SNUD Committee Meeting1
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
Meeting No. 49
Thursday, May 30, 2002
The Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs met in a televised session at 3:36 p.m. this day, in Room 253-D, Centre Block, the Chair, Paddy Torsney, presiding.
Members of the Committee present: Carole-Marie Allard, The Hon. Hedy Fry, Derek Lee, Réal Ménard, Kevin Sorenson, Paddy Torsney and Randy White.2
In attendance: From the Library of Parliament: Marilyn Pilon, research officer.
Witnesses: From REAL Women of Canada: Gwendolyn Landolt, National Vice-President; Sophie Joannou, Executive Member; Diane Watts, Researcher. From the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE Canada): Brad Melnychuk, Executive Director. From Narconon: Devinder Luthra.
Pursuant to the Order of Reference adopted by the House of Commons on Thursday, May 17, 2001, and of Wednesday, April 17, 2002, referring the subject matter of Bill C-344, An Act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (marihuana) to the Special Committee, the Committee resumed consideration of the factors underlying or relating to the non-medical use of drugs (See Minutes of Proceedings of Thursday, June 7, 2001, Meeting No. 1).
Gwendolyn Landolt and Brad Melnychuk made opening statements and, with the other witnesses, answered questions.
At 4:59 p.m., the sitting was suspended.
At 5:00 p.m., the sitting resumed in camera to discuss its future business.
At 5:08 p.m., the Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair.
37th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION
Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs
Thursday, May 30, 2002
NUMBER 049 l
1st SESSION l
Thursday, May 30, 2002
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Chair (Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.)): I’ll call this meeting to order. We are the Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs. Pursuant to an order of reference adopted by the House of Commons on May 17, 2001, we were struck to consider the factors underlying or relating to the non-medical use of drugs. On Wednesday, April 17, of this year we were also referred the subject matter of Bill C-344, which is a private member’s bill, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act related to marijuana.
We’re very pleased to have with us today as witnesses, from REAL Women of Canada, Gwen Landolt, Sophie Joannou, and Diane Watts. From the Association for Better Living and Education, or ABLE Canada, we have Brad Melnychuk, who is the executive director; and from Narconon, we have Devinder Luthra.
Before I turn to our witnesses, I believe I have a request
from Monsieur Ménard.
Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): On a point of order. I would simply like to ask this of the committee. There seems to be a problem with the planning of travel. We can listen to the witnesses and stop discussing this now. But when we’re finished around 4:20 or 4:30 p.m., maybe we can reserve a half hour to discuss this in camera, even though it’s not part of our agenda. Is this possible?
The Chair: Since we have two groups of witnesses, maybe we should schedule this at 4:45.
Mr. Réal Ménard: All right for 4:45. This is perfectly all right.
The Chair: Do you all agree?
Ms. Landolt, please.
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt (National Vice-President, REAL Women of Canada): Thank you very much, Madam Chairman.
We’re very glad to be here to speak to this important issue. Our position, really, can be summed up in a few words. The laws on drugs simply serve as a deterrent; to many, what is legal becomes acceptable; once legal sanctions are removed, there is a greatly increased use of drugs. That’s our basic premise. The law serves as a guideline to the conscience. If we remove it, we have much more use and abuse of drugs.
In our brief we refer to the fact, for example, that in the Netherlands they have marijuana freely available in coffee shops. The study indicates that use of marijuana in the Netherlands in adolescence increased 250%. We also know another study, which was referred to in our brief, showing that in Switzerland, which has taken a very liberal attitude towards drugs, the youth of Switzerland use more marijuana and more drugs than any other country in western Europe. Anyone who has looked at the drug policies of the Netherlands, Switzerland, Frankfurt in Germany, and Sweden, will find a colossal difference in policies.
We have summarized them. We have looked at each policy in each country. Sweden took a very firm stand. It was very liberal in the sixties and the seventies, and it had the worst drug problems in all of Europe. In the 1980s, it began to crack down and pass legislation, and now Sweden has the lowest use of drugs and abuse.
I would refer you to a study put out by the United Nations contrasting Australia, with its liberal approach to drugs, and Sweden. In every measure, Sweden, because it has taken a stringent attitude towards drugs, has in fact cut down, and there is less drug use in Sweden than anywhere else. These examples show what happens when you have a law. If you remove the law, you have skyrocketing abuse and use of the drugs. If you read our brief…. We’ll go on.
I’ll give you an example. People who are opposed to legalization or prohibitions against use of drugs always like to refer to the U.S. prohibition period between 1919 and 1933 to show it doesn’t work to have deterrents. In fact–and I refer you to page 5 of our brief–a study done at Harvard University shows a 30% decrease in alcohol use during that prohibition period. On page 6, we refer to the main point of alcohol prohibition in the U.S., which was its attempt to remove the availability of alcohol from the public, after it had been legal, accepted, and deeply integrated into society for many years.
Currently, fortunately, illegal drugs do not share the same level of acceptance and integration. It’s very crucial to make that point: that it was successful prohibition; they did have legislation that prohibited; and even though alcohol was accepted, it did cut it down by one-third. And that would be the same.
If we, for example, decriminalized marijuana in Canada, the result will be that more and more adolescents will be involved in it, as occurred in western Europe, apart from Sweden, which has a restrictive law.
The point we should be asking…. Adolescents are using marijuana more and more; that isn’t the question. The question should be, how many more would be using it, and how many more would be damaged by the use of it? Our objective as an organization certainly is–and yours as the legislature concerned with children and adolescents and society and families. Our concern has always been to deal with what the implications are to families, to young people who are the most vulnerable. That must be the goal of any legislation.
It seems to us really the whole purpose of the law is to protect, particularly, adolescents. Again, I want to refer to our report. The difficulty is, Canada brought in its drug policy actually in 1992. It had three component parts. It was reconfirmed in 1998: prevention, enforcement, and rehabilitation. However, that has not been enforced in Canada. I would refer you to the Auditor General’s report of February 2001, in which the Auditor General said Canada has a policy that has not been properly enforced. It is not coherent. There are no treatment facilities and there’s no proper data.
According to Statistics Canada, Canada is not charging people who have broken the law. There will always be people who break the law, whether it’s murder or jaywalking. Statistics Canada reports that the number of charges have been limited. But the Auditor General says there’s no record in Canada of the number of people who have been convicted and no record of sentencing. We do know that very few people are actually charged. We know from Statistics Canada data from 2000 that very few people are actually charged. But we don’t even know how many are convicted. The Auditor General has complained bitterly about this, if you read her report. Why don’t we even know what’s going on with the drug situation in Canada? It’s incoherent and inconsistent. There has been no coordination with the various government agencies that should be enforcing the law.
The other problem is that people are saying, “Well, the law doesn’t work. We should bring in what are called harm reduction policies.” Harm reduction policies are a public relations term meaning let’s decriminalize it. Harm reduction policies are what people would want to see–decriminalizing marijuana; eliminating penalties; providing free drugs and maintenance programs for drug addicts; and establishing needle exchange programs.
We know that drugs are dangerous, especially for adolescents. I refer you to an editorial in Pediatrics Journal of 1998. It’s referred to on page 19 of the brief. I want to quote to you:
Marijuana is an addictive, mind-altering drug capable of inducing dependency…. Marijuana should not be considered an innocuous drug…. There is little doubt that marijuana intoxication contributes substantially to accidental deaths and injuries amongst adolescents….
There are also other studies showing that we know it’s now cancer inducing. We have recorded and referenced some of the medical studies showing the danger of marijuana use. The reason why it’s so dangerous, of course, is that it consists of 480 substances that become combustible when smoked, producing more than 2,000 impure chemicals. In the 1950s, the THC–which is the pow within the marijuana–was 1.5% to 2%.
The International Narcotics Control Board, which belongs to the UN and monitors international treaties on drugs, has found and again put a complaint in against Canada on February 23, 2001. It says that Canada is allowing private growth of marijuana, 60% of which is being sent to the United States through Internet sales. It has complained that Canada is not upholding the treaties that we have signed and ratified–not just signed, but ratified. The International Narcotics Control Board also complained that the worst sources of this are what are called grow-ops, where private marijuana is grown. They named, in particular, the provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba. They said the THC content of the marijuana grown in British Columbia has gone from 1.5% to 2%–which early studies said are not harmful–to 20% to 25%. Some of them are 30% THC. The International Narcotics Control Board said that this marijuana has been sold openly over the Internet. I think it would probably be useful if the committee looked at the International Narcotics Control Board’s statement on what Canada is doing wrong by allowing these growing operations to continue.
The problem, of course, is that you have confusion. You have on the one hand the Ministry of Health saying the effect of marijuana is inconclusive, and then in the next paragraph they’re saying it’s dangerous. We know from studies that we have been able to sort…and they’re very easy to find. If anyone says there are no studies saying marijuana is dangerous, I would suggest they haven’t looked to find the studies.The more recent studies are showing more and more dangers of marijuana.
The harm reduction program that some people are attempting to substitute for our present drug strategy, which was confirmed in 1998, also includes setting up needle exchange programs. Now, Canada has had a needle exchange program for 20 years in Vancouver, and we have one in Montreal. The one in Vancouver is the largest needle exchange program in the entire world. I refer you to appendix B, from the Executive Office of the President, Office of National Drug Control Policy in the United States. They examined the Vancouver needle exchange and found that they give out over 2 million needles a year, that HIV has tripled, and that hepatitis C has grown. There are tremendous dangers, because you give the needles and people are sharing them.
But the two most significant studies ever done on needle exchanges–a Montreal study and the Vancouver study, both on page 25–have shown the dangers of needle exchange. Discarded needles are used off-site, and needle exchanges become a honey pot or meeting point for drug users and dealers. And because it’s a “no go” place for the police, that’s where the drug dealers are located.
Shoppers are terrorized by syringe-yielding drug users, and as the U.S. national drug control policy has stated, it has become a very dangerous world of criminals and prostitution. This is coupled with studies that indicate a high increase of HIV. All they do is increase HIV; they do not decrease the drug use.
It’s a very serious thing, and the best studies ever done around the world were the Vancouver and the Montreal studies. The very best control studies ever done in the world on needle exchanges were done in Canada, and both found the dangers they were creating.
The Chair: Ms. Landolt–
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: I just have one more point.
The Chair: I’m just worried about the time. We’re a bit over, if you want to have questions and answers.
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: I just want to go on to heroin trials.
We understand there have been negotiations to set up heroin trials, giving free heroin to addicts in Vancouver. Again, we would suggest that these shooting galleries are doing enormous damage, and they are not stopping the heroin. All they do is increase it, and their only purpose is to inevitably lead to death earlier than anticipated. It has not controlled the use nor the crime surrounding it.
So the only answer is compassion. Keep the law as a guideline to the conscience and set up drug courts. I haven’t mentioned drug courts, but we have had one in Toronto since 2000, and one was just set up in Vancouver in December 2001. They’re also in the U.S. and Britain. The Toronto one has been enormously successful.
What happens is the drug addict is given a choice of treatment. One of the problems is there are very few treatment facilities in Canada. That’s the main problem.
Thanks so much.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Landolt.
Mr. Brad Melnychuk (Executive Director, Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE Canada)):4 Thank you.
I want to start out by saying a little bit more about who I am. I am the executive director of ABLE Canada, the Association for Better Living and Education. This is an organization that’s responsible for various charities and non-profits. One of them is Narconon. I’m also chairman of the board of Narconon Incorporated. By the way, don’t confuse Narconon with Narcotics Anonymous; it is a different organization, that’s all. Some people confuse the names.
I’m also a founding member of Citizens for Drug Abuse Prevention and Rehabilitation Canada. I’m a committee member on a City of Toronto board of health drug prevention grants panel. I’m also a committee member of the community police liaison committee, 52 division.
Devinder Luthra is here with me. He’s the executive director of the former Narconon Toronto and the new president of Narconon Canada.
I’ll start with a note on harm reduction in general. Harm reduction seems to be controversial—even how to define it. If harm reduction is defined as eliminating the concept of abstinence, then I am not for it. If harm reduction very heavily includes abstinence as the traditional goal and drug abuse prevention as its goal, then I’m all for it. I know that a percentage of the population will take advantage of harm reduction programs and actually benefit from them. This is true, and there are facts to back this up.
Sometimes harm reduction programs also lead to abstinence, in the long run anyway, so to that degree I’m for them. As for the popularity of harm reduction and the strategies used for reducing the harm associated with drug use, such as methadone, I happen to know it’s not popular with users. Users would rather not be addicts. Many of them fear methadone as being worse than heroin addiction. I also know it’s not that popular with service providers.
From my personal experience as a Toronto drug prevention grant review panellist, I study and review proposals for drug abuse prevention from many organizations in the city of Toronto. Harm reduction approaches are simply not very popular with them. In fact, only about 20% of the city of Toronto grant applications for drug prevention are for reducing the harm associated with drug use; eight out of ten are supportive of abstinence programs that improve basic life skills such as family relations, talents, and communications skills. Belonging to productive groups, even sports groups, arts groups, and community involvement are known to be successful drug abuse prevention activities. This is what most of the organizations are actually promoting and trying to do.
The next thing is education programs. I’m talking specifically about drug education programs aimed at preventing or reducing the consumption of illicit drugs. The City of Toronto determined that drug education lectures did not work—I don’t know what year it was. Being a grant review panellist, I know what policies we have to follow. But the lectures reviewed were a bad example because there is ample evidence that drug education, properly delivered by well-trained educators, very significantly reduces the demand for drugs from youth. It’s a matter of which drug education lectures are studied when they make their decision.
In fact, a grassroots training school is coming into existence in Toronto for the Narconon model of drug education lectures in Toronto because of its effectiveness in creating abstinence in youth, thus preventing addiction before it starts. These lectures also prevent alcohol use. If we reduce the demand, we reduce crime and save lives.
There evidently are a few programs that work, but this does not mean that all programs work in this field. I stress that attention should be put on searching out what does work and supporting these models.
Now, as to treatment programs, there are very few—unfortunately, again–treatment programs that actually work in creating abstinence. The Ontario Substance Abuse Bureau funds programs at prices ranging from approximately $200 to $300 a day, even up to $1,500 a day for some of their detox programs. The results are—I’ll be blunt about this—so low that they don’t even keep statistics on abstinence. They only keep track of the number of people who have been through the program in a year; that is the statistic they keep. There is no tracking of outcomes from these programs. Why? I believe it’s just apathy about it.
The point being missed is that there are programs that do work–Narconon, for example. You may think I’m here just to promote my program. It happens to be a program I’m very familiar with, one that does in fact get results, so of course I will talk about it. I’m talking about it because of the results. For example, Narconon gets a 65% success rate of abstinence even at its worst. In fact, the average is 75%. The more experienced, larger, and well-staffed organizations get 90%. Now, when we’re talking results, we are talking about being drug-free for life…tracking people for two years after they’ve completed the program.
We also happen to have a vast experience with those who do revert. They contact us and they come back. They don’t go someplace else. They come back to Narconon because, well, where else are they going to go? They want to come someplace that actually changes their life. They’ve made great strides in their lives, huge strides, even if they did revert. Families get back together and a number of things change; you name it. So they do come back to Narconon, of course.
The average cost with Narconon in Canadian programs, including room and board, is about $162 a day. The average program length is about four months. We don’t believe in 21- or 28-day programs; that’s putting a limit on…. Some people take longer, some shorter. However, even a 28-day program is always backed up with other additional programs to keep the people from returning to drugs. They’re often recycled over and over again each year anyway.
These results are often not believed by other service providers, but nevertheless they do exist in graduates. This also includes the handling of alcohol and the handling of methadone addiction, which are reportedly the hardest cases for withdrawal, rougher than heroin or alcohol.
As to desire for abstinence, evidence shows that addicts do not want to be addicts. People find Narconon by searching through many programs. They arrive and eventually pay for the program despite great hardships to do so because Narconons currently in Canada are not government-funded. In fact, because of the demand, we’re going to be building more Narconons across the country over the next few years.
Evidence from an extremely successful prison program in Mexico proves that even the most hard-core lifetime-sentence inmates want to be drug-free. They work together with other inmates and trained volunteers to become free of heroin addiction, and they themselves created the most successful prison treatment program in the world. Narconon is one of the components of the program, plus they have other additives that do improve life skills even more, improving education, etc. These inmates are drug-free, and they also are totally reformed. There are lots of studies being done on these programs, which are expanding as well right now, mainly in Mexico.
I want to highlight something. The stress by our government, I have to say, has not been put on workable programs. I believe the stress has been on “programs” generally and not necessarily on searching to find out what is actually getting the results. I’m very open to criticism on this, but I do want to see the evidence that comes with the criticism.
I believe we’ve gone into apathy about it. Stress is put on providing treatment for youth, for women, for natives, for homosexuals, and so on, but these miss the point. It’s the treatment. You see, we’re talking, still, about programs with treatment to 2% or maybe 10% results, and costs to taxpayers, really, of billions annually when you add up how many times a person has to recycle through a program, how many times a person ends up in jail, how much it costs in there, the cost of police, the cost of courts, and on and on—it adds up all around.
I don’t consider this treatment; I consider it a pretence. Researchers responsible for this aren’t looking at what actually helps the addict get his life together and be drug-free. Programs that work should be searched out and studied.
Narconon is one. I believe there are others. Narconon is very well organized and is coming more into being, which is why you even see us here. There are others, maybe not as well organized as us, so you might not hear of them as much, but programs that work should be searched out and studied.
It’s far less expensive to our taxpayers in the long run than continuing to have addicts and coming up with maintenance programs for them. Harm reduction has its use, true, for a few who really need it, but we must not eliminate the traditional goals of abstinence. That’s all.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Melnychuk.
I’ll now turn to questions, starting with Mr. White.
Mr. Randy White (Langley—Abbotsford, Canadian Alliance): Thank you.
Those were good presentations. Obviously you’re speaking my kind of language here, so my questions will be more for clarification.
With both presentations you’ve made…I do believe a majority of Canadians tend to think that way. There are people now who are talking “harm reduction” models and this sort of thing. I wonder where the priority is in Canada oftentimes. If we were to really get down and try to help people, I think rehabilitation is the way to go, but that takes money. I’ve been involved in rehabilitation facilities that have virtually closed because provinces haven’t put a priority on it and the federal government hasn’t put a priority on it.
I could ask any one of you, or all of you, what is your biggest priority as far as the drug problem in Canada goes? Is it education? Is it legalization? I know it’s not that, but is it rehabilitation? Is it intervention? Is it enforcement? Where is the biggest priority that would make a difference, and what kind of difference do you think it would make?
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: I think we should look to Canada’s drug strategy, which was confirmed in 1998. It said it must be “balanced” between prevention, enforcement, and rehabilitation and treatment. Every one is a component part. Every one is absolutely crucial to protect society.
What we want is to give dignity and respect to the individual. We don’t make it more available. We let law be a deterrent. We use prevention, education.
The third thing is we must have more rehabilitation. The American authorities who have checked over Canada said they’re appalled by our lack of treatment facilities. What are we doing? We’re handing out needles. We’re now handing out, it appears, free heroin. And as to the number of charges, there has not been an enforcement.
On paper, I think Canada has it right. You need a balance between the three components. We can’t say one is more important than the other.
The Chair: Mr. Luthra.
Mr. Devinder Luthra (President, Narconon Canada): I had the same answer, actually, but she spoke before me.
Basically, it’s a compilation of all the things together. You have to stress education first, education right from childhood, not only to adults. Education should start from childhood about drug abuse.
Mr. Randy White: How did harm reduction creep into this thing, and where did it creep into it? I often refer to harm reduction as harm extension, not reduction.
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: It’s harm promotion. How it crept in isn’t by accident. Our research indicates there are three individuals. One of them is George Soros. His huge Lindesmith Center—I referred to it in the first paragraph—had billions of dollars of funding, not just for Canada but worldwide, to legalize it. Right in the very first page of ours, we refer to U.S. Congressman J. Denis Hastert, who was chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs and Criminal Justice. He says:
…proponents of drug legalization are, at best, a dangerous and misguided crowd. For many, it is an elaborate game, a way to retaliate against those who condemn drug-using behaviour. For others, legalization is a means of achieving other ends—undermining moral values and democratic institutions, turning profits by expanding the user population, or creating new industries around the maintenance of addiction.
George Soros is dedicated worldwide to liberalizing drug policy, including in Canada. I could give you the name of some organizations he is funding who probably have already appeared before you to liberalize laws. It’s not just accidental that they want to…. Harm reduction has to be…. It’s a deliberate campaign. We shouldn’t be vulnerable to this sort of thing . We have to think what is best for Canadians, especially adolescents. I’m very concerned about adolescents.
Mr. Randy White: There are those who would say that people are addicted, they’re going to stay addicted, they’re going to do drugs anyway, the drugs are available, and you can’t stop it, so why not minimize the risk to these individuals and give them clean needles, give them safe shoot-up sites and so on?
The Chair: Mr. Melnychuk and then Ms. Landolt.
Mr. Brad Melnychuk: I actually like that question. I’m very used to it.
I had a meeting with a friend of mine—believe it or not, I have a friend who works with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health who is very promotive of harm reduction. I went to see him and asked him to give me the whole spiel: what’s the current promotional purpose behind the harm reduction strategies, and so on. And he told me what you just said.
But he also told me that personally his history in the addiction treatment field traced back to when he was working as a counsellor for prostitutes in the city of Toronto. Prostitutes tend to commonly use crack with their customers. It often goes part and parcel with the whole business. They, of course, are not going to stop doing drugs if that is part of the trap they’re in and it’s part of their income and a part of that whole picture. This is just one example of somebody who….
Also, yes, you will find there are teenagers, children who want to experiment with drugs, and you will find people who drink. But when you compare these to programs that actually work—for example, a successful drug prevention program where studies show that children who have been trying out drugs, experimenting with drugs, sort of falling into the peer pressure of it, then get involved in another group; it could even be a simple basketball group that also has some other things attached to it such as family counselling, teaching kids how to communicate better with their parents, and making another team of individuals—you’ll find they sway from that.
It’s not true to make the general statement that people are going to do drugs anyway. You’re going to find, yes, there’s a percentage of that. The percentage is small; it is not high. If you promote that continuously and if you don’t provide programs that actually work, that actually are effective, and even drug rehabilitation programs that are effective….
You’ll find the number of drug addicts who get off drugs, ex-addicts who go out and…. Even through Narcon; they’re very active in getting other people to change their minds and become involved with Narconon instead. It works. People do it; they follow them. So it isn’t actually true; it just isn’t a true statement to say people are going to be doing drugs anyway. Some will, yes, but the percentage is very low.
The Chair: Ms. Landolt.
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: There will always be people who will break the law, whether it’s prostitution, or jaywalking, or murdering someone, whatever it is. There will always be a component. But if you remove the law, then, as I said, what becomes legal becomes acceptable, and many more people will be involved.
We know from these studies that the addicts are sharing the clean needles given to them after they’re used. It’s not helping them. We know the number of HIV and hepatitis C cases has skyrocketed from these so-called clean needles. We know they don’t work. We know that a heroin addict given free heroin does not have any interest in getting treatment. He just comes back, and back, and back again. You’re killing him with the drug. You’re not helping him. True compassion is you try to restore the person to health and human dignity. You don’t exacerbate what’s happened.
The Chair: Mr. Luthra.
Mr. Devinder Luthra: I wanted to add to what these people have said. In the drug rehabilitation program that Narconon has, you’ll be surprised to know that 40% of the students–we call them “students”; we don’t call them “addicts”–have come back as trainers. They are training the new students giving their own examples. They are there for four years, five years, or six years. It’s improving every day.
That program is there, and the success rate, whatever the statistics show, is 65% in the worst case. On the average it’s 75%. And they don’t go back to the drugs. This is drug-free rehabilitation. We don’t use any methadone. We don’t use any other drugs to rehabilitate them. But these programs have not been given the chance to come to the attention of the government. That’s our fault then.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Melnychuk, briefly.
Mr. Brad Melnychuk: Yes, I do have one more.
We had a person in Vancouver go out and do a survey on drug addicts, heroin addicts in the street. Vancouver is an easy place to go out and do surveys of drug addicts in the street because they’re right out in front of everybody. It’s known for that. She interviewed 25 people, and the first question was, if you knew you could get off drugs or you could kick your addiction habit, would you? Twenty-four of them said yes; one of them said no.
We will continue to do surveys and survey more people, but that is pretty evident right there.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Mr. Réal Ménard: Thank you very much.Madam Chair, I want to ask one last little question.
The Chair: If it’s petite.
Mr. Réal Ménard: I would be very interested to know more about your program. I noted it has seven stages. I didn’t have time enough to read all your brief. I’m sorry about that. Maybe you can tell us very briefly what makes your program unique and why your success rates are between 80% and 85%.
The Chair: Mr. Melnychuk.
Mr. Brad Melnychuk: Yes, I can answer that. What accounts for the high success rate? You could say what’s original about it is simply that an in-depth study was done by L. Ron Hubbard on the mind and on life. He is a founder of a religious organization. However, he also is a brilliant mind on the subject of addiction treatment.
He simply found out why an addict becomes an addict. Then he developed a program, but not even alone. He developed it with another individual who actually was an addict himself in an Arizona state prison, as a matter of fact, back in 1967. Then he evolved further steps following that to handle the exact reasons why a person falls into that trap. That’s all.
[…] The Chair: Mr. Lee.
Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River, Lib.): Thank you. I was going to ask a question about the statistic from the Netherlands referred to by Monsieur Ménard, but I have had an opportunity to look through your brief, which is really pretty well documented, and there is a citation for the statistic.
I accept that this information is put forward in a credible medical journal—although it’s one I’m not specifically familiar with—by some medical doctors, but they’ve trimmed up that particular statistic with other references. For example, they say since tolerant drug policy was instituted in the Netherlands, shootings have been increased 40%, holdups have increased 69%, and car thefts have increased 62%. This information is coming from a medical journal, and I’m just not sure that the linkages have been properly drawn.
But I do accept that the use of marijuana increased very significantly. I suppose I’m saying that I’m not in a position to dispute the data you’ve put forward in your brief. It’s cited, and our research can look at it more closely.
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: I’d like to mention the study on page 8, end note 11. The Swiss adolescents now use more drugs per capita than adolescents in any other country in Western Europe since they liberalized that. That would go hand in hand with the Netherlands thing.
There are two, both Switzerland and the Netherlands, that have very liberal laws.
On page 8, I refer to another study about Switzerland. It’s the same thing, a rapidly increased use of drugs.
Mr. Derek Lee: Yes.
Now, one of the messages you’re bringing to us here is the component that I call “just say no to drugs”. Each of your groups has urged us to accept that as a primary manifestation of our legal and social policy in this country, that we really have to resist the growth of drug use in our society, and I accept that.
But I also want to reinforce it, and then ask a question. Ms. Landolt, you actually came close to addressing it, and maybe you did address it in some of your remarks.
As I look at this, the set of laws that prohibit or regulate drug use buttress a view of drugs in our society that drugs are bad, if I can say it really simplistically like that.
I’m going to suggest to you–and you already know this–there are tons of drugs being used in our society legally, for example, opiates. I don’t have the whole list, but there are tons of drugs being used all the time. There’s a category of drugs that we make prohibited, but there’s a whole bunch of others that are legal and regulated. Over time, these drugs are all going to increase. We’re not going to have fewer drugs in society; we’re going to have more.
So you’re saying there’s a set of bad drugs and we shouldn’t change the laws that govern those, but there’s a whole bunch of other drugs coming down the pipeline. I’m going to suggest to you that your position is calling upon government not to change the drug laws because they buttress a view of drugs that you and many other Canadians have. You’re saying don’t change the laws, not because we can’t make a few changes here and there and make them respond better to the reality, but because they alter the paradigm that says don’t use drugs.
I’m going to say that if I’m a thinking person, I won’t want to accept that proposal of yours. I’m going to say that as a legislator, I have to make laws that do the best job for us in the country. I can’t accept an urging of the status quo, because that would alter one’s view of what drugs are good drugs and bad drugs.
Could you respond to that?
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: Well, I can respond by saying the International Narcotics Control Board has complained and criticized Canada about the fact that the manufacture of Ecstasy is increasing here.
Why is Canada not controlling that? Why are the synthetic drugs not being controlled? Why can’t you bring legislation in to control the synthetic drugs?
We are in violation of international treaties that we’ve ratified, and we’re supposed to have criminal sanctions, not only against the standard coke, marijuana, and all the rest, but also the synthetic drugs, which fall within the treaties the UN has set out and we’ve ratified.
Canada has fallen down in not controlling the use of those synthetic chemical drugs. I’m not suggesting we can’t expand on further protection in our legislation to encompass that even more and to enforce it, but I’m saying for goodness’ sake, don’t loosen the law we have now. We’ll have many more adolescents taking all these drugs.
Again, the experiment in the Netherlands and Switzerland…when you have a liberal attitude to drugs, it’s not just the standard ones; it’s everything, all the synthetic drugs as well. But we’re not enforcing our–
The Chair: Thank you.
I have Mr. Sorenson for five minutes.
Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, Canadian Alliance): Thank you, Madam Chairman.
I want to thank all those for appearing today.
We have been travelling throughout the country. We’ve had witnesses in from all over this country who have given us a variety of plans and different ways with which they believe we can address a drug strategy.
I would say we are trying to address a drug problem, a problem we have in this country. We have met with some very sorry cases as we’ve travelled, especially, I recall, a few in Atlantic Canada. There some individuals really hit home, struck a chord with us, as we saw young people whose lives had basically been ruined because they had had no trouble gaining access to drugs.
One young chap became hooked on morphine while going through surgery and then started looking for other drugs to satisfy the hunger he had found while in hospital. I remember one case where we met with an individual who worked among aboriginals; I think it was in either Newfoundland or New Brunswick. He made it very clear that where the family was weak, the drug problems were strong. It seemed as if a breakdown of the family unit was one of the big problems they experienced. He made it very evident in his testimony.
I get the feeling somewhere here that Canada is at a crossroads. As we go through looking at this drug strategy, on the one hand we have an opportunity to do what is right, an opportunity to build something, an opportunity to diagnose a problem that needs a remedy and fix it. On the other hand we have an opportunity to have Canada become a drug addict’s dream come true.
When we look at some of the safe injection sites…. I’m not so much concerned about places where you can get a needle that’s clean as I am about a philosophy that would say the drug problem is strictly a health problem and thus dollars should be siphoned into this. At a time when our health dollars are in huge demand, we’re looking at free needles as the answer.
Now, I know that it can prevent a lot of problems, but is it logical that giving free needles to a diabetic isn’t possible, yet giving free needles to a heroin addict is? There seems to be a real problem here in our thinking. Sometimes I think we tend to treat the symptoms and not the cause. We’re trying to find what’s right.
My question to you is—and we’ve posed this question to other witnesses before—if you had your wish list and you could put three suggestions forward into a new drug strategy for Canada, what is the paramount ideal or the main thrust you would like to see in this drug strategy?
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: I think Mr. White asked us that question too.
It’s a balance. Again, the balance has to be between the prevention, which is education of our youth, and the rehabilitation. It has to be in the enforcement. You can’t say one is more important than the other.
We are at a crossroads; I really agree with you. We can get into the mess the Netherlands and Switzerland have created, and we’ve referred to what their policies are and the mess they’re in. We understand that the Netherlands is finally going to tighten up because of the complications with regard to their liberal policy.
Mr. Kevin Sorenson: Do any of your studies point to what happens when more money is put into enforcing the laws we have, where resources are given to those who can adequately enforce? Do you have any studies backing this up?
We’ve seen a reduction in resources to the RCMP. They’ve come forward and said, listen, we recognize that we need to prioritize. This is one that has been put in some cases on the back burner.
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: But the RCMP make one reference here. In the RCMP drug awareness program, they’re saying you can’t have enforcement without prevention. They themselves agree. They’re not being allowed to do a lot of the enforcement because of the funding. None of the complications, of course…. But there’s not the money put into the prevention and the education system of our youth. It’s difficult to say one is more important then the other, but it is significant.
In the Auditor General’s report, chapter 11 has Canada’s illicit drugs. The Auditor General says one of the big problems in Canada is that we’re not finding out the facts. There’s no system to find out the number of convictions. There’s no system showing the number of drug users. What she is recommending is very crucial. She’s saying that Canada has not carried out its strategy because we haven’t even bothered. They said it’s uncoordinated. The Ministry of Health, the Solicitor General–they’re all mixed up and nobody knows what the left hand and the right hand are doing. That is one of the problems. Nobody knows because we don’t have the data. She complained bitterly through the whole report. Why do we have a drug strategy and no data being collected by the Canadian government?
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Brad Melnychuk: Yes, I do want to say something. What I want to say is, yes, get organized. But you have to do two kinds of studies.
One, go out and look and see who’s getting results and document that, and go and look and see who isn’t and compare it. Don’t buy a generality that addiction treatment isn’t enough over here, or maybe it is over here, because then you get into what is addiction treatment. Maybe this program is working and this one isn’t. You have to go and look and see.
Number two, someone has to take the time to do what I call cost accounting. How much does it cost when you’re putting people through programs that aren’t actually getting effective results? How much does it cost when you’re keeping them on a maintenance program? How much does it actually cost when you look at the fact that you’re filtering people over and over again through addiction treatment programs? They’ll do a program one year and then they go back and do it again and they go back and do it again. There are some guys in the Narconon program who had done eight different programs before they finally arrived at Narconon and managed to come up with money themselves to pay for the program. This is how desperate they will get.
So there already is money being wasted. How much does it cost to keep re-arresting somebody and cycling them through the prison system on drug-related charges? These things add up. How much does it cost for the person who’s actually not working and is going out and committing crimes instead and all of that? It costs. It costs far more than doing this kind of research and investing in things that work.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Melnychuk.
We’ll have a quick question from Ms. Allard.
Ms. Carole-Marie Allard (Laval East, Lib.): Thank you, Madame Chair.
I have here in research paper prepared by the Library of Parliament and revised in 1999. It says it’s been established for some time that’s there is a psychological link and that there are brain cells which create a need for certain substances. In other words, they’re trying to find a physiological explanation for addiction.
My question concerns the whole problem of dependence. We know that some people become addicted after a single use while others regularly take drugs during their whole life without ever becoming addicted. I think it is largely recognized that about 10% of the population is incapable of eliminating drugs. They will develop a dependence after a single use.
My question is addressed to everyone here. In the course of the research you’re presenting today or in any other research, were you ever in contact with scientists who studied addiction? You seem to be interested in the physiological aspects of drug dependence. So I wanted to know whether you had such contacts in your line of work.
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: I didn’t put it in the brief, but I did come across that. Some part of that report does say there is a chemical problem that would lead to addiction, but most studies indicate there are psychological and emotional components.
The best way to explain it is people want to get the feeling of security they had when they took the drug…the hurts and pains of life. They want to restore that and get that high, that feeling of serenity and completeness. It does seem to stem from psychological and emotional…and a breakdown of a needy person who is trying to get compensation for whatever the problem is. They get a high the first time they go on it, and they want to get it again because it gives them that sense of security, love, and acceptance they’ve missed out on somewhere along the line. That’s what I saw.
Ms. Carole-Marie Allard: You’re totally rejecting the genetic character of addiction.
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: I don’t at all. I would not exclude that, but I know it’s both. The vast majority would be psychological and emotional, but with some it’s chemical too. I think that’s quite reasonable.
Mr. Brad Melnychuk: You asked if we’d spoken or met with researchers coming up with this information. I personally have not. I also cannot say whether or not any staff from Narconon across the globe—because we have Narconons all over—have done that. I would tend to question it, based on the fact that our Narconons are improving, and some of them are very close to a 100% success rate.
We address both the physical addiction and the psychological addiction, because we know that a body can be physically changed from living off nutrients to living off drugs. That is a fact; there are documents and it does occur. Whether or not it’s because of genes, I don’t know. However, we also know we can reverse that, and do.
That’s all I have to say on it, but I would question the researchers personally and see what they’re studying. That is something I’m now going to actually do.
The Chair: Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.
It is almost 5 p.m. and we had agreed that we would break at 4:45 p.m. The meeting is scheduled until 5 p.m., so we really have to move.
The Chair: The meeting is adjourned.
- Minutes retrieved from https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/37-1/SNUD/meeting-49/minutes ↩
- Committee Members: https://www.ourcommons.ca/Committees/en/SNUD/Members?parl=37&session=1 ↩
- Transcript excerpted from https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/37-1/SNUD/meeting-49/evidence ↩
- See: Magazine article: A Turning Point In Our History (2004) for more information on the pattern of the Scientology organization. ↩