Four Things Every Canadian Should Know About Bill C-7

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Four Things Every Canadian Should Know About Bill C-7

by Dana Larsen

Bill C-7, also known as the Controlled Drugs & Substances Act, was passed by
Parliament on October 30th, the day of the Qu&eacutebec referendum. It is now before
the Senate, and could become law before the end of November.
Bill C-7 is being presented to Canadians as a relaxation of the current drug
laws. In fact, Bill C-7 does not reduce the penalties for possession of
marijuana, instead it increases police powers of search and seizure and
"streamlines" the justice system to allow for more trafficking charges to be
laid. If Bill C-7 becomes law then more Canadians will spend more time in jail
for using marijuana.

Bill C-7 does not reduce the penalties
for possession of marijuana.
The penalties for possession of marijuana under Bill C-7 are exactly the same as
they are under the present Narcotic Control Act. The penalty for first time
possession of thirty grams or less of cannabis continues to be a $1,000 fine or
six months in jail or both.

It is being claimed that under the revised Bill C-7, those found guilty of
possessing less than thirty grams of marijuana will not have their fingerprints
or photographs taken. According to Hedy Fry, Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister of Health and a member of the Bill C-7 subcommittee, “no traceable
record will appear in national criminal databases.”

Unfortunately, the government’s claim that a conviction on this charge will not
affect international travel is simply not true. Both Canadian and US customs and
immigration officials have been publicly quoted as saying that Bill C-7 will not
affect either the flow of information or the way in which they deal with people.

In claiming that Bill C-7 is somehow more tolerant because of this provision, the
Ministry of Health is willfully misleading the Canadian people. This aspect of
the bill is only there to draw attention away from the ways in which Bill C-7
blatantly attacks Canadian rights and freedoms.

Bill C-7 drastically increases
police powers of search and seizure.
Bill C-7 expands legislation on offense-related property, so that property used
to commit drug related crimes can be more easily seized by the government.
"Bill C-7 will result in a significant increase in rates of incarceration and in
lengths of sentences, and will place additional stresses on an already
overburdened criminal justice system. It will not contribute to public health but
will accomplish exactly the opposite."


Canadian Bar Association

This type of legislation is very open to abuse. In the United States, where
police departments are usually rewarded with some of the spoils, prosecutors
aggressively seize family homes because of a few plants growing in the garden or
basement. It is clearly a bad policy to provide a financial incentive for police
departments to raid and seize the homes and possessions of peaceful Canadians.

Bill C-7 also significantly expands the ability of the police to arbitrarily
search Canadians, and allows the police to search anyone who is on the premises
where a search is being carried out. This type of blanket search warrant is
unconstitutional, unnecessary, and sets a dangerous precedent.

The aspect of Bill C-7 which most easily lends itself to abuse is a provision
which exempts members of the police force from the laws which they are supposed
to enforce. Bill C-7 will permit police to violate their own regulations on
searches, and will also authorize police to actively sell drugs, all under the
pretext of protecting Canadians from drug dealers. These are significant changes
from the Narcotic Control Act and accepted practice.

Bill C-7 will “streamline” the justice system
to allow for more trafficking charges to be laid.
Bill C-7 sets the maximum penalty for trafficking in under three kilograms of
cannabis at five years less a day. According to Hedy Fry, the reason for this
decrease is not because the gravity of the offence has been diminished, “in fact,
the subcommittee wanted to deal with trafficking as harshly.”
Since the courts have been refusing to hand down the current fourteen year
maximum penalty for trafficking, the drug war bureaucracy has simply taken a new
angle in their battle to jail Canadians.

As Hedy Fry explained to Parliament, “Bill C-7 leads to a streamlining of the
judicial process. It hastens cases through the courts by eliminating requirements
for preliminary hearings and trials by jury.”

Hedy continued to say that “until now, when trafficking has been the issue,
prosecutors would often reduce it to a possession charge rather than proceed
through a full pre-trial and trial by jury. Now prosecutors will be more likely
to lay the charges they should have been laying.”

According to Ms Fry, abandoning these fundamental judicial procedures for the
sake of expediency would be “a net gain for the criminal justice process.” If the
only goal of the criminal justice process is to imprison Canadians for a harmless
and common activity, then perhaps Bill C-7 is indeed a gain. If the goal of our
justice system is to protect peaceful citizens from intrusion and violence, then
Bill C-7 is a travesty beyond measure.

"Our position is that Bill C-7 should be withdrawn completely."
"this bill will neither stop the flow of drugs into Canada, nor the production of
drugs within Canada... it does absolutely nothing to address the multiple causes
of drug use in society."
"In the guise of complying with international drug control conventions, we are
trampling all over international human rights conventions."


Eugene Oscapella
Canadian Foundation on Drug Policy

Bill C-7 prohibits all medical use of marijuana.
"Bill C-7 fails to strike a balance between controlling the illegal use of drugs
and permitting legitimate medical and other uses."


Dr Richard Kennedy
President of the Canadian Medical Association

Although Bill C-7 allows for the medical use of heroin, morphine, cocaine and
other listed substances, it makes no allowance for the medical use of marijuana.
Apparently, using cannabis to ease the pain of arthritis or the suffering of AIDS
is more of a risk than our government can tolerate.

Marijuana has a great many medical benefits and should not be denied to those who
could benefit from its use. There is no valid reason to withhold medical
marijuana from sick and dying Canadians.

What you can do today:
It is imperative that Bill C-7 does not become law in Canada without significant
amendments. It is within the power of the Senate to modify Bill C-7 so as to
reduce police powers of search and seizure, allow for the medical use of
marijuana, or even follow policies of tolerance and harm reduction such as those
found in Holland and embodied in the Frankfurt Resolution.

You should phone or write to both G&eacuterald Beaudoin and Diane Marleau. Explain to
them why you think marijuana is good and prohibition is wrong.

G&eacuterald Beaudoin is the Chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal &
Constitutional Affairs. This is the Senate committee that will hold hearings on
Bill C-7 and possibly make amendments.

Diane Marleau is the federal Minister of Health. Bill C-7 was created by her
department.

You should also write a letter in your local newspaper. Photocopy fax and e-mail
this information around. Educate your friends, your parents, your children.

"We recommend that the Canadian government take time to fully discuss and
consider the impact of its proposed legislation across the country, allowing for
debate from all citizens within the context of Canada's drug strategy."


Toronto Dept of Public Health

 


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