Saturday, October 31, 2020
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In a disappointing move, the Canadian House of Commons passed "the controversial C-15 mandatory minimum sentencing drug offense bill" in early June of 2009, according to the Drug War Chronicle's June 12 feature article ("In Bold Step Backward, Canadian House of Commons Passes Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentencing Bill"). The Chronicle reports that, "Bowing to the wishes of [...] Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Party Members of Parliament (MPs) joined Monday with Harper's Conservatives" to approve the measure after an unsuccessful filibuster attempt by opposing NDP and Bloc MPs. If enacted, the bill would impose mandatory minimum sentences on certain drug crimes - including those of the nonviolent variety - in a misguided attempt to target "serious drug traffickers, the people who are basically out to destroy our society," as Justice Minister Rob Nicholson explained.
Opponents of the measure, however, dispute Nicholson's claim. As the Chronicle writes, "MP Libby Davis (NDP-Vancouver East) told Vancouver's Cannabis Culture magazine [that] 'The evidence shows very, very strongly [...] that mandatory minimum sentencing is not an effective policy when it comes to drug crime.'" According to "Vancouver marijuana activist and Cannabis Culture publisher Marc Emery, [...] 'Mid and upper-level traffickers will get no particular increase in punishment, because a major dealer would already get six months or a year for any kind of trafficking.'" He asserted that the measure would instead affect "people who wouldn't normally go to jail" and that young people would comprise the vast majority of those new prisoners.
Although, according to the Chronicle, the Canadian Senate - where the bill next stops - "typically -- but not always -- defers to the House" in legislative affairs, opponents of the measure hope but do not necessarily expect that the Senate will "act to block the passage of C-15" or at least "kill the bill by refusing to act on it before new elections are called." If the Senate does not exercise the above mentioned options, however, Canada will take a rare step backward by enacting draconian, harmful, and ineffective mandatory minimum drug policies just as other nations - including the United States - are beginning to realize the negative consequences such measures carry.