Pubdate: Mon, 07 Nov 2005
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 The Province
Author: Kirk Tousaw


Dan Paulsen's letter (Opinion, Nov. 2) makes an excellent point: the 
four-pillars approach is not working and should be scrapped.

Unfortunately, his rather myopic proposed solution (more strict 
enforcement of the criminal law) is the very reason for the problems.

The four-pillars approach has not "fixed" the problems in the 
Downtown Eastside because, despite the success of the supervised 
injection site, only one pillar remains the primary recipient of 
government funding.

That pillar is enforcement. Criminal prohibition, arrests, 
prosecution, incarceration . . . these are the tools that continue to 
be most funded and most used.

The other three pillars remain underfunded and underutilized.

The tragic irony is that the four-pillars approach would be much more 
effective as a three-pillars program.

Enforcement of the criminal law is the least effective (and most 
expensive) way to achieve positive societal change.

Indeed, criminal prohibition is the cause of most of the negative 
externalities associated with drug use (violence, petty theft, 
disease, property crime).

If we eliminate enforcement and concentrate our limited resources on 
treatment, education and prevention, the situation would improve 
markedly and rapidly.

For those who found themselves nodding along with Paulsen's call for 
"tough measures" I ask this: how well are "tough measures" working in 
the United States?

Indeed, how well has criminal prohibition worked anywhere at any 
historical moment?

The answer, of course, is not at all.

Until we stop seeing drug use as a criminal issue, we will continue 
to struggle for solutions.

Scrap the four-pillars plan? Yes. Replace it with the single pillar 
of enforcement? Very bad idea.

We need a three-pillars plan that finally recognizes enforcement as a 
blocking force to progressive and positive social change.

Kirk Tousaw

Barrister and Solicitor, Vancouver 
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