Pubdate: Thu, 06 Jul 2017
Source: Sudbury Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Osprey Media
Author: Kristy Kirkup
Page: A6


OTTAWA - Opposition parties and legal experts are urging the Liberal
government to be clear on how it plans to handle the legalization of
cannabis while Canada remains party to three UN treaties that control
and criminalize drug access, noting failure to provide clarity soon
could cause confusion on the world stage.

Canada needed to give notice on July 1 if it intended to withdraw from
the treaties and stick to its plan to legalize marijuana by this time
next year, said Steven Hoffman, a York University professor who
specializes in global health law. It didn't, and Hoffman said he is
concerned about the message this sends.

"The lack of clarity around how the federal government is going to
address its international legal obligations under the UN drug control
treaties is concerning given it sends the message to countries around
the world ... that our international law obligations are not at the
forefront of our minds," Hoffman said.

"Canada is one of the world's leading countries, a member of the G7, a
country that everyone looks up to ... what we do and the consequences
of us violating international law are very different than the
consequences of other countries ... it is a big deal if Canada breaks
international law."

Canada is currently one of more than 185 parties to three United
Nations drug-control conventions - the 1961 Single Convention on
Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the
1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and
Psychotropic Substances.

Documents obtained early last year by The Canadian Press detailed how
all three treaties require the criminalization of possession and
production of cannabis, noting Canada must explore how to inform the
international community of its plans to legalize marijuana and review
steps to adjust obligations under these conventions.

The federal government is examining a range of issues related to the
legalization of cannabis, including international commitments, said a
spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

"We are committed to working with our global partners to best promote
public health and combat illicit drug trafficking," Adam Austen said
in a statement.

But NDP health critic Don Davies said Freeland is failing to
acknowledge the government will no longer be in compliance with the
treaties once cannabis gets the legal green light.

"I think it is the norm in our country to respect those agreements and
to make sure we are in compliance so the only responsible course of
action would have been to notify the UN of our intention to withdraw
from those treaties," he said.

Canadians expect a clearer, more responsible approach from Ottawa on
the legalization of marijuana, he added. Conservative foreign affairs
critic Peter Kent said these decisions should have been made public
weeks ago.

"We encourage our international partners - democracies and
non-democracies - to respect treaties to the letter," Kent said in an
interview. "If Canada, for whatever reason, finds itself in violation,
that is a sad day."
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