Proposed Amendments to Bill C8
When the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy testified before the Senate in
mid-December, they recommended that the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
be completely rejected by the Senate, to allow for a “comprehensive review”
of Canada’s drug policy to take place.
Some of the Senators on the committee asked the CFDP to provide them with
amendments to the Act. They claimed they would rather modify the bill than
reject it outright.
After some time and study, the CFDP has produced a series of amendments to
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These amendments make harm reduction
and tolerance the basis of Canada’s drug strategy.
In a letter to the Honourable Senator Gerald A. Beaudoin, Chair of the
Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Eugene
Oscapella of the CFDP explained that the CFDP had six main goals in mind
when they created the amendments. Eugene described these goals as follows:
- to reduce the violence associated with the black market in drugs.
- to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV and other lethal bloodborne infections.
- to reduce the financial burden on society that arises from unnecessary drug related expenditures, including policing, prosecution, defence and court costs, the cost of incarceration, and the cost of supporting families of those imprisoned for certain activities which are now illegal.
- to stress the need to explore alternatives to current drug policies and laws so that the harms of drug use to users and to society alike will be kept to a minimum.
- to respect international human rights obligations.
- to reduce the unnecessary and unproductive criminalization of large numbers of Canadians for the possession of currently illegal substances.
The specific amendments which the CFDP recommended be made to the CDSA were
summarized by Eugene Oscapella into twelve main points. They are as
- to include a declaration of principle about the goals and aims of drug laws and policies.
- to require the appointment of an independent committee to review of Canada’s drug laws and policies, the review to be completed within one year of the committee’s appointment.
- to confirm that the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to impairment continue to apply to any impairment caused by any substance regulated by the Bill.
- to control possession of substances by minors by permitting peace officers to confiscate substances held by minors.
- to remove the criminal prohibition for the possession by adults of small amounts of substances for personal use. The specific amounts of these substances are to be determined by an expert advisory committee.
- to permit a peace officer to confiscate substances possessed by any person where the officer reasonably believes that the person may cause immediate harm to himself or others if he consumes the substance.
- to clarify the law to ensure that syringe exchange programs, which are absolutely essential to reduce the further spread of HIV and hepatitis B and C infections, are not impeded by defining a “controlled substance” to include containers used to deliver substances.
- to rationalize sentencing for offences involving possession of larger amounts of substances.
- to remove the criminal prohibition on the transfer among adults, for no consideration, of small amounts of substances
- to continue to prohibit the trafficking of substances to minors, whether for consideration or not.
- under strict conditions, to remove the criminal prohibition on the importation of small amounts of substances for personal use.
- to allow the cultivation of up to 10 plants of cannabis without a permit, or more with a permit issued under the regulations.
If accepted, these amendments would transform the Controlled Drugs and
Substances Act from a brutally prohibitionist bill into a tolerant and
compassionate piece of legislation.
Eugene Oscapella’s letter explained that “the amendments we propose do not
address all of our many concerns with the Bill. However, if implemented,
they will help to resolve several of the most pressing problems.”
It is important for all Canadians to come together and support the
amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act proposed by the
CFDP. The Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
must receive many letters, faxes, and phone calls from citizens across the
country who support these recommendations.
We have provided some letters for you to copy and send to the Senate and
the Ministry of Health. Please feel free to modify these letters in order
to reflect your personal ideas. The important thing is that you send off a
pair of letters in support of harm reduction and the recommendations of the