REGINA, June 10, 2005 – Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert chaired a meeting of Ministers of Justice, Health and Public Safety from the four western provinces and the three territories, and the Attorney General of North Dakota in Regina today. The meeting, the first of its kind, was called to address the serious problems associated with addictions and, in particular the use of crystal methamphetamine. The clear message that is being sent by this meeting is that western and northern leaders are committed to treating the victims of addiction, and putting criminals out of the crystal meth business.
This meeting was held at the direction of the Western Premiers. At their recent conference in Lloydminster Western Premiers discussed the growing problem of addictions and the need for urgent action to avoid the proliferation of crystal meth in our communities. Western Premiers asked Premier Calvert to chair a meeting of Ministers to share best practices and develop strategies on education, prevention, treatment and enforcement for crystal meth.
Ministers were reminded during the meeting of the devastating social effects and impacts of crystal meth and addictions on Aboriginal communities, and the important role of these communities in helping to address this issue. Ministers were assisted at the meeting by several presentations; including presentations by the RCMP and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Alphonse Bird and his guests.
Results of the Western Canadian Summit on Methamphetamine released June 9, 2005, noted that the approach to dealing with this toxic, dangerous drug should be part of a comprehensive drug and alcohol strategy.
CONTROLLED DRUGS AND SUBSTANCES ACT AND PRECURSORS
Ministers noted that the maximum penalties for possession or trafficking of opiates or cannabis are much harsher than those for possession or trafficking of crystal meth. Ministers are calling on the federal government to make changes to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act requiring penalties for crystal meth offences at least as strong as those for heroin and cocaine.
Western leaders also urged the federal government to create new offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for possession of precursors (key ingredients) and equipment used in the making of crystal meth.
Western leaders are encouraged by recent commitments by the federal government to further restrict access to precursors and look forward to continued improvement.
Production of crystal meth involves using toxic and dangerous chemicals and the creation of toxic waste, with potential danger to others. Ministers want to see the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act amended to take this into account as an aggravating factor in determining the sentence for production and trafficking.
At the Ministers’ meeting, the RCMP noted the vast majority of crystal meth comes from “superlabs”. Limiting supplies of ingredients to these labs requires improved controls. Currently, licensing and monitoring of precursors by Health Canada does not require extensive background checks, monitoring of sales, reporting of suspicious transactions, or inspections. Western Ministers agreed that amendments to federal legislation are needed to improve controls, and to ensure only legitimate manufacturers are able to obtain precursor chemicals. Western leaders asked the federal government to move quickly to address these concerns and provide the resources necessary.
Western leaders recognized that an interprovincial/territorial approach is a powerful tool to reduce access to precursors of crystal meth and agreed to take a common approach to controlling over-the-counter cold remedies because they are a core ingredient in the production of crystal meth. Ministers are calling on industry to expand their efforts to control the sale of consumer products containing precursors. Ministers agreed to the need to restrict the sale of products containing ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine to behind the counter at appropriate locations. Ministers directed their officials to report back to them by October 1st 2005, with specific recommendations with respect to volume controls, age restriction, and locations and the specific products that should be subject to restriction for over-the-counter cold remedies. Ministers discussed issues related to the control of Anhydrous ammonia.
POLICE INFORMATION & ENFORCEMENT TOOLS
Ministers agreed that, since much of the trafficking and production of methamphetamine involves inter-provincial/territorial activity, law enforcement agencies require good intelligence and co-ordination of efforts to maximize their impact.
Provincial and territorial agencies across western Canada will support law enforcement agencies to establish a national clearing-house about police activity to take down clandestine labs, used for the manufacture of synthetic drugs, and marijuana grow operations.
Ministers noted there is a need for training about drug use incidents that expands on information gathered by police to include medical personnel, fire fighters, and other first responders. Sharing of this information will help prevention, treatment, and enforcement agencies to identify hot spots for action. Ministers noted there is a need to resolve policy and legislative issues related to privacy, to enable effective information sharing.
Western leaders agreed to continue their collective efforts to strengthen and better co-ordinate enforcement including looking at consistent legal approaches.
Western leaders called on Health Canada to establish the authority for inspectors to physically attend a facility and confirm the identity and location of an applicant prior to issuing a license to import or move precursor chemicals. Ministers stressed the importance of Health Canada committing sufficient resources to meet its enforcement responsibilities.
Production of synthetic drugs, such as crystal meth, creates toxic chemical residues that are harmful to families, communities and the environment. Investigation and clean-up require the involvement of a number of agencies with specialized training. At the recent meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, mayors outlined their concerns about crystal meth.
Ministers acknowledged the importance of engaging provincial environmental authorities and agreed to engage all appropriate agencies within their jurisdictions, including municipalities, to develop protocols to manage responses to clean-up of clandestine labs and marijuana grow operations.
Ministers noted that action is needed to ensure residences that have housed clandestine labs are properly decontaminated and are not sold or rented to unsuspecting citizens.
PREVENTION, EDUCATION AND TREATMENT
Western leaders agreed to work with their colleagues, including the federal government and aboriginal peoples, across the country to develop a national crystal meth awareness campaign. Western leaders also directed their Deputy Ministers of Health to establish a website to serve as a clearing house for crystal meth information. Recognizing that vulnerable children are more susceptible to substance misuse, Ministers express support for a healthy schools strategy that would identify and provide support for children at risk.
Western leaders agree that more work is needed to ensure prevention approaches are based on best practices, contain accurate and credible messaging, and reflect population health approaches to health promotion; ensuring practices are appropriate for all populations, especially “at risk” groups.
It was noted that prevention must start with families, children and youth. Children, youth and families need to be made aware of the dangers of drug and alcohol use. All agencies involved in prevention education must be delivering the same appropriate and credible messages.
Provincial treatment systems provide assessment, detoxification, inpatient, outpatient, outreach and harm reduction services to clients suffering from drug or alcohol abuse. Ministers agreed that all jurisdictions will build on best practice models.
Ministers agreed to sponsor a western Canadian conference on treatment and prevention later this year to disseminate information on best and promising practices in prevention and treatment.
In some communities in western Canada, there is a high proportion of drug and alcohol addicts in the offender population and some crime is related to crystal meth use. Work will continue with the development and implementation of pilot projects linking justice responses to drug and alcohol users with treatment from the health sector. Research will also be conducted to gauge the efficacy of existing partnerships between the justice and health systems.
In wrapping up their meeting, Ministers agreed to report back to the next Western Premiers meeting on progress made in reducing drug availability, prevention, education and treatment.
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