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

Chapter 3- Our Guiding Principles

The role of governance

Governance is part of both the spheres of collective governance of the State and of governance of the self. If the State’s chosen vehicle is formal law, the passing of legislation does not exhaust all the possibilities in terms of collective governance. Moreover, governance of the self is the slow discovery – in the strong sense of the term - of the juridicity that underlies human action.

Professor MacDonald addresses the issue eloquently:


How ought law and legal institutions to be deployed to achieve the symbolic governance of human agency in a manner that facilitates the just achievement of individual and collective human purposes? [1][12]


The issue brings us back to the purposes of community governance, which is to facilitate human relationships and self-realization, with a minimum of interference in such a way as to stimulate individuals' discovery of the source of normativity rather than having it dictated by an external body. It is not the responsibility of State governance to ensure either the health or the happiness of its citizens. It is, however, its duty to ensure that the rules that it enacts and the way in which they are carried out do the least possible harm to the individual’s ability to develop his or her own moral code. Not a single morality, or at least a morality for everyone, as the majority position of the Le Dain report maintained, but a facilitation of access to morality for citizens, morality here being understood in the sense of the ethical discovery of fundamental laws regarding relationships with others, as Professor Malherbe pointed out.

Professor MacDonald proposes a definition of governance that is drawn from the work of the Law Reform Commission, which gives guidance: the goal of governance is freedom, and not control. It is a question of defining the goals of society through policies and action programs that are then implemented through systems and processes and upheld by actors, allowing for the encouragement and affirmation of human action. The law, vehicle of choice of governance, does not seek instrumental purposes of simple expressiveness of rules or limitations passed for and on behalf of citizens, but a reciprocal process of building social relationships through which people, citizens and governments, can constantly adjust their expectations in terms of behaviour.

We therefore accept as a guiding principle for governance that all of the means the State has at its disposal must work towards facilitating human action, particularly the processes allowing for the building of arrangements between collective government and governance of the self.



[1][12]  MacDonald, op. cit., page 78.

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