WINNIPEG, TORONTO AND SURREY - NDP Spokesperson for Drug Policy Libby Davies (Vancouver East), NDP Health Critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North) and Public Safety Critic Penny Priddy (Surrey North) criticized the Conservatives for taking the wrong direction on their anti-drug strategy today.
"We need to combat the very real problem of youth gangs, violence and crack houses in our communities," said Wasylycia-Leis. "But everyday Canadians know that simply criminalizing a public health problem is not the solution. We don't need more advertising - we need to invest in harm reduction, education, treatment, and enforcement."
"A heavy handed US style war-on-drugs only serves to create a culture of fear," said Davies. "This so called drug strategy fails to address the very real needs in our communities. Experts and average Canadians alike agree that we need to invest in real, long-term solutions to drug use and the problems that result from serious substance abuse."
The New Democrat MPs pointed out that the Conservative government has consistently failed to address the root problems of drug use in Canada or to invest sufficiently in real enforcement solutions.
"The Conservatives are not investing enough money where it's needed to combat the very real problems of crime and public safety in our communities," said Priddy. "Investing in adequate police resources allows the police more time both for enforcement work as well as for school and community outreach initiatives."
The Conservatives showed their focus was on greater enforcement over treatment and prevention in its 2007 budget, when it removed harm reduction as a pillar of Canada's Drug Strategy. Health Minister Tony Clement has also refused to commit to the requested three year extension to InSite, Vancouver's safe injection site, despite the scientific findings that the program has reduced the transmission of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, and increased by 30% the number of people accessing treatment.
"Empirical evidence has proven that treatment, prevention and harm reduction programs, that are community based and accessible to drug users, are key components in preventing drug use," said Davies. "The government must acknowledge that these programs continue to produce positive social and economic results for working families in our communities."