Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The following is a reprint from Straight Goods, an independent leftist online magazine based in Ontario. It is particularly apt given the Conservative response to the recent court decision about the Insite harm reduction site in Vancouver.Consider subscribing.
Just say no to Harper's war on drugs

by Ish Theilheimer
The Harper government's determination to close Vancouver's safe injection site fits with a larger picture. The Harperites are so determined to be seen as tough that they don't care who gets hurt, whether addicts live or die, or what professionals and scientists have to say. All that matters to them is that voters see them as tough.

This sort of politics infects all of Canada, not just Vancouver's urban core. Twice in three days last week in rural Ontario, I saw local police making exhaustive searches of cars they had pulled over. If you go by the police reports in local papers this sort of thing is becoming common. A lot of people are being charged with possession of drugs after their vehicles have been searched this way.

Since 2006, thousands of people have been charged with a criminal offence that recently was within a whisker of extinction.

There is growing evidence that Canada's cops, empowered by court decisions and the Harper government's get-tough attitude on drugs and crime, are using "routine" traffic stops as excuses to shake down vehicle occupants. It's a safe bet that most of the people getting stopped and shaken down are young, poor, non-white, long-haired, scruffy or otherwise "of interest".

In February 2008, the Ontario Court of Appeal approved the use of evidence obtained through flagrant police misconduct, in this case a large quantity of cocaine seized in a traffic stop near Kirkland Lake, Ontario. The court ruled, according to the Toronto Star, that "any black eye caused to the justice system is outweighed by public interest in prosecuting a serious crime." In the Star article law professor Alan Young was quoted as saying, said "There's no question that this court and other courts are losing interest in the whole enterprise of excluding evidence." Court rulings like this — combined with direct messages from the Prime Minister to get tough on drugs — create an attitude that condones aggressive police tactics. The number of arrests for marijuana possession "rose dramatically in several Canadian cities" in 2006 after the Conservatives took office and killed a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug, according to Canadian Press. "As a result, thousands of people were charged with a criminal offence that recently was within a whisker of extinction."

Police are well aware of what the courts and federal government are doing. They appear to be using these new directions to ramp up Canada's moronic answer to a Bush-style "War on Drugs". Bush's war has caused misery for millions, created an explosion in prison population, enriched organized crime and done nothing for the poor young people it is supposed to be helping. Canada needs no part of it.

The opposition party that musters the courage to champion an end to the drug war insanity will be rewarded by thankful voters.

No comments: