Tough Love for Drug Pushers

HOW to stop the ghastly human toll and crushing cost inflicted on society by the drug trade — especially in Vancouver, “drug capital of Canada”, with its 12,000 resident junkies?

West Van councillor and former B.C. attorney general Allan Williams gave his own answer a while back in a Vancouver Sun article. His proposals sparked cries of outrage among the bleeding heart fraternity in favour of coddling the criminals and “solving” the problem by legalizing drugs.

The nub of Williams’ argument is that expanding rehabilitation facilities for addicts — whom he’d treat as innocent “sick” — is pointless until the “merchants of misery” responsible are expelled from our midst permanently. That’s now impossible under our lenient “revolving door” court system, which often allows traffickers back selling on the street, pending a distant trial, just hours after their arrest.

Therefore, says Williams, amend the Criminal Code to throw a 10-ton book at them.

He wants anyone in the supply chain who’s charged — from manufacturers, financers and shippers down to street-level pushers — to be held for trial without bail. If convicted, they’d automatically receive a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment with no parole for 15 years. A special provincial court division would deal exclusively with drug cases, and sentences would be served in a special maximum security prison camp to be set up in conjunction with the federal attorney general.

Convicted non-Canadian citizens would be immediately deported. Money and property from any drug-trafficking activity would be seized and used to fund police services and addict rehabilitation. And the “notwithstanding” clause would be invoked to eliminate Charter defences in drug cases.

This latter item would likely stir up the biggest hornet’s nest, politically and judicially. At least half a dozen Charter guarantees can conceivably be used by the defence in specific cases — including freedom of association, mobility rights, security against unreasonable search or seizure, the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned, nor to be denied reasonable bail.

Civil libertarians would have a field day, probably with some significant support from the public at large. Why have a Charter at all if its sacred promises can be so easily thrown out via the backdoor? Nor will too many voters wax enthusiastic about life imprisonment with no parole for 15 years being handed to, say, a teenage street-kid driven to become a small-time pusher in order to eat.

Finally, the expense of a beefed-up court system to handle drug cases exclusively, plus the capital cost, manning and upkeep of at least one big new maximum security prison. Don’t forget we’re talking about a period of major increase for maybe up to a decade in prison inmates, ranging from accused awaiting trial without bail to the ever-growing horde of 15-years-to-parole lifers.

Nevertheless, Williams is on the right track. Limited experiments in Switzerland and elsewhere in legalizing drugs have proved of dubious value. The massive deterrent of an automatic minimum “Life-15” sentence is the only sure way we’ll conquer drug-trafficking. A costly cure, true — though over time not nearly as costly as allowing B.C.’s life-sapping social wound to fester virtually untreated.

So it’s up to us. If the flawed Charter and criminals’ rights mean more to us than the daily horror of needled addicts dying behind dumpsters, runaway teen daughters drugged into prostitution, and home invasions by junkies desperate for cash to buy their next fix, by all means let’s settle for Vancouver’s tragic Downtown Eastside and Victoria’s booming drug scene as B.C.’s permanent social trademark.

But if we wish ever to shed it, we’d better start considering Allan Williams’ tough love alternative.

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Author: Noel Wright [email protected]
Editor’s email: [email protected]