Instead of demand reduction, for 20 years, Canada’s national drug-strategy has emphasized supply-side law enforcement — investigating, apprehending and convicting illicit drug growers and dealers. That effort comprised nearly three-quarters of what had been a $368 million budget in 2004-2005. Filling out the rest of the pie were treatment, research, prevention and harm reduction. The Conservatives’ March budget was a step in the right direction, with an additional $64 million divided (in decreasing order) among treatment, enforcement and prevention, but no new dollars for so-called harm-reduction strategies.
We hope that by the time you read this paper, federal funding for “harm reduction” programs has been entirely eliminated, including the half-hearted recent reversal announcing short-term research dollars for Vancouver’s InSite. The latest studies on the “safe”-injection program are once again conflicting, but given the program’s anti-human underlying philosophy, we credit the research against it. In any case, the private community group backing InSite will keep it open with or without the feds. Best for the prime minister to remember his election promise: “We, as a government, will not use taxpayers’ money to fund drug use.”
We also hope the Tories refine their strategies for demand reduction. We need targeted prevention that goes beyond Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” presentations. We need personal screening programs that let those kids most at risk for abuse and addiction self-identify and moderate their behaviour before it’s too late.
The announcement of the Conservatives’ new national strategy was set for the end of May, but was once again delayed. We don’t yet know the reason for the hold up, but we hope it portends common sense.