Gerry Bowler: What the Addictions Minister Gets Wrong About Harm Reduction

CommentaryCarolyn Bennett, federal minister of mental health and addictions, recently announced a change to Canada’s policies on illegal drug use. As of Jan. 1, 2023, a three-year experimental period will be inaugurated in British Columbia whereby small quantities of substances such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA (ecstasy) will be allowed for personal use. Under this new plan, those found with these drugs will not arrested, charged, or have their drugs seized. Instead, a helpful police officer or social worker will offer them information on available health and social services. This move came as a surprise to some with knowledge of a similar decriminalization undertaken in Oregon. In that state, possession of such drugs is penalized only by a maximum US$100 fine, which can be waived if the person calls a counselling hotline for a health assessment. Of the 2,000 tickets issued by police, only 19 ended with someone requesting help with addiction. Half those given citations never even showed up in court. Most importantly, deaths from drug overdoses have increased as have opioid overdoses treated by emergency rooms. Carolyn Bennett cannot have been unaware of these uncomfortable statistics, but she says, “We are doing this to save lives, but also to give people using drugs their dignity and choices.” I suppose I care as much as the next citizen about addicts’ dignity, but I wonder how the minister can ignore those victims of personal choice not mentioned in her “harm reduction” policy. I refer to the river of blood on which cocaine, meth, and heroin float on their way to Canadian drug users. Before the next Ontario lawyer bends to snort a line, or the next Nova Scotian trucker pops a pill, or the next B.C. junkie searches for a vein, they should spare a thought for the atrocities that have made it possible for them to exercise their choice in recreation. Maybe they, and Ms. Bennett, should think about those buses hijacked in San Fernando, Mexico, in 2011. The passengers were kidnapped. The women were raped and then killed. The male victims were forced to fight to the death with other hostages, who were given knives, hammers, machetes, and clubs. The survivors were recruited as hitmen for the Los Zetas drug cartel. Authorities eventually recovered 193 bodies. In Durango and Tamaulipas, 450 bodies were uncovered; five headless bodies in Acapulco; a mass grave containing 250 skulls in Veracruz; 52 burnt to death in Monterrey; nine bodies hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo. Reporters murdered. Politicians killed. Prosecutors and judges assassinated. Over a quarter of a million Mexicans dead at the hands of narco-cartels since 2006 so that North American drug consumers can enjoy their momentary rush. Drug money has fuelled vicious revolutionary movements such as FARC in Colombia, Peru’s Shining Path, and ISIS in the Middle East. Death squads linked to drug gangs assassinated the president of Haiti and gunned down a Paraguayan prosecutor on his honeymoon. Violence for control of the trade in cocaine, methamphetamines, and fentanyl destabilizes democracies in the Western Hemisphere. In North America, drug gangs wage war on each other and on innocent bystanders. Whole communities fall plague to opioid addiction and tens of thousands die from drug overdoses annually. Urban streets and alleys from Edmonton to Miami are the homes of shambling zombies with empty eyes and shopping carts full of rags. Despite a string of arrests of drug lords—“El Chapo” in Mexico, “El Huevo” in San Diego, “El Pitt” in Colombia, and Toronto’s own Tse Chi Lop—the trade and the violence continues unabated. It continues because there is a market in Canada and the United States for their products, a market that consists of our fellow citizens who, I’m sure, wouldn’t throw a grenade into a child’s birthday party but who don’t much care that their drug use pays for people who do. There are many good reasons for making some choices illegal. These drugs don’t make you smarter, or kinder. They don’t make you treat your neighbour any better or help you to contribute to the community; rather, they suck billions out of the economy, ravage brains, destroy bodies, and ruin families. Instead of making it easier for people to buy illicit substances while preserving their dignity, why not choke off the demand for such drugs? Direct enforcement toward detecting common consumption. Fashionable Ontario matrons, Saskatchewan teachers, and Alberta oil rig workers might think twice about the harm they are doing themselves and the planet if they thought there was a chance they might be featured doing the perp walk on the evening news. Let the government make it as hard to buy ecstasy or fentanyl as it is to buy a handgun, or as shameful as smoking in a restaurant, or using the wrong pronoun. Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Gerry Bowler: What the Addictions Minister Gets Wrong About Harm Reduction

Commentary

Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of mental health and addictions, recently announced a change to Canada’s policies on illegal drug use. As of Jan. 1, 2023, a three-year experimental period will be inaugurated in British Columbia whereby small quantities of substances such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA (ecstasy) will be allowed for personal use. Under this new plan, those found with these drugs will not arrested, charged, or have their drugs seized. Instead, a helpful police officer or social worker will offer them information on available health and social services.

This move came as a surprise to some with knowledge of a similar decriminalization undertaken in Oregon. In that state, possession of such drugs is penalized only by a maximum US$100 fine, which can be waived if the person calls a counselling hotline for a health assessment. Of the 2,000 tickets issued by police, only 19 ended with someone requesting help with addiction. Half those given citations never even showed up in court. Most importantly, deaths from drug overdoses have increased as have opioid overdoses treated by emergency rooms.

Carolyn Bennett cannot have been unaware of these uncomfortable statistics, but she says, “We are doing this to save lives, but also to give people using drugs their dignity and choices.”

I suppose I care as much as the next citizen about addicts’ dignity, but I wonder how the minister can ignore those victims of personal choice not mentioned in her “harm reduction” policy. I refer to the river of blood on which cocaine, meth, and heroin float on their way to Canadian drug users.

Before the next Ontario lawyer bends to snort a line, or the next Nova Scotian trucker pops a pill, or the next B.C. junkie searches for a vein, they should spare a thought for the atrocities that have made it possible for them to exercise their choice in recreation.

Maybe they, and Ms. Bennett, should think about those buses hijacked in San Fernando, Mexico, in 2011. The passengers were kidnapped. The women were raped and then killed. The male victims were forced to fight to the death with other hostages, who were given knives, hammers, machetes, and clubs. The survivors were recruited as hitmen for the Los Zetas drug cartel. Authorities eventually recovered 193 bodies.

In Durango and Tamaulipas, 450 bodies were uncovered; five headless bodies in Acapulco; a mass grave containing 250 skulls in Veracruz; 52 burnt to death in Monterrey; nine bodies hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo. Reporters murdered. Politicians killed. Prosecutors and judges assassinated. Over a quarter of a million Mexicans dead at the hands of narco-cartels since 2006 so that North American drug consumers can enjoy their momentary rush.

Drug money has fuelled vicious revolutionary movements such as FARC in Colombia, Peru’s Shining Path, and ISIS in the Middle East. Death squads linked to drug gangs assassinated the president of Haiti and gunned down a Paraguayan prosecutor on his honeymoon. Violence for control of the trade in cocaine, methamphetamines, and fentanyl destabilizes democracies in the Western Hemisphere.

In North America, drug gangs wage war on each other and on innocent bystanders. Whole communities fall plague to opioid addiction and tens of thousands die from drug overdoses annually. Urban streets and alleys from Edmonton to Miami are the homes of shambling zombies with empty eyes and shopping carts full of rags.

Despite a string of arrests of drug lords—“El Chapo” in Mexico, “El Huevo” in San Diego, “El Pitt” in Colombia, and Toronto’s own Tse Chi Lop—the trade and the violence continues unabated. It continues because there is a market in Canada and the United States for their products, a market that consists of our fellow citizens who, I’m sure, wouldn’t throw a grenade into a child’s birthday party but who don’t much care that their drug use pays for people who do.

There are many good reasons for making some choices illegal. These drugs don’t make you smarter, or kinder. They don’t make you treat your neighbour any better or help you to contribute to the community; rather, they suck billions out of the economy, ravage brains, destroy bodies, and ruin families.

Instead of making it easier for people to buy illicit substances while preserving their dignity, why not choke off the demand for such drugs? Direct enforcement toward detecting common consumption. Fashionable Ontario matrons, Saskatchewan teachers, and Alberta oil rig workers might think twice about the harm they are doing themselves and the planet if they thought there was a chance they might be featured doing the perp walk on the evening news.

Let the government make it as hard to buy ecstasy or fentanyl as it is to buy a handgun, or as shameful as smoking in a restaurant, or using the wrong pronoun.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Gerry Bowler is a Canadian historian specializing in the intersection of religion and popular culture.