Time to rethink Canada’s Drug Strategy – Libby’s letter to the Minister of Justice

The Honourable Rob Nicholson
Minister of Justice
House of Commons

Dear Minister Nicholson,

I write to draw your attention to the recent study from the Urban Health Research Initiative (UHRI): Effect of Drug Law Enforcement on Drug-Related Violence: Evidence from a Scientific Reviewa comprehensive study of existing English scientific evaluations on the impact of drug law enforcement on related violence.

The study concludes that “law enforcement efforts are unlikely to reduce drug market violence,” including violence attributable to gangs. What is most disturbing is that the scientific review found that 87% of the studies show a link between drug law enforcement and increased levels of drug market violence. This is of particular concern in my riding of Vancouver East and in Vancouver in general where there has been a disturbing rise in drug related gun violence.

In May, 2009, expert witnesses appearing before the Justice Committee on Bill C-15, your governments’ bill for mandatory minimums sentences for drug crimes, produced study upon study outlining the ineffectiveness of harsher sentencing on reducing drug crimes. The findings of the UHRI demonstrate further that Canada’s overemphasis on drug law enforcement will not reduce drug supply or drug related violence.

It is time to rethink Canada’s drug strategy. We have a new opportunity, as legislators, to use this concrete evidence to implement more effective drug laws and policies to make our communities safer and healthier.

I would like to ask first, if your government accepts the findings of the UHRI study, and if not, why?

Second, in light of the study’s conclusions that “law enforcement has failed to achieve its stated objectives,” I ask that your government abandon Bill C-15, reinstate harm reduction into Canada’s drug policy, commit to proven interventions like InSite and increase resources to drug use treatment and prevention.

Libby Davies, MP Vancouver East
NDP Spokesperson for Drug Policy