Last month, we worked with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and “moms united and mandated to saving the lives of Drug Users” (mumsDU) to send out a policy questionnaire to all the political parties to get their opinion on issues surrounding an ever-changing drug policy landscape. Our intention was to gauge the direction each party would take Canada if elected on October 19th.
Fortunately, with the notable exception of the Conservative Party which didn’t respond, the responses we received are very encouraging. All parties gave us answers that indicated a different approach to drug policy would be taken after the votes have been counted, but there are subtle differences between the parties on each of the issues. Below is a summary of answers the parties gave us.
Does your party support restoring harm reduction as a key pillar in Canada’s federal drug strategy, including support for supervised consumption services as one important component of an overall federal strategy on drugs — and as part of efforts to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C (HCV), associated with unsafe injection drug use?
All responding parties agreed that harm reduction needs to return as a key pillar in Canada’s national drug strategy, including support for safe-consumption services. The NDP mentioned that harm reduction was a “fundamental pillar in framing Canada’s drug policy”. The Liberal Party recognized the importance of harm reduction policies and would prioritize “evidence based policies”. Both the NDP and the Green Party voiced their opposition to Bill C-2, legislation that makes it difficult to open supervised-consumption sites, and promised to address the bill after the election.
Does your party support Good Samaritan legislation as one important component of a comprehensive approach to addressing the pandemic of death by drug overdose in Canada, and expediting access to naloxone by making it a non-prescription drug?
We found it encouraging that not only did the Liberal Party agree that Good Samaritan legislation should be enacted, but they correctly cited the United States as a leader in this regard. The Green Party answered both of our concerns in the questionnaire by supporting passing Good Samaritan legislation and easier access to naloxone. In fact, the Greens were the only party that explicitly mentioned that they would allow naloxone to be offered over the counter. Neither the Liberal Party nor NDP mentioned rescheduling naloxone, but instead both mentioned that they would be interested in working with experts and civil society groups such as the CDPC on creating better legislation and good policy on this issue if they were to form government.
Does your party support considering new approaches to regulating and controlling cannabis production, distribution and possession, as a way of minimizing the harms of the cannabis industry and cannabis use, promote public health, and respect the human rights of adults who use it?
Ever since Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau admitted to smoking cannabis after being elected to public office, which was followed by promising to legalize and regulate cannabis if elected, drug policy has become an active topic in electoral politics. The NDP mentioned that “no one should go to jail” over possession of small amounts of cannabis, a position they’ve held for over 40 years, since the release of the LeDain commission. The Greens have a position similar to that of the Liberals, full legalization, and mentioned that it’s time for Canada to have “an adult conversation on ending the war on drugs”.
Given the scientific evidence of the ineffectiveness of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offences, does your party support eliminating the use of such sentences and again allowing judges to employ discretionary practices for these offences?
Mandatory minimum sentencing is one of the signature pieces of legislation that the Conservative government has put out since winning their majority in 2011. Both the NDP and Green Party directly mention their opposition to the Conservatives’ Bill C-10, which puts in place mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offences. The Green Party states clearly that it would repeal Bill-10, while the NDP and Liberals say they would consider policies that reduce crime, prevent re-offending, support rehabilitation of offenders and victim’s rights. The Liberal Party does not outright say what their stances on mandatory minimums are for non-violent drug offences in the questionnaire. Instead, they state that mandatory minimums do not deter crime, but that they do have a place “when necessary to protect the public from specific threats.”
Does your party support Canada advocating at the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) for a comprehensive approach to drugs based on evidence, public health objectives, and human rights standards, including support for harm reduction programs?
Does your party support the creation of a mechanism within the United Nations that brings countries and civil society experts together to consider alternatives to drug prohibition as the main strategy for controlling drugs?
All political parties that responded agree that Canada needs to take a progressive role at next years United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS). The NDP simply answered “yes” to our questions, and the Green Party said that “Canada should be a leader at the 2016 UNGASS to promote progressive and science-based drug policies that accomplish pressing public health objectives”. The answer from the Liberal Party was clearly the most fleshed out, and well researched. They agreed that civil society groups need to play a strong role both nationally and internationally “in order to find real solutions that are based on evidence.”
Overall these responses are quite encouraging and indicate that if any of these parties were elected on October 19th, we would see a significant change in direction towards a public health approach to drugs in Canada.
Check out the full party responses here: