So on Thursday, Stephen Harper’s government announced plans for a dramatic increase in the war on drugs in Canada. Apparently, he’s jealous of all the drug war fun in the U.S. and wants some of it for himself. His ideas have not been greeted with universal warmth.
In the Guelph Mercury
VANCOUVER – Critics of the Conservative government’s new anti-drug plan are calling it everything from naive to politically opportunistic and a threat to the civil liberties of Canadians.
A coalition of Vancouver health and social groups says prison terms and attempts to scare users straight won’t solve Canada’s illegal drug problem.
“You just can’t incarcerate your way out of this,” former Vancouver mayor Philip Owen, a member of the Beyond Prohibition Coalition, said yesterday. “The United States locks down 2.3 million people every night.”
Owen, an architect of Vancouver’s drug safe-injection site, told a news conference the Tory government’s adoption of policies similar to the failed war on drugs in the U.S. is “uninformed.”
An editorial in the Globe and Mail:
‘The party’s over,” federal Health Minister Tony Clement intoned this past weekend. Mr. Clement was talking about drug users, but it wasn’t entirely clear which ones. It might have been otherwise law-abiding citizens who occasionally smoke marijuana. Or perhaps it was all those partiers suffering from debilitating addictions to hard drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine. Either way, Mr. Clement appears to have borrowed his rhetoric from the 1980s. To go with it, he appears set to borrow the disastrous “War on Drugs” strategy from south of the border. […]
This new strategy may play well with some members of the Conservatives’ base. But as evidenced by what has transpired in the United States, it will do absolutely nothing to reduce drug use. Its only effect will be to make the effects of substance abuse all the more painful.
The always excellent Dan Gardner writes in the Ottawa Citizen, What’s Harper smoking?
Stephen Harper’s announcement Thursday of a new national drug strategy served at least one valuable purpose: It conclusively demonstrated that the prime minister knows nothing about drugs or drug policy. […]
So what does Stephen Harper have to say about this? At the press conference, he complained about drug references in Beatles songs and the fact that drugs have been romanticized “since the 1960s.” So naturally he wants to put in place the same policies that failed to stop Lucy from floating into the sky with diamonds — a conclusion that seems perfectly reasonable, I assume, shortly after one drops acid. […]
Righteous ignorance does fog the mind.
And there’s this excellent piece by Jody Paterson in the Times Colonist
The problems of ideology-based governance clearly must be more obvious from afar. Otherwise, Canadians wouldn’t be able to bear the hypocrisy of railing against oppressive and backward regimes elsewhere in the world while committing ourselves anew to the folly of a war on drugs. […]
Here’s the thing: Health issues can’t be resolved through ideology. […]
So why do we continue to let our elected politicians ignore the science when it comes to drug issues? Why should anybody’s poorly informed position around drug use be the lens that we apply when trying to address complex health and social problems that are far too important to be left to political whim?
I respect the right of Stephen Harper and his MPs to believe that using illicit drugs is bad. It’s a free country and they’re welcome to their opinions, […]
But why would we want to base something as important as our national drug strategy on opinion and belief?
We’ve got six decades worth of scientific studies underlining the importance of an informed, health-based approach in reducing the harm and societal costs of drug use. Yet we’re still letting vital public policy be decided by people who would rather maintain their personal fictions than take steps to fix the problems. […]
So with all due respect, Mr. Harper, believe whatever you like in your personal life. But as prime minister, please run this country on facts and not fiction.
More coverage of Harper’s drug war at Blame the Drug War.