada that are quite valid in and of themselves.
I would love to see more research done on this, but it is extremely difficult to
get the money to do research on these issues. We spend hundreds of millions of
dollars a year on perpetuating the existing model we have. It is very difficult
to get money to do the sort of research I would like to do.
I have approached the Department of Justice to see if they would consider
funding a more extensive study on the links between prohibition and the funding
of terrorism. I am waiting with bated breath on that one.
Senator Forrestall: That is a useful direction. That is, perhaps, what I
was getting at. The sooner we talk about this in the universal sense and not in
the narrow sense of the events in Canada, the better we will understand the
situation. Our chairman wants to understand how Canadians feel about some of the
lesser drugs and some the drugs that do not really contribute to espionage and
terrorism at the levels you are talking about.
We are very tentative, however. We might be said to be nibbling at the edges,
but we will only nibble at the edges until we know if there are other nations
who are doing the same thing.
I order it the other way. I say we take 2 billion out - that is equivalent of
the populations of China, India and Malaysia. Soon we will be looking at 2
billion relatively well-off people in this world who probably consume, in the
proper sense, most of these drugs. It will be necessary to get those people
Mr. Oscapella: I agree. It is important for this country to show some
intellectual leadership. I realize we do not have the might that some of the
larger countries have. However, Canada is one of the most respected democracies
in the world - Jeffery Simpson's recent book on the "gentle dictator"
aside - and we can show real leadership by speaking out on these issues. We may
not have the power to implement some of these changes, but we certainly have the
capacity to take our ideas forward. That is what I would like to see. That would
be a role where Canada could be very useful in this debate.
The Chairman: We have homework if we come to the conclusion to build that
Mr. Oscapella, I would like to agree with you, but I have a problem. It would be
easy to say, of course, cut prohibition and thereby cut funding to terrorism,
solving two problems. I do not think it works that way.
The RCMP told us this morning that there is, increasingly, a link between those
two worlds. However, if we compare the price over there, the profit made there,
and the cost in the street, they are two worlds apart. The terrorists are not in
every step of the black market.
Mr. Oscapella: That is correct.
The Chairman: It is not true to say all the money in the black market
goes to terrorism.
Mr. Oscapella: No, and certainly I would not want to be misunderstood as
The Chairman: When you give UN numbers on the size of the black market,
ranging between $150 billion to $400 billion, of course it is a huge pot of
money, but it is not all available for terrorism.
Mr. Oscapella: Absolutely not. The farmer gets some of it; the local
wholesaler in Afghanistan gets some of it.
The Chairman: We are still talking about small money. Just to help you,
this morning the RCMP told us about the Taliban with its various
"taxes." The opium harvest was 12 per cent, so there was 12 per cent
on the few cents you referred to earlier in your testimony. The heroin lab was
U.S. $70 per kilo. The permit of transport was U.S. $2.50 per kilo. The
aggregation of all those taxes on heroin in Afghanistan totals U.S. $75 million.
Mr. Oscapella: Yes, I read that figure as well.
The Chairman: If we compare that with the $1.2 billion street heroin
market in Canada, someone must have had access to the pie in the middle between
Afghanistan and Canada.
Mr. Oscapella: Absolutely. What has happened is the middlemen - the
shippers going through the central Asian routes - are getting money. There are
people taking their piece of pie all the way along. You are quite right. All
this money is not going to the Taliban.
In Colombia, the funding may be a bit more direct. They may be getting
substantially more. They are arguing it is around U.S. $600 million a year. For
the Taliban, I have heard numbers ranging from U.S. $30 to $75 million a year
that they are getting through taxing the trade. That is a small fraction of the
hundreds of billions of dollars this global trade is worth.
However, there are other organizations in other countries. The Albanians in
Kosovo were trafficking in drugs to buy weapons through Switzerland. They were
further down the pipeline, but they were using drug money. It is not the Taliban
making all that money for themselves. The players in each of these countries
along the way are skimming some of that money. They are building their own
coffers that way. It may not go to one organization, but it is helping
organizations in many countries.
If we go back to the testimony of Mr. Labrousse on May 28 before this committee,
he presented a paper he had prepared for another organization. I think he
mentioned that there were 29 countries where terrorist groups were profiting
somewhere in the process.
Ultimately, all that money still is in the black market. It is just not going to
one organization. Certainly, I would not want to leave the impression I am
arguing the Taliban are making $75 or $100 billion a year - they are not.
However, all the players along the way are making money from this. At the same
time, as we establish trade routes for drugs, those same trade routes can be
used for human or arms trafficking.
Even if the Taliban is not getting all that money, we are setting up the
networks that help them distribute and receive things down the way.
The Chairman: On one fundamental point, I think we around this table all
agree with you: Prohibition was probably the ignition of the situation, the
result of which is the funding of those organizations wherever they are in the
process. We agree with you on that point.
However, the huge amount of the magnitude of U.S. $150 billion to $400 billion
per year will need to be refined. I am glad to hear you offering to the Justice
Department to look into that problem, because we will need some answers. Of
course, in the last six weeks it has become an interesting and serious concern.
Senator Forrestall: At what stage does this request or inquiry of the
Department of Justice stand? Has the proposition been put to them?
Mr. Oscapella: I put in a proposal about a month ago and they were
occupied with other things. I suspect they were occupied with the anti-terrorism
bill. I am hoping they will move forward with it. Certainly, I will continue to
press it. I do not know if I will be ultimately the person they will want to do
it, but I would like to do it very much. It is important. These issues must be
Senator Forrestall: Do we have the capacity in Canada to carry out such a
Mr. Oscapella: I think so. If the RCMP are saying that at the source of
production they get paid X dollars, the middleman gets this much, the guy down
the line gets this much, and it is sold for this much on the street, we can
piece together who is profiting where in the chain. We would want to know how
much organized crime in Canada is receiving from the heroin it is getting from
the golden triangle in Southeast Asia? How much are the Hell's Angels receiving
of that pie? How much are the armies in Myanmar getting from that? How much does
each player in the process receive? If there are eight or 10 people in the chain
of production and distribution, how much does each get in the process? It adds
up to a lot of money.
The Chairman: To be fair to the presentation made by the RCMP, they took
those numbers out of the U.S. House Committee on Crime. It is not Canadian-made.
Those numbers come from the U.S. At least, they are reliable.
Senator Forrestall: From your silence, I gather the United Nations is not
doing anything specific to answer this question. If the prohibition on drugs
were removed, would things change? Am I right in assuming that perhaps no one is
doing this kind of work, because that would be scary?
Mr. Oscapella: I do not have the answer to that. I believe that there is
a firm ideology within many of the UN drug policy organizations that we must
retain prohibition. I do not mean to sound cynical but, unfortunately, I have
worked in this area for about 15 years, and I get cynical. We must ask who
profits from prohibition. It is not only organized crime and terrorist groups;
it is also the huge bureaucracies that have been built around the issue.
Unfortunately, I believe that many of the large bureaucracies that control drug
policy research and the development of drug policy internationally are
self-interested organizations. They benefit from prohibition. It may seem a very
cynical view, but I do not think that it is unrealistic.
Senator Forrestall: It is understandable.
Mr. Oscapella: Yes.
The Chairman: Before I close today's hearing, let me inform everyone that
next Monday, November 5, 2001 we will be travelling to Vancouver to hear from
Before adjourning this meeting, I want to remind everyone interested in
following the committee proceedings that they can read and obtain information
about illegal drugs by visiting our Web site at www.parl.gc.ca.
On the site, you will find all our witnesses' briefs, their biographies, all
supporting documents they felt we should have, as well as over 150 links
associated with illegal drugs. You can also use the Web site to contact us by
On behalf of the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, I would like to
thank you for your interest in our important work.
The meeting is adjourned.