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Liberals Block Canada Mandatory Minimum Bill

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #671)
Politics & Advocacy

The government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been thwarted once again in its effort to pass a bill that would impose mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. The opposition Liberals announced February 10 that they will not support the legislation.

Tough luck, Mr. Harper
Because Harper's Conservative government is a minority government, it needs the support of opposition parties in the House of Commons to pass the crime bill, S-10. But the other opposition parties, the New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois, have been staunch opponents of the measure. With the Liberals announcing they will vote against S-10, Harper's government doesn't have the votes to pass it.

The bill would have enacted mandatory minimum sentences for growing as few as six pot plants. The Liberals took their stand against it after Conservatives refused to say how much it would cost.

"This bill isn't tough on crime, it's dumb on crime," said Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. "We're all in favor of cracking down on serious criminals, but this bill doesn't distinguish between massive grow-ops and a first-time offender with a small amount. What's more, the Conservatives won't tell us what the fiscal implications of this bill are. How many billions will it cost? How many mega-prisons will have to be built? For these reasons, we just can't support it," he said.

The bill had already passed the Senate, where the Conservatives hold a majority, but opposition had been growing as it headed for the House of Commons. Earlier this week, more than 550 health professionals signed an open letter opposing the bill.

"The scientific evidence shows that mandatory minimum sentences will not cut violent crime, reduce drug use or improve public safety," said Dr. Thomas Kerr, co?director of the Urban Health Research Initiative, one of the groups behind the letter. "To turn the tide on organized crime and drug use in Canada we need illicit drug policies based on the best available scientific evidence. Unfortunately, Bill S?10 turns its back on evidence?based research in favor of misguided political appeal."

Canadian anti-prohibitionists welcomed the move by the Liberals. "We are extremely pleased that the Liberal Party has made its decision on the basis of evidence," said Kirk Tousaw, executive director of the Vancouver-based Beyond Prohibition Foundation. "This punishment plan would not have reduced crime, nor would it have made Canadian safer from the influence of gangs. In fact, the foundation has long argued that the evidence is clear that ramping up a war on drugs has the perverse effect of making drugs more available, cheaper and more potent while simultaneously increasing the profitability and violent tendencies of organized criminals. Today the Liberal Party of Canada decided to be smart on crime."

This year's effort to pass the crime bill was the third by the Harper government. Perhaps now the Tories will give it a rest.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


sicntired (not verified)

What more can you say?The Harper government has been trying to drag us down the path towards US style drug laws which have been so unsuccessful down there that even the GOP is now pushing for repeal of some of the more draconian laws.Too many in prison with no chance of parole,too many mandatory minimum sentences,too many Americans doing time.Harper had told Canadians it would cost 6 billion dollars but would not repeat that in the house.The reason the Liberals finally gave for voting down the bill.This was a really backward,unscientific,misguided bill and seeing it die is like a really great present.Thanks to everyone that sent an e mail or e mails to their MP and to the Party leaders.

Fri, 02/11/2011 - 12:13am Permalink
Carmen Brown (not verified)

I'm so happy this bill flopped. It is a victory for the entire global legalization movement!  Way to go!

Fri, 02/11/2011 - 1:41am Permalink
Golfer49 (not verified)

Great news - this really made my day!


Unfortunately there is a dark side to this.  The Liberals said they would have voted for it if it had been changed from 6 plants to 20.  The Liberals are playing a dangerous game here.  Hopefully the bill doesn't get reintroduced with those concessions in mind, and hopefully this is not just a short-term success. 


We have constant government-introduced bills to create more prohibition laws - where are the constant bills introduced to legalize and decriminalize?  This is what needs to be happening.

Fri, 02/11/2011 - 10:40am Permalink
Independent (not verified)

In the USA the NRA supports mandatory minimum sentencing. As in Canada it is the clueless conservatives that most support filling up the jails. But in the USA, the NRA is very powerful. Many big-L Libertarians support the NRA come hell, high water, or family members serving time.

Thu, 02/17/2011 - 8:17pm Permalink
Philbert Morris (not verified)

People see some of the effects of prohibition in the US. What they don't comment on is the effect on Cetral America, the Caribbean and northern South American. We face massive increases in crime, because WE have to pay for stupid US laws.

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 11:09am Permalink

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