Pubdate: Sun, 12 Aug 2007
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The London Free Press
Author: Alan Findlay, Sun Media
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Insufficient Funding And Concerns About The Harper Government's 
Commitment Top The List Of Issues.

OTTAWA -- Canada's war on drugs is facing a number of challenges, 
including insufficient funding and concerns about a Conservative 
government's commitment to some aspects of the national program, a 
government-commissioned evaluation reports.

The review of Canada's Drug Strategy highlights a number of "risks" 
since the program was renewed in 2003, beginning with an inability to 
hire, train and maintain sufficient staff amidst a proliferation of 
clandestine labs and grow-ops and other pressures.

According to the report, completed last October but only recently 
made public, the challenges led to at least one formal department 
request for more money.

"The Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada 
(PSEPC) has drafted a memorandum to cabinet to increase funds to 
address capacity gaps around the growing problem of synthetic drugs," 
the evaluation states.

Under the lead of Health Canada, the drug strategy involves eight 
federal departments and agencies and a number of partners from other 
levels of government, law enforcement agencies, private sector 
organizations and international agencies including the UN Office on 
Drugs and Crime.

It now receives about $400 million a year in funding, which includes 
a five-year, $250-million boost made during the program's renewal 
four years ago.

The evaluation's findings were based on a review of files, interviews 
with various departments' officials, a web-based survey of 
stakeholders and a telephone survey of funding recipients.

The evaluation, conducted by Ekos Research Associates, does, however, 
find the drug strategy to be appropriately organized and able to 
effectively monitor program performance.

But along with a variety of financial pressures being highlighted, 
concerns were expressed that last year's change in government may 
lead to criticisms of the strategy's current approach.

"Conservative governments are sometimes associated with a preference 
for enforcement-based measures rather than, for example, treatment 
and harm reduction," the evaluation states.

"There had been proposed reforms to cannabis legislation 
(decriminalization), but these have since fallen by the wayside since 
the new government took over."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom