Mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences counter-productive to public health and human rights



    Bill C-26 is ill-advised, says national AIDS organization

    TORONTO, March 14 /CNW/ - Implementing mandatory minimum sentences for
drug offences, as proposed in the federal government's Bill C-26 currently
before Parliament, both creates unnecessary risks to public health and
infringes basic human rights principles, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
said today. The statement comes in reaction to the latest public announcement
by Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, at a public event in Regina this
morning.
    "The federal government is intent on implementing laws that have been
shown to do real damage to both public health and human rights," said Richard
Elliott, the Executive Director of the Legal Network. "The U.S. has had
mandatory minimum sentences for some time, yet the drug problem there is only
getting worse, while the number of non-violent offenders in prison is
dramatically increasing. This brings inevitable negative health consequences -
including the spread of HIV and hepatitis C through sharing equipment to
inject the drugs that make their way into prisons despite the government's
best efforts."
    The Legal Network also rejected the government's suggestions that the law
will only "get tough on drug dealers" while showing compassion for their
"victims".
    "This distinction is often artificial, particularly when harsh minimum
sentences are mandated for dealing in even small quantities of drugs," said
Elliott. "The real profiteers in the drug market - those who traffic in large
quantities of illegal drugs - distance themselves from more visible
drug-trafficking activities and are rarely captured by law enforcement
efforts. Instead, it is people who are addicted and involved in small-scale,
street-level drug distribution to support their addictions who commonly end up
being charged with drug trafficking and who would bear the brunt of this harsh
sentencing measure."
    For additional information, the Legal Network's briefing paper -
"Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Drug Offences: Why Everyone Loses" - is
available at www.aidslaw.ca.

    
                                                      Disponible en français
    





For further information:

For further information: Vajdon Sohaili, Communications Specialist,
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Telephone: (416) 595-1666, ext. 227, E-mail:
vsohaili@aidslaw.ca, Website: www.aidslaw.ca

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CANADIAN HIV/AIDS LEGAL NETWORK

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