Education, not jail, best answer to drug culture intervention

Apart from the current divide in the House of Commons regarding the “Robocall Scandal,” the Conservative government must look over its shoulder at how its crime omnibus bill and the closely related Bill C-30 will play with Canadians.

Putting things in perspective, if the police on Manitoulin were spared dealing with the various effects of citizens’ addictions to perscription drugs (such as OxyContin which has of this week been replaced in pharmacy dispensaries by a more-difficult-to-chop-up and resell formulation) they would have an enormous amount of time to fill doing other things.

These prescription-drug related crimes (one murder three years ago, three charges of manslaughter from an incident last summer, to cite local extreme examples) have in the past decade given an entirely new face to the crime scene on Manitoulin and in most of Northern Ontario, indeed throughout most of Northern Canada. This reflects the new reality of street crime and policing.

We’ve got people peddling extremely addictive drugs and, it would seem, an endless supply of people only too happy to become addicts.

While this judgment is likely too simplistic by half, it certainly seems that this is the case since an enormous number of the people with addictions to various narcotics are young people.

And with all of the publicity, school programs and so on, most young people must understand that addictions are very easily come by.

That is the nexus of ordinary crime, at least in the community of Manitoulin and throughout much of Canada.

The government’s Omnibus Crime Bill, in suggesting new minimum penalties and decreasing options for plea bargaining is certainly stressing the punitive side of court justice.

But, should the legislation pass (and it will without a strong push back from the population) it will mean that the people on the lowest rungs of the drug-dealing hierarchy will be spending more time in prison.

And do you know what?

When they’re in jail, other people will take up the slack and see this as a career opportunity and continue finding and selling drugs.

Why do people, in particular young people, accept their first bit of OxyContin (or whatever will replace it or yet another addictive product) and set themselves on the path of the life of an addict?

It doesn’t make any sense. Not if one is looking at the problem from the reality of a middle-aged, middle-class perspective.

Perhaps the lawmakers are too middle-aged and middle-class for there appears to be far more emphasis on the punishment of people caught in the horrible web of the drug culture compared to the warnings of dire consequences and education that must…must!…become a far more important part of every school’s curriculum.

In our opinion, at least in the context of crime in the Manitoulin community, this is the only way of breaking the terrible cycle of drug use that is now so pervasive.

People whose minds are not yet fully formed are making catastrophic decisions about life-choices that will haunt them, possibly for the rest of their lives and, in many cases, send them into the penal system if they start to market drugs as a way to earn money to support their own destructive habits.

In the case of drugs, it should not be about punishment. The government has this one wrong, at least in its emphasis on punishment.

Rather, resources should be lavished on making sure that young people do not make the wrong choices in the first place and this process, outside of the family, should begin at the Kindergarten level, as part of the curriculum. That’s the only way we can hope to break the cycle.