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B.C.’s drug decriminalization threshold based on police input: Bennett

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OTTAWA — The federal government’s decision on British Columbia’s drug decriminalization threshold was based on police input, says Canada’s minister of mental health and addictions.

Drug users in B.C. who possess up to a cumulative 2.5 grams of illicit drugs for personal use will not be arrested or charged starting next year.

The threshold falls short of the 4.5 grams requested by the province and has been criticized as too low by some advocates who say entrenched drug users typically carry more.

The government received input from law enforcement across the country, including in B.C. and from the RCMP, Carolyn Bennett said in an interview.

Law enforcement showed that about 85 per cent of drug confiscations are of quantities less than two grams, she said.

The minister said the government will be watching closely to see whether people will continue to be charged or have their drugs confiscated if they are carrying over 2.5 grams.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday the federal government has taken a science-based approach to moving drug addictions out of the criminal system and into the health system, but had to make sure the conditions were right before moving forward on decriminalization in B.C.

“How do you make sure police officers and the justice system is ready for this change? How do you make sure that organized crime doesn’t make a windfall off of this change?” Trudeau said.

Ben Perrin, criminal law professor at the University of British Columbia, said the federal government was told to take one approach to the threshold by people who use drugs and experts, and told another by police.

“They chose to go with what the police told them. I think that’s problematic,” said Perrin, who also wrote a recent book on Canada’s opioid crisis.

More accurate data to properly set a threshold would not be the average amount of drugs confiscated from people for personal use, but the average amount of drugs confiscated by people who are drug traffickers, he said.

Perrin also cautioned against accepting police data at face value, which was echoed by M-J Milloy, a research scientist at the BC Centre on Substance Use.

“We don’t know if those numbers are correct because, in fact, the police never share their data. And to be frank, the police have a long history of not being open and transparent with respect to their operations or the data that they collect,” said Milloy.

Perrin said he had requested data on the number of people that were charged with drug trafficking from the Vancouver Police Department.

While the department cited 899 drug trafficking charges between 2015-16, only 31 were what would be called mid- and high-level traffickers, he said. “Even when you talk about drug traffickers, you have got to be super careful with who they’re even talking about.”

Asked what the discrepancy in the numbers means, he said, “If you want to show that you’re cracking down on drug trafficking, you better be rounding up a lot of street-level dealers to get your numbers up.”

Vancouver Police Department data on drug confiscations by quantity for 2019-20 was analyzed by Erica McAdam, another researcher at the BC Centre on Substance Use.

McAdam found that 75 per cent of opioid seizures by Vancouver police were from people carrying about 7.37 grams.

Her analysis was based on data obtained through an access-to-information request.

Milloy said even if the data Bennett cited getting from police is correct, that still leaves about 15 per cent of people who are arrested carrying more than 2.5 grams.

“These are the people who are particularly vulnerable to being marginalized and criminalized, because they’re carrying more weight, they’re carrying more drugs, probably because their addiction is more intense, and they are using more at a given time,” he said.

Trudeau said Edmonton and Toronto have expressed interest in moving forward on decriminalization, but the federal government working with the cities will be a challenge “to be entirely honest, without some support from provincial governments that are in charge of policing and health care.”

The British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police was not immediately available for comment.

Police reported almost 67,000 drug-related offences across the country in 2020, according to Statistics Canada.

During that year, there were about 3,400 violations related to personal possession of opioids, and more than 6,300 violations related to personal possession of cocaine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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Canada first to sign off on Finland, Sweden joining NATO – CTV News

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Canada became the first country to ratify Finland and Sweden’s accession protocols to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday.

The move follows NATO leaders officially inviting the two nations to join the alliance during a summit in Madrid last week, and brings the two countries a step closer to becoming full NATO members.

“Canada has full confidence in Finland and Sweden’s ability to integrate quickly and effectively into NATO and contribute to the Alliance’s collective defence,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“Their membership will make NATO stronger and we call on all NATO members to move swiftly to complete their ratification processes to limit opportunities for interference by adversaries.”

According to The Associated Press, all 30 NATO allies signed off on the accession protocols on Tuesday, sending the membership bids to each nation for legislative approval. Both Canada and Denmark were quick to turn around their ratification documents.

“Thank You Canada! Canada is the first country to deliver its instrument of ratification to the United States Department of State, the depository of the North Atlantic Treaty!” tweeted Sweden’s Ambassador to Canada Urban Ahlin.

In Canada, the federal government made moves domestically to move through the ratification quickly, Trudeau said. This included issuing orders-in-council authorizing Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly to “take the actions necessary to ratify, on behalf of Canada.”

Ahead of Parliament adjourning for the summer, the House of Commons debated and voted on a motion signalling their support for Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

In May, the House Public Safety and National Security Committee adopted a motion expressing “strong support” for the two Scandanavian countries’ membership in the alliance. The motion also called on all NATO members to approve their applications as quickly as possible.

A debate was held on this motion on June 1, and it passed unanimously when put to a vote the following day.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine has actualized something that was once only theoretical. An authoritarian state led by an autocrat has attacked a democracy: It has demonstrated that it is willing and able to attack a democracy. It has made clear that democracies that stand alone and are not part of military alliances are most vulnerable,” said Conservative MP and foreign affairs critic Michael Chong during the House debate. “That is why it has become necessary to bring both Sweden and Finland into the NATO alliance. This is an urgent matter.”

Also taking part in the debate, NDP MP and foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson said she supports Finland and Sweden doing all they can to prevent their countries from being threatened further by Russia.

“Prior to the further invasion of Ukraine, support for NATO membership was around 20 to 30 per cent in Sweden and Finland. Now, 76 per cent of Finnish people support joining NATO. Very simply, Vladimir Putin and the aggression of the Russian Federation are responsible for escalating tensions in the region and leading Sweden and Finland to seek NATO membership,” McPherson said.

With NATO member countries having different processes for completing ratification, it could be some time still before the two nations formally become a part of the longstanding intergovernmental military alliance.

With files from Senior Political Correspondent for CTV News Channel Mike Le Couteur

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Canada Day Ottawa: 12 arrested, 50 charges laid – CTV News Ottawa

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Ottawa police say 50 criminal charges were laid over the Canada Day long weekend and 12 people were arrested.

Last Friday marked the first Canada Day in Ottawa with major in-person events since 2019. Thousands of tourists and residents came downtown to celebrate the holiday. In the mix were several hundred protesters associated with the “Freedom Convoy” movement that paralyzed downtown Ottawa in February.

Ottawa police were out in force starting June 29 with the implementation of the downtown vehicle control zone, which was meant to prevent another vehicle-based occupation of the city.

Police said they arrested a dozen people in downtown Ottawa between June 29 and July 3, including people who were not involved in Canada Day events or protests. On top of the 50 criminal charges, four charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act were also laid.

One man was arrested on Parliament Hill June 29 for causing a disturbance. He was taken back to Toronto on an outstanding warrant.

On June 30, police charged one person with breach of release orders and Highway Traffic Act offences after a traffic stop on Highway 417 at Anderson Road.

Later that day, three people were arrested following an incident at the National War Memorial in which a police officer was allegedly choked. Charges include assaulting police, resisting arrest, causing a disturbance, and assault by choking. This incident came shortly after Canadian soldier James Topp, who is facing a court martial for criticizing the government’s COVID-19 vaccine rules in uniform, completed his cross-country walk protesting vaccine mandates. Hundreds of people had gathered at the War Memorial to hear Topp speak.

On Canada Day, one man was arrested and charged for allegedly pulling a knife on RCMP officers near LeBreton Flats after officers broke up a fight. Two more people were arrested and face several assault charges after an attack in the ByWard Market.

On July 2, police arrested two people in a vehicle and seized a handgun. Several gun and drug charges were laid. Patrol officers also seized a gun in Sandy Hill that afternoon and charged a man with drug and gun offences.

On July 3, police arrested a woman for public intoxication who allegedly spit in an officer’s face. She now also faces an assault charge.

Ottawa police did not name any of the accused.

Police are also investigating paint on public property in Strathcona Park and on Wellington Street. Protesters painted messages about convoy organizers Pat King and Tamara Lich on Wellington Street on Canada Day. Police also said earlier they laid 19 impaired driving charges over the long weekend.

Ottawa Bylaw towed 121 vehicles from the vehicle control zone between June 29 and July 3 and issued 513 parking tickets. 

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Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly to take part in G20 despite Russia’s presence

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OTTAWA — Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly will take part in a G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, this week, even though Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is also expected to attend.

In March, Joly joined many others in walking out of a United Nations meeting in Geneva when Lavrov, whom Canada had brought sanctions against days earlier, began speaking.

In April, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland joined a walkout of a G20 meeting for finance ministers and central bank governors in Washington to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In May, International Trade Minister Mary Ng joined her counterparts from the United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand in leaving an APEC meeting in Bangkok when the Russian representative began to speak.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would take part in the G20 leaders’ meeting in November, even if President Vladimir Putin goes too, saying it is important to counteract the voice that Russia will have at that table.

Joly, who recently said it was unacceptable for a Canadian official to attend a reception hosted by the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, is expected to join other foreign ministers at the G20 meeting in opposing the ongoing war in Ukraine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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