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Canada’s War On Drugs Poorly Waged:Study

By Hempology | January 18, 2007

Report Says Little Money Spent on ‘Harm-Reduction’

A new study published today says roughly three-quarters of federal spending to fight illegal drugs is going toward unproven and possibly counterproductive enforcement measures while an insignificant amount is being spent on potentially more effective “harm-reduction” measures.

The study was produced by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, an agency partly funded by the B.C. government, that is fighting a fierce battle with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government over the future of Canada’s only supervised injection site for addicts in downtown Vancouver.

“While the stated goal of Canada’s drug strategy is to reduce harm, evidence obtained through this analysis indicates that the overwhelming emphasis continues to be on conventional enforcement-based approaches which are costly and often exacerbate, rather than reduce, harms,” states the report in HIV/AIDS Policy and Law Review, a publication funded partly by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the American Bar Association.

Meanwhile, federal funding to deal with health issues such as rampant HIV infection rates among addicts is “insignificant,” the study notes.

“This stands in stark contrast to recent comments made by various stakeholders suggesting that there has been an over-investment in harm-reduction programming.”

The comment was in reference to a statement by the Canadian Police Association on the same day, Sept. 1, 2006, that federal Health Minister Tony Clement questioned research suggesting Vancouver’s supervised injection site for drug addicts is effective.

Clement issued a news release raising doubts about Vancouver’s supervised injection site, called Insite, while announcing he would extend the facility’s licence only until the end of 2007 pending further review. Health Canada bureaucrats had supported a 31/2-year extension.

The police association, meeting the same day in Victoria, publicly condemned so-called harm reduction measures. The national organization for rank-and-file Canadian police officers has emerged as a strong supporter of the Harper government’s tough approach to crime.

The B.C. Centre’s new study, analyzing publicly available documents, said 73 per cent, or $271 million, of the $368 million spent by Ottawa in 2004-05 went toward enforcement measures such as border control, RCMP investigations and federal prosecution expenses.

Of the remaining $97 million, $51 million went to treatment, $26 million was spent on “co-ordination and research,” $10 million went to prevention programs, and $10 million was devoted to harm reduction.

“The proposed Americanization of the drug strategy, towards entrenching a heavy-handed approach that relies on law enforcement, will be a disaster,” says report co-author Dr. Thomas Kerr in a statement. “It is as if ( Ottawa ) is willing to ignore a mountain of science to pursue an ideological agenda.”

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