Pubdate: Thu, 01 Mar 2007
Source: Coast, The (CN NS)
Copyright: 2007 Coast Publishing
Author: Bruce Wark
Bookmark: (Walters, John)


One of the most dangerous men in America zipped across the Canadian 
border last week to deliver a speech in Ottawa. John Walters, chief 
propagandist for the disastrous US war on drugs, praised Stephen 
Harper's plan to put more drug offenders in jail. He also lauded 
George Bush for pushing random drug testing in American schools. As 
Walters spoke, US police continued to round up drug users.

In the land of the free, someone is arrested on drug charges every 20 seconds.

No wonder two million Americans are in jail, the highest rate of 
imprisonment in the world. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 
60 percent of American inmates are black or Latino, an astonishing 
figure because these groups make up only a quarter of the US 
population. Black men are arrested at a rate seven times higher than 
American white men thanks largely to the war on drugs. "The human 
costs--wasted lives, wrecked families, troubled children--are 
incalculable," Human Rights Watch says.

Unfortunately, Canada continues to wage its own drug war, pissing 
away about $2.5 billion every year arresting, prosecuting and jailing 
drug offenders. And all the while, drug use continues to climb.

In 1994, 28.5 percent of Canadians reported having consumed illegal drugs.

A decade later, that figure had jumped to 45 percent. Those stats are 
contained in a report published in January by medical researchers at 
the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. It criticizes Canadian 
authorities for relying so heavily on law enforcement to stop drug 
use. It also points out that numerous studies have shown the RCMP 
schools program called DARE (drug abuse resistance education) is 
useless in persuading young people to say no to drugs.

The RCMP website boasts that DARE is now offered to grade five and 
six students in more than 50 Nova Scotia schools. "The only 
statistically relevant trends show that those who receive the DARE 
program tend to be more likely to use drugs," says Dr. Evan Wood, one 
of the report's authors. "That's an obvious example of the federal 
government taking taxpayers' money and flushing it down the toilet."

The report says that instead of punishing users, Canada should be 
financing programs that reduce harm such as clean needle exchanges 
and supervised injection sites like the one in Vancouver. Dr. Wood 
says studies published in leading medical journals show the Vancouver 
site provides real benefits including reducing the risk of HIV 
infections. "Unfortunately, the federal government, in particular 
Stephen Harper, has chosen to ignore that research and play politics 
in favour of a law and order agenda," he says. "That will be 
disastrous for Canadians given what has been seen in the US when you 
try to apply minimum mandatory sentences and other blunt tools 
against drug use."

The BC report points to numerous studies which show that trying to 
cut off the supply of drugs by seizing shipments and arresting 
dealers has been "consistently ineffective." It's a point that's 
underlined in a powerful film to be broadcast nationally this 
Saturday at 7pm on Global TV. Damage Done: The Drug War Odyssey was 
written and directed by Halifax filmmaker Connie Littlefield. It 
tells the stories of Canadian and American police officers who've 
concluded that the war on drugs does far more harm than good. For one 
thing, it gives violent criminals a monopoly on the distribution and 
sale of illicit substances. The officers (some still working, others 
retired) are members of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. 
LEAP maintains that the war on drugs has hurt the reputation of 
police forces everywhere. Yet, police and politicians can't get off 
the drug-war treadmill.
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