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