Pubdate: Fri, 12 Aug 2005
Source: Maple Ridge Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc
Author: Matthew Claxton
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


A tougher stance on crystal meth by the federal government is being 
welcomed by local politicians and those who work on the front lines against 
the drug.

Ottawa announced several changes to policy on crystal methamphetamine 
Thursday, increasing maximum sentences for production from 10 years to life 
behind bars.

Major producers will be targeted by the feds, said Attorney General Irwin 

"The most serious cases will be dealt with by a team of designated federal 
prosecutors, who will have specially developed tools to assist them in 
conveying to the courts the full impact of the production and distribution 
of this harmful substance," Cottler said.

The chemicals used to make crystal meth in underground labs will also be 
subject to more scrutiny and regulation.

The four major precursor chemicals will now fall under federal regulation. 
Possessing any of them, with the intent to make meth, can now result in 
prison time of up to three years and fines of up to $5,000.

The MP for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission welcomed the changes, which he 
credited to pressure from community groups, the province and Conservative MPs.

"We have been demanding action from this government to combat crystal meth 
and we're glad that they are finally starting to take the matter 
seriously," Randy Kamp said.

Kamp is currently backing a bill to create a national crystal meth strategy 
to head off addiction and organized crime countrywide.

The Salvation Army's Capt. Kathie Chiu said local dealers of the drug were 
so brazen they drove right onto the parking lot of the Caring Place shelter 
to look for customers.

Until a few weeks ago, dealers would pull up in trucks in front of shelter 
residents who were outside smoking cigarettes.

The shelter had to stop people from hanging around outside to discourage 
the dealers.

"Those people, let me tell you, they prey on innocent people who have 
multiple barriers in their lives," Chiu said.

Every winter at least three or four people don't make it out of their 
addiction in Maple Ridge, either dying or disappearing.

Maple Ridge has been at the centre of a storm of crystal meth, and is one 
of the first communities in Canada to launch a major program to combat the 

Spearheaded by the Rotary Club and involving the district government, 
charities, police and ordinary citizens, the program has gained national 
recognition. It is also credited with helping to reduce the number of 
homeless, many of them drug addicts, in Maple Ridge.

The education programs launched against meth use are helpful, but need 
legal back up, Chiu said.

"Education is definitely important, but it must go hand in hand with 
stiffer penalties."

She talked about one client of the centre, a man she called "Joe."

Born with fetal alcohol syndrome and learning disabilities, he was raised 
in a violent family and drifted into methamphetamine abuse.

Now he is constantly in trouble with the law and can't get himself off the 
drug. The last time he came to the Caring Place, he assaulted a staff 
member and is now banned from the premises.

He needs the kind of expensive therapy that is only available in a federal 
prison, but he has never committed a crime serious enough to land him a 
sentence of two years or more, and therefore in federal custody.

"Isn't it sad that that kind of help is only available if you're already in 
prison?" Chiu said.

Maple Ridge is still known as a place where it is easy to get crystal meth, 
among people all over the Lower Mainland, said Chiu.
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