Keith Martin. Dr. Keith Martin. Liberal MP. He defends liberalized marijuana laws. Something the Harpocrites refuse to accept in their new Republican style law and order bill.
He says, correctly, that addiction is not a crime but a medical condition. He was debating the Tories new crime bill C-9 which is now in Second Reading.
And his comments are particularly important in light of the recent announcements by Crime Lord errr In-Justice Minister Vic Toews and the Harpocrite, that they are less than enamoured of Vancouvers safe injection program for drug addicts.Instead they declare war on drugs, like the Republicans. Martin was the voice of reason over this issue.
Mind you he sort of went a bit wonky over unions, somehow believing that unions would oppose back to work programs for addicts. Nothing could be further from the truth.
But the rest of his speech hits the nail on the head. His point that the majority of those currently incarcerated suffer Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and are aboriginal, shows that this is a medical problem rather than a problem of crime. Addiction and FAS are not matters of criminal law, rather the crimes committed are the result of medical conditions. This is classical Benthamite Utilitarianism. Classic liberalism, in the best sense of the term.
Hon. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to a question I asked the parliamentary secretary earlier. It dealt with the issue of the simple possession of soft drugs. Will his party support decriminalization of the simple possession of marijuana given the fact that the application of this law across the country is extremely varied? It is inhumane when individuals who are 18 or 19 years old are picked up, prosecuted and receive a criminal record that will affect them for their entire lives. This has even been stated by such varied groups as various police groups and the Canadian Medical Association.
There are other things that we have to do. I want to delve into a subject that is a big problem, and that is the issue of substance abuse in our communities. The Prime Minister has made it very clear that he looks at substance abuse as an issue of personal morality. He has lamented that society does not sanction people with substance abuse issues in a negative way.
People who have substance abuse problems have a medical problem, not a judicial problem and they have to be dealt with in that way. If we throw the book at people who have a substance abuse problem, or try to deal with them as a judicial problem, we are going to be making matters worse. We are going to increase their level of criminality. It is certainly not going to address the heart of the problem. While many of these individuals have a substance abuse problem, they also have what is called dual diagnosis. A lot of them have a psychiatric problem as well. It is a toxic marriage between a psychiatric problem and a substance abuse problem. Both feed off each other. It is a profound tragedy for those afflicted.
Mr. Speaker, you have seen it in your community, as have all of us in our communities. Among the individuals living on the streets, we see a subpopulation of homeless individuals who have a substance abuse problem, a psychiatric problem, or both. We are not dealing with this in a very intelligent way. I was dismayed and disheartened last week when the Prime Minister was in Victoria and said that he was not going to continue with the harm reduction strategy that we have been using in east Vancouver to great effect. It has saved a lot of people's lives. He is going to need “more studies”.
The studies have been done and the evidence is very persuasive. Lives have been saved. There has been a decrease in the rates of HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B. If the Prime Minister wants to save lives of individuals who are living in the conditions that none of us would ever want to experience, then he had better look at the facts, remove his sense of morality and look at this as a way of saving people's lives and reducing harm. If he wants to do that he should extend the east Vancouver experience to other communities in Canada. Communities across the country that are trying to grapple with the issue of substance abuse need to adopt these programs. The Prime Minister and his justice minister need to give these programs the green light.
In Victoria, B.C. the chief medical officer, Dr. Richard Stanwick, has put together a very comprehensive and exciting harm reduction strategy based on work that has been done in Frankfurt and other parts of Europe. Those experiences show very clearly that to reduce substance abuse a comprehensive view is what works. If necessary, the person should have access to a safe injection site and the drug. This may rub people the wrong way, but if we do not give the drug, the person will become involved with organized criminal activity and we would not have dealt with a very important part of the picture. It will take some people a while to get their heads around this idea, but if they thought about it properly and logically instead of through the prism of morality, they would see that this would work.
If necessary, the person should have access to a safe injection site and the drug that the person needs. Along with that, if necessary, there should be counselling and psychiatric help because of the dual diagnosis I mentioned earlier. The person also needs skills training and work.
The unions would be wise not to stick their noses into this and try to impose union desires on an issue that is a matter of life and death for these individuals. Work was an integral part of the treatment program for the individuals on the ground. Work gave people in the programs a sense of structure and discipline that they never had before. It gave them a sense of self-worth and meaning and enabled them to connect with other parts of their treatment program that had to happen over a prolonged period of time.
It is an integrated program and it works. In order for that to happen the justice minister has to give the okay. I would put forward a plea to the justice minister and the Prime Minister that they give the green light to Victoria and other parts of Canada to proceed. I ask them not to cut off the ability of these programs to function. They were going to cut off the ability of harm reduction programs to occur in this country. If they did that, they would essentially be signing a death warrant for people who live on the street. It would increase the rates of hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV. I am sure that is not what they would want but that is exactly what the consequence of their actions would be if they did not give the green light to these programs forthwith.
There are many people on the street who will be dead a year from now if these programs are not continued or started. I challenge the government to allow them to proceed. It is a matter of basic humanity and justice.
When I was putting myself through school, I worked as a guard in a maximum security prison. The high incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome was evident among the prison population. It is estimated that between 40% and 50% of individuals in jail suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol affects. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading cause of preventable congenital brain damage in Canada. An individual suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome often has a median IQ of about 70 as well as a host of problems trying to integrate into society. Fetal alcohol syndrome is irreversible, but it is preventable.
Fetal alcohol syndrome can be prevented if individuals are spoken to before they have children. Imagine the cost savings to the health system. Imagine the decline in the prison population. Fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol affects are preventable. The Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health should be gripped with this issue because simple, sensible and cost-effective things can be done to prevent this from happening.
Individuals suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome are often marginalized in school because of their low IQs and the psychological challenges they face. Imagine if that did not happen. Those children would have an incredible opportunity to become integrated members of society.
If the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health were to look at the headstart program, if they were to build on the early learning program that my party put together, they would be doing something quite remarkable for Canadian society. Youth crime and teen pregnancy rates would be reduced. Kids would stay in school longer, thus reducing their dependence on our social programs.
I have laid out some constructive solutions that I hope the minister will consider. The former parliamentary secretary provided her cogent solutions on minimum mandatory sentencing and the work we did through former Bill C-70. We certainly hope that we can craft a bill that will serve the public well and help our police officers while also reducing criminality within our society.
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