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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
Volume I - General Orientation

Part I

General Orientation

Chapter 1

Our Mandate




On April 16, 2000, pursuant to a motion by Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, the Senate adopted the following order of reference:


That a Special Committee of the Senate be appointed to reassess Canada's anti-drug legislation and policies, to carry out a broad consultation of the Canadian public to determine the specific needs of various regions of the country, where social problems associated with the trafficking and use of illegal drugs are more in evidence, to develop proposals to disseminate information about Canada's anti-drug policy and, finally, to make recommendations for an anti-drug strategy developed by and for Canadians under which all levels of government work closely together to reduce the harm associated with the use of illegal drugs;

That, without being limited in its mandate by the following, the committee be authorized to:

ˇˇ        Review the federal government's policy on illegal drugs in Canada, its effectiveness, and the extent to which it is fairly enforced;

ˇˇ        Develop a national harm reduction policy in order to lessen the negative impact of illegal drugs in Canada, and make recommendations regarding the enforcement of this policy, specifically the possibility of focusing on use and abuse of drugs as a social and health problem;[1][1]

ˇˇ        Study harm reduction models adopted by other countries and determine if there is a need to implement them wholly or partially in Canada;

ˇˇ        Examine Canada's international role and obligations under United Nations conventions on narcotics and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other related treaties in order to determine whether these treaties authorize it to take action other than laying criminal charges and imposing sentences at the international level;

ˇˇ        Explore the effects of cannabis on health and examine whether alternative policy on cannabis would lead to increased harm in the short and long term;

ˇˇ        Examine the possibility of the government using its regulatory power under the Contraventions Act as an additional means of implementing a harm reduction policy, as is done in other jurisdictions;

ˇˇ        Examine any other issue respecting Canada's anti-drug policy that the committee considers appropriate to the completion of its mandate.


Upon adoption of the motion, the Committee chairman asked the Senate to name the members who would form the Committee. The following senators were thus appointed: Pierre Claude Nolin, Chair, Sharon Carstairs, Deputy Chair, Colin Kenny, Lucie Pépin and Eileen Rossiter.

The Committee thus constituted approved a work program and a budget, which it then submitted to its peers in the upper Chamber. The Committee's budget was approved in June 2000, thus making it possible to hire the scientific and administrative personnel who would support its work. The Committee organized its program of hearings of expert witnesses and held its first hearings on October 16, 2000.

However, the Committee was dissolved when the general election was called in October 2000, and restruck on March 15, 2001, but with an amended mandate: the scope of its work was now restricted to cannabis. The Committee's mandate in its present form therefore reads as follows:


That a special committee of the Senate be struck to examine:

ˇˇ        The approach taken by Canada to cannabis, its preparations, derivatives and similar synthetic preparations, in context;

ˇˇ        The effectiveness of this approach, the means used to implement it and the monitoring of its application;

ˇˇ        The related official policies adopted by other countries;

ˇˇ        Canada's international role and obligations under United Nations agreements and conventions on narcotics, in connection with cannabis, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other related treaties; and

ˇˇ        The social and health impacts of cannabis and the possible consequences of different policies;

ˇThat the special committee consist of five senators, three of whom shall constitute a quorum;

ˇThat the Honourable Senators Banks, Kenny, Nolin, Rossiter and (a fifth Senator to be named by the Chief Government Whip) be named to the committee;

ˇThat the committee be authorized to send for persons, papers and records, to hear witnesses, to report from time to time, and to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it;

ˇThat the briefs and evidence heard during consideration of Bill C‑8, An Act respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and other substances and to amend certain other Acts and repeal the Narcotic Control Act in consequence thereof, by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs during the 2nd Session of the 35th Parliament be referred to the committee;

ˇThat the documents and evidence compiled on this matter and the work accomplished by the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs during the 2nd Session of the 36th Parliament be referred to the committee;

ˇThat the committee be empowered to authorize, if deemed appropriate, the broadcasting on radio and/or television and the coverage via electronic media of all or part of its proceedings and the information it holds;

ˇThat the committee present its final report no later than August 31, 2002; and that the committee retain the powers necessary to publicize its findings for distribution of the study contained in its final report for 30 days after the tabling of that report;

ˇThat the committee be authorized, notwithstanding customary practice, to table its report to the Clerk of the Senate if the Senate is not sitting, and that a report so tabled be deemed to have been tabled in the Senate.




[1][1] Emphasis in the original.

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