Canada’s Conservatives Try Again with Mandatory Minimum Drug Bill

Canada’s Conservative minority government hopes the third time is the charm for its controversial measure to increase sentences for marijuana cultivation and introduce mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses.

Now known as S-10, the measure will be taken up by the Senate when it returns from recess at end of next month.

The bill is designed to “send a message” that “if you sell or produce drugs, you’ll pay with jail time,” Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said when re-filing the bill in May.

Under the bill, anyone growing six or more plants for the purpose of drug trafficking could face a mandatory minimum six month jail sentence, with a one-year mandatory minimum for up to 200 plants and two years for up to 500 plants. Hash makers also face a one-year mandatory minimum.

The mandatory minimum sentences could be increased by half if any of a number of aggravating factors are claimed. These include whether a weapon was found on the premises, if minors were involved, if the location was unsafe, and whether pot production posed a danger to the public in a residential area.

The Conservatives’ bill comes even as crime rates in Canada have fallen to a 30-year low and with majorities supporting marijuana legalization in recent polls.

“This is a terrible bill,” said Jacob Hunter of Why Prohibition?, a web site set up by opponents of the bill to encourage online activism and social networking to defeat it. “I think the single worst provision is the 18-month mandatory minimum for making one pot brownie if the police can show you shared it with friends.”

“The Conservatives have less than a third of the popular vote, and they think they have a mandate for these draconian measures,” said Eugene Oscapella, an Ottawa law professor and head of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy.

Last year’s version of the bill, known as C-15, made it through the House of Commons with the support of the Liberals, but was softened slightly by Liberals in the Senate. But before the amended measure could pass, Prime Minister Harper ended the parliamentary session, killing the bill for the year.

In power since the 2006 elections, the Conservatives have been unable to win enough seats to form a majority government. Right now, the Conservatives hold 143 seats of the 307 in the House of Commons, with the Liberals holding 103, the Bloc Quebecois 51, and the New Democrats (NDP) 51.

That means the Conservatives are once again going to have to win over members of other parties to pass S-10. With the NDP and the Bloc both in solid opposition, the Conservatives will have to pick up support from the Liberals, but whether they will be able to do so remains to be seen. Last time, Liberal support got the bill over the top in the House, but this year, the Liberals are preparing for a possible called election in the fall or winter and may have had an infusion of spine-stiffener on the issue.

“The Liberals are running around like the cowardly lion,” said Oscapella, who expressed dismay at their lack of principle. “There is no sign yet that they are doing anything other than kowtowing to the government on this issue.”

“Last time the Liberals did support C-15 in the House, but modified and delayed it in the Senate,” said Hunter, who was slightly more positive about the Liberals. “They were terrified of being soft on crime. This time, I’m hearing the Liberals won’t be so easily cowed. They feel they can counter the soft on crime attack by attacking the Conservatives on cost. It will be a purely political decision for the Liberals.”

Noting that the parliamentary budget office has set the price-tag of S-10 at $10 billion, Hunter said the high cost would be a wedge to use against the bill. “This has emboldened the opposition to attack the Conservative’s law and order crime agenda as too costly,” he said. “Plus, crime is a historic low, and these mandatory minimum policies have been tried in the US to poor effect.”

In the Senate, Conservatives do have an outright majority of 54 of 105 Senate seats — if the two Progressive Conservative senators are counted. The Liberals have 49 seats, and there are two independents. Conservative strength in the Senate may explain why the Harper government decided to place S-10 in the Senate instead of the House of Commons.

Opponents of S-10 are gathering their forces. They will have months or perhaps even a year to mobilize opposition as the bill moves through the parliamentary process.

“There is a lot of opposition to this bill in the media, which is coming out strongly against mandatory minimums and in favor of ending the war on drugs,” noted Oscapella. “Yet the government wants to plow ahead. Faced with strong opposition, the more adamant they are that they will succeed,” he said.

“This is all the more depressing because for years, the excuse was that the US would never let us do drug reform,” the Ottawa attorney continued. “Now the rhetoric and the attitude in the US is changing, and this would be a time for us to move forward, but we’re set to move backward. It’s like George Bush came to Canada.”

NDP MP Libby Davies, the party’s drug policy critic, has been a stalwart in the fight against earlier incarnations of the bill and is likely to do so again. While, the East Vancouver MP was out of the office this week, Davies spoke out against the new bill back in May when it was introduced.

“I have been working at every turn to stop this failed, George Bush style war-on-drugs Bill that proposes mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes,” Davies said. “My NDP colleagues and I voted a resounding no when this bill was introduced in the House as Bill C-15, but it was passed with the support of the Liberal Party. Now we have a second chance to stop this wrong-headed and costly legislation. The Conservatives’ iron fisted approach that criminalizes drug users is taking Canada in the wrong direction.”

Why Prohibition? and other activist groups are preparing protests across Canada on October 2, as well as bombarding parliament and the government with messages opposing S-10. And that will be just the beginning of the campaign.

It looks like the Liberals hold the key to whether S-10 passes or fails. In the months ahead, expect the pressure on them to increase dramatically. And let’s hope for the Conservatives that instead of third time is the charm, it’s three strikes and you’re out.

– Article from Stop the Drug War.



  1. D on

    I can’t stand Harper and am not a monarchist, but can you go any farther overboard in your rhetoric.

    1) Elizabeth is the Queen of Canada and about 20 other commonwealth countries and the choice of Governor General has been on a Canadian recommendation for almost a century. While it is a backward system, you can’t really blame the Queen, or Jean for being part of a 150 year old system of governance here. He was chosen by Canadians, who returned him the most seats.

    A prime minister stays in office until they lose a confidence vote in the house, then they either have to step down or go to an election. (typically the later after 6 months) The PM can’t shove anything through until he gets his majority without one of the other parties enabling him. Therein lies the problem, the opposition has been taking turns being his stooges.

    Yes, the system sucks. But don’t blame the ornaments at the top.

  2. Anonymous on

    Right ON! The 2 face piece of sh*t comes out as Steve Harper – regular guy – head of the coalition for fair government less tax and an elected senate. But really he’s Stephane Harptler, Canada’s Fuhrereen. GET RID OF THIS CREEP-OUT!

  3. Anonymous on

    Since Canada’s army has joined the war, and theres always fights at rallys.

    So many cops at protest, you would think cops are trying to hide the truth.

    If canadian soliders are attacking people, on the street for anything the cops see they are also attacking. And being racist.

    Then only a idiot would believe canada would legalise pot for a good cause.

    When right now their only doing it for the money.

    Even after ressession. We should accept failure. The government does that with people in society everyday. We accept our children are growing up-failures.

    Change your rally signs to We Been Doing It Since The Earth Started Detroying Itself. “We should of learned that from people and hard drugs”

  4. serge on

    you said it legalize and ill vote conservative lol

  5. Dave on

    Terrorism is a military tactic not a person! When we do it it’s called gorilla warfare; when our allies do it, we call it freedom fighting. Why are they teaching this in our civilian universities?

  6. Anonymous on

    Yeah!The Hitler of modern times.Hunting pot growers and pot smokers
    while the real terrorists are quietly studying medicine in our canadian universities

  7. Dave on

    Scary stuff… very similar to the nazi salute!

  8. Anonymous on

    I guess Canada needs a war of independence. I’m tired of being ruled by the Queen’s appointees, aren’t you? Let’s start the Canadian Republican Party so we can live in a real Republic instead of a colony. It would be easy to win an election. All we have to do is explain how stupid the current situation and then give Canadians a way out. That we will declare true independence from Britain and if they complain we’ll bomb the f*ck out of their tea drinking asses. We’ll have a President instead of whatever the Hell we have now, and a real Constitution. The President will be elected by the people and will actually have a limited term and he won’t be able to appoint anybody to anything. All such positions will be chosen by a council, based on their actual qualifications. I know it’s a crazy notion, but let’s give it a try. I’ll be the leader, because I’m apparently the only person in the country with any brains.

  9. Anonymous on

    Look at this, from

    “The Canadian prime minister serves At Her Majesty’s pleasure, meaning the post does not have a fixed term; once appointed and sworn in by the governor general, the prime minister remains in office until he or she resigns, is dismissed, or dies.”

    We could be stuck with that dickhead until he dies. Who appointed him? That c*nt Michaëlle Jean. How the hell did she become Governor General anyway?

    “Jean was a refugee[1] from Haiti — coming to Canada in 1968 — and was raised in the town of Thetford Mines, Quebec. After receiving a number of university degrees, Jean worked as a journalist and broadcaster for Radio-Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), as well as undertaking charity work, mostly in the field of assisting victims of domestic violence. In 2005, she was appointed as governor general by Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Paul Martin, to replace Adrienne Clarkson as vicereine.”

    So that c*nt Queen Elizabeth, the monarch of another country that we purposely separated from, appointed the person who appointed Harper. In other words, the Queen chose our Prime Minister for us, using a CBC journalist and broadcaster as the middleman, a person with no qualification to be in government whatsoever, much less choose who to give sweeping dictatorial powers to over the entire country. So the Queen of England, not known for being a political genius or being qualified to do anything other than wave her hand, was able under Canada’s ridiculous excuse for a political system to appoint a Haitian refugee who can barely speak English to choose the leader of the goddamn country that wanted independence from Britain. Apparently, Canada is still “the colonies” of Britain and to teach us a lesson for wanting to separate their Queen did this to us. Harper wasn’t chosen by one real Canadian citizen. He was chosen by a brainless twit of a Brit and a brainless twit of a Haitian and now he can keep shoving stupid bills through his private Senate until the f*cker dies, because no other party will ever be elected than the Conservatives, apparently, and Harper is “President for life”, much like in a third world dictatorship. Oh dear god in heaven. It’s worse than anyone could even have imagined.

  10. Anonymous on

    Making hash, no matter how little, gets the same sentence as growing 200 plants? What’s the logic of that? Considering that hash has the exact same effect as bud but with less toxins in the smoke, why is making it a special category of Cannabis crime? Those minimums are still a joke anyway and will deter nobody. They will cost Canadians a shitload of money though. Nice move, Conservative clowns. We aren’t paying enough taxes right now. We need to pay more to support dickface’s folly. On one hand they intend to scrap the long gun registry, something that could actually save somebody’s life sometime, to save a few dollars, while on the other hand shoving this shit bill through his stacked Senate so he can cost them 10 times more than was saved on the registry. This is what it’s like to live in a country with absolutely no competent politicians at all. It’s one stupid costly move after another, with no benefit at all coming from it. Sadly, the average Canadian is even stupider than the politicians. They keep electing these putzes over and over again.

    Take a look at this shit . Right now the Conservatives are 5 points ahead of the Libs, who are 11 points ahead of the NDP and the rest are also rans without a hope in hell. We’ll never get rid of the Conservatives, because everybody else who has any real chance is even worse. Iggy is even more of a pompous brainless jackass than Harper, and that’s saying something. Layton is just a backstabbing turncoat with nothing whatsoever to contribute to the country and the NDPs have already screwed up Nova Scotia. Who would give them a chance to screw up the whole country, more than it already is I mean? We’re all doomed. No wonder all the terrorists of the world take advantage of us. We literally have no competent leaders in the whole damn country because anyone with any brains and enough money have already fled shitland and moved to Sweden or somewhere because this country is hopelessly screwed up.

  11. Anonymous on

    I’m 60. I have never voted Liberal or NDP, but I will vote for whoever promises the most lenient pot laws. I won’t vote Conservative this time; Harper has become “Nazi like”. I could never take pot as a serious enough issue before; considering the economy, health care etc., to base my vote on. But this is beyond pot; these proposed laws are draconian and out of all proportion to the “offence”. It will be legalized before too long (who guessed the Berlin Wall would fall when it did?), and we will feel pretty stupid looking back; wondering what all the fuss was about!
    Big pharmacy and the liquor folks have a vested interest in the status quo.

  12. Troy Campbell on

    All I can say about harper is to look back at his you tube answer session where he totally avoided the fact that it appears there is a majority of people infavour of legalization he instead talks about his own kids and then plows on with an inference that if cannabis was made legal then the people who would be running the new businesses would be bad people cant remember what he said exactly but I guess he didnt take into account that if you legalize pot then also anyperson who has a cannabis charge on his record should have it expunged which by my own personal opinion if you remove any charge to do with cannabis from most growers records you are left with mostly a lot of nothing I wont say there arent some growers and others in the business who use violence and weapons to protect themselves but there is in my opinion a much larger majority of growers with incredible skills who under a legal system would probably have nothing worse then parking tickets and would be running grow’s which would be comparable to those small fine winery’s or micro breweries that have popped up in the liquour industry and make the finest drink . So I think Mr harper I think should go back and run the numbers on if these so called unsavory types would have any criminal record if pot was never made illegal in the first place ,especially considering one of the main reasons it originally was made illegal was due to the fact that there were claims that degenerate races as they were called back in the 30’s were accused of believing they were the equal of the white man . So we all know the laws against marijuana are based in racisim and fear, and if people say well when it was made illegal the second time after the WW2 it was because the communists would use it to undermine our country as it makes people pacifists, so once again pedjudice but this time because of religous belief’s that communisim was bad and in my opinion it is just different and if the religion of communism is taken at face value with no exploitation it isnt a bad one as it is simply the belief that all for one one for all and whats mine is yours, well thats how I see communism being meant to be. So basically in an age when our world is covered in weapons of mass destruction and we could wipe ourselves out 100 times over I think its time to introduce the concept of pacifism I think and lets start passing joints because sooner or later Harper will be gone and with the way people are making an about face on there opinions on pot these days I dont think it will be long before it is made legal anyways and if the conservatives arent the ones it will be a long time before they are ever in power again.

  13. Anonymous on

    An election may be coming up soon, eh?

    Any chance you’ll be able to rid your fine country of that insufferable knob?

  14. Anonymous on

    He sure looks like hitler in that pic.

  15. Anonymous on

    If Harper legalized weed today, he would have a majority government in the next election.

    Maybe, baby