U.S. Attack on Drug Laws Angers Top B.C. Judge

U.S. Attack on Drug Laws Angers Top B.C. Judge
Posted by FoM on March 04, 2000 at 09:37:03 PT
By Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun 
Source: Vancouver Sun
A U.S. government report criticizes the province for lax treatment of drug dealers. The United States should butt out of Canada's judicial business when it comes to drug enforcement and sentencing, B.C.'s top provincial judge said Friday. 
Robert Metzger, chief judge of the B.C. provincial court, said the U.S. has more drug problems than any country he knows of, despite tough sentencing, and it has no business criticizing B.C. or Canada for what it considers to be lax treatment of drug dealers. "I want to say to them. 'Don't talk to me about how to get rid of a drug problem. You hand out long sentences and your jails are full of people, but your problem isn't going away,' " Metzger said. "If I want to listen to anybody, it would be a country that doesn't have a drug problem, and that has solved their drug problem." Metzger's comments come in the wake of an international narcotics control strategy report issued this week by the U.S. state department's bureau for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs. The report, which assessed drug enforcement and judicial initiatives in Canada, Mexico and Central America, was critical of B.C.'s conviction rate. It said strong efforts by the RCMP and U.S. cooperative agencies are undermined by a Canadian judiciary that often gives more weight to a drug trafficker's rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms than it does to society's needs. The report cited a Vancouver Sun investigation that showed marijuana growers in Vancouver get lenient sentences -- sometimes serving no time and paying no fines. "Canadian press reports indicate that only about 20 per cent of those convicted of growing marijuana in Vancouver receive jail terms, and that British Columbia has the highest rates of acquittal rates in the nation," the report said. It cited the case of a convicted criminal who was deported after assisting two Columbian drug traffickers to escape from jail, then had to be returned to Canada at taxpayers' expense to pursue his request for refugee status. Metzger was not impressed with the report, saying it seeks to imprint on other countries a faulty U.S. law enforcement system that engages in passive racial and social discrimination. "The other thing that makes me angry about U.S. criticism is that they have a horrendously disproportionate number of black and poor people in their jails," he said. "They don't seem to have a grip on their problems; I don't see why they should be criticizing us for ours. "Their whole thing is based on the false premise that if you hand out increased penalties, you will see a reduction in crime. But we know that isn't the case. If that was, they wouldn't have the highest concentration of prison population in the world." In an October, 1999, report, The Vancouver Sun examined 112 court cases that showed only one in five people convicted of growing marijuana was sentenced to jail. One in four served no jail time and paid no fine. Those who were fined paid an average of $2,700, sparking comments from RCMP Corporal Grant Learned that Lower Mainland police forces were frustrated with the courts because of the lenient sentences. Canada, which has more than one million drug users, 25 per cent of them cocaine addicts, has adopted a three-pronged approach of education, treatment and law enforcement. According to 1996 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 19,000 people were convicted in U.S. district courts of drug offences that year. Of those, 16,492 were sent to jail for an average of 82 months. Metzger said judges are limited in the kind and range of sentences they can hand out. The B.C. Court of Appeal has set out sentencing ranges, and counsel for the defendants and the Crown make presentations on what they consider to be a fair sentence in each case, he said. Deviating beyond those ranges for "ordinary" drug cases would only encourage appeals, he said. Metzger said he's not planning to do anything about the U.S. report except to bring it to the attention of his judicial colleagues. He said any political action would have to come from the provincial and federal governments. B.C.'s new Attorney-General Andrew Petter didn't want to comment about the U.S. report, but his staff pointed out B.C. has complained in the past to both the U.S. and Ottawa about the lack of tough sentences. In 1997, a federal-provincial-territorial meeting of attorneys general resulted in an agreement on a new "comprehensive drug strategy," including provision for longer mandatory sentences. But to date, that agreement has not evolved into changes to the Criminal Code of Canada. Federal Justice Minister Anne McLellan was not available for comment, and calls to the U.S. State Department were not returned. Published: March 4, 2000Copyright The Vancouver Sun and Pacific Press  1997Related Articles:Canada Violates International Drug Treaty Views Canada as Ally in Drug War
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Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on March 05, 2000 at 12:02:27 PT:
You've every right to be pissed
You want to know why it's happening? It's very simple, really...First, the Puritans stirred up the pot in England. When people got tired of being splashed, the Puritans were given the boot. Then the Dutch, bless their generous souls, took them in. But the Puritans were soon peeing on the carpet of the Dutch and daring to call it rainwater, so the Dutch gave them the boot. So they wound up here, where they could beat up on each other and the Indians with impunity. And the ur-ideology of Puritanism has been the backbone of all US foreign policy ever since. Namely, piss off your neighbors by pointing out their (supposed) shortcomings because it's God's will that you are the Annointed. And the Annointed must be about God's work, which includes the conversion of the heathen to the True Faith. In this case, the True Faith of the Drug-Free Society.Some days I'm ashamed to be an American. 
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Comment #3 posted by Symmetric on March 04, 2000 at 19:45:29 PT:
canadian comment
The report, which assessed drug enforcement and judicial initiatives in Canada, Mexico and Central America, was critical of B.C.'s conviction rate. It said strong efforts by the RCMP and U.S. cooperative agencies are undermined by a Canadian judiciary that often gives more weight to a drug trafficker's rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms than it does to society's needs. Yeah, damn us all to hell for trying to uphold the constitution. This is the closest I have ever seen a US agency come to admitting what their real objective is in all this; an end to individual freedoms and instead forcing everyone to conform to the goverments current idea of "society's needs".I'm sorry but this really pisses me off, by all means correct me if I'm wrong.
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Comment #2 posted by military officer guy on March 04, 2000 at 16:10:01 PT
Metzger...i like that guy...
i like when reasonable people tell the USA to shut the F#$% up...that's what he did and it would be nice if the US would listen to him...i'm loving it...i like that Metzger guy...who the heck are we to tell any nation how to run a drug policy, what a joke...
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on March 04, 2000 at 14:54:48 PT
Good on you, Judge Metzger!
I was wondering when we might hear some stirrings of Canadian officialdom in opposition to Uncle's insane schemes. That those stirrings would come from a Canadian jurist is doubling heartening. Unlike many of our sitting judges in the States (who privately acknowledge the War on Some Drugs is lost, but fear to publicly state it) it would seem the Canadians judges are made of sterner stuff. Wish we had more like him down here. 
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