Pubdate: Fri, 05 Oct 2007
Source: Winnipeg Sun (CN MB)
Copyright: 2007 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Tom Brodbeck
Bookmark: (Opinion)


The best part about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's announcement in
Winnipeg yesterday to crack down on drug peddling and drug abuse was
that it didn't include free crack pipes or "safe" injection sites for

Harper will take some heat from do-gooders who believe giving drug
addicts tacit approval to take drugs is a good thing.

He will be criticized for not having a so-called harm reduction
strategy that funds programs like free crack pipe kits for addicts --
like we have in Winnipeg -- and government-sanctioned injection sites,
like they have in Vancouver.

Those complaints will get good play in the news media because -- as
Harper pointed out yesterday -- harm reduction is very popular within
the media.

But as he also pointed out, there's a wide range of opinion among
experts on the idea that you can help users kick the habit by
encouraging drug use.

Many experts disagree with it.

Which is exactly why the City of Ottawa scrapped its free crack pipe
program three months ago after finding it wasn't working.

City council there voted in July to quash their harm reduction program
because they felt it was doing more harm than good.

The objective of free crack pipe kits -- paid for by taxpayers -- is
to connect with addicts and offer them treatment and to reduce the
spread of communicable diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C.

But a University of Ottawa study released last year showed there was
no evidence that giving out free crack pipes was reducing the spread
of disease or convincing users to seek treatment.

Unfortunately, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority -- which has
been giving out crack pipe kits since 2004 -- hasn't come to the same

"I remain a skeptic," Harper said yesterday when asked why his drug
strategy doesn't include "harm reduction."

He said it's difficult to accept that by keeping users addicted to
drugs that government is somehow reducing harm.

"I'm troubled by that," said Harper.

Who wouldn't be?

Instead, the federal government will inject new funding into real
treatment for people who want to help themselves, which is largely a
provincial responsibility anyway.

Ottawa is already sending record transfer payments to provinces --
especially have-not provinces like Manitoba -- and those funds can be
used for drug treatment programs.

What is a federal responsibility is determining the criminal sanctions
drug peddlers face when they sell drugs and shamelessly capitalize on
people's addictions.

Harper announced there will be legislation tabled in the fall to bring
in mandatory minimum sentences for serious drug crimes, something
that's long overdue if Canada wants to get serious with its growing
organized crime problem.

What people sometimes forget is that Canada's drug problem is really
an organized crime problem.

It's organized crime that imports and produces illegal drugs, and it's
organized crime that rakes in billions of dollars a year from selling

If law enforcement has better tools -- like minimum sentences -- to
crack down on those crime rings, it will go a long way towards
reducing drug use in our society.

Giving out free crack pipes only makes the problem worse.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake