Pubdate: Fri, 03 Oct 2008
Source: Business Edge (Canada)
Copyright: 2005 Business Edge


(CP) Fast-living executives and middle-class people who get high at 
parties are partly to blame for driving the drug trade and increasing 
gang activity, says Alberta's solicitor general.

Fred Lindsay said he's been told by police that the province's 
booming economy has fuelled an appetite for illegal drugs among 
executives in Alberta's office towers.

Well-off Albertans who use illegal drugs are just as guilty of 
contributing to the problem as the street gangs who sell them, he said.

"We know that there's people in the upper-middle-class and 
middle-class jobs who are using these drugs," Lindsay said in an interview.

"But they don't relate to the fact that by the use of their drugs - 
whether it's crack, cocaine or even marijuana - it contributes to the 
gang and the organized crime activity that we see on the streets."

The solicitor general was responding to recent pressure from police 
chiefs in Edmonton and Calgary for more government money to recruit 
as many as 800 new police officers.

But hiring more police alone won't break the crime cycle, he said. 
What's also needed is for Albertans to stop buying drugs to feed 
their addictions.

"Looking at the amount of illegal drugs that are being used in our 
province, it's not all used by the people down on the street level."

Lindsay said new legislation is now allowing police to target 
drug-impaired drivers and his message to all Albertans is that users 
will be charged.

The solicitor general's remarks appeared to take business leaders by 
surprise. Both the Calgary and the Edmonton chambers of commerce 
refused to discuss Lindsay's remarks.

Ken Kobly, president of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, said he's 
known Lindsay for 20 years and was surprised by his remarks.

"I think the comments are unfortunate and I don't think they're 
particularly well-founded," Kobly said in an interview. "I don't 
think any social status or any income level is immune when it comes 
to drug abuse. Certainly those types of comments are not all that 
productive in tackling the issue of drug abuse in the province."

Alberta's drug abuse agency made no official comment on Lindsay's remarks.

But Korey Cherneski, a spokesman for the Alberta Alcohol and Drug 
Abuse Commission, did offer some statistics from a 2004 survey by 
several health agencies.

Of 2,400 Albertans surveyed, Cherneski said, 4.2 per cent who 
reported a high income also reported using one or more illicit drugs 
other than cannabis. Just under five per cent who reported a low 
income used one or more illicit drugs.

Mike Boyd, president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, 
doesn't dispute Lindsay's comments, but he also supports the idea 
that drug use cuts across all income levels.

"He's not wrong. Some of these people at the higher income levels are 
part of the demand for drugs," he said in an interview. "But everyone 
purchasing drugs, regardless of their social status, is contributing 
to the organized crime and street gang problem in the country."

Boyd, who is police chief in Edmonton, is also the former chairman of 
the drug abuse committee formed by the Canadian Association of Chiefs 
of Police. In 2001, he testified on behalf of Canadian police chiefs 
on the harm drugs pose to society.

He says Alberta's two largest cities need more police because 
violence between drug-dealing street gangs sometimes ends in murder, 
while impoverished addicts are robbing people, stealing cars and 
breaking into homes and business to support their drug habits.
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