Justice and Enforcement
The pillars of Justice and Enforcement encompass interventions that seek to strengthen community safety by responding to criminal activity and safety issues associated with the use, manufacturing, and sale of legal and illegal substances. Justice and Enforcement remain important pillars to many drug strategies across Ontario with shared goals of:
- Addressing the criminal behaviour that most affects the safety of community members
- Increasing community safety
- Ensuring access to addictions supports in the court system
- Developing effective pathways to support community members with substance use issues transitioning out of the justice system
- Promoting alternative healing and recovery options for court-ordered programming (supporting individuals whose addiction has resulted in criminal activities)
- Exploring evidence-based strategies to address social justice and enforcement efforts in addressing substance use and those struggling with addictions
- Encouraging working partnerships between police, justice, and social/health service providers to address shared challenges
Efforts to control and regulate illicit substances have largely relied on legislation. In Canada, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act determines which substances are regulated and how they are marketed, while controlling the production, distribution, and use of illicit substances. Alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals (and soon to be cannabis) are legal substances that all levels of governments control through regulations and taxes. Regulatory options do not attempt to prohibit the use of particular substances, but instead develop controls for the sale of substances, with attention to the health and social harms related to each substance.
The use of enforcement interventions solely have been shown to be ineffective at controlling substance use, and have actually been shown to contribute negatively to the health and social needs of individuals and communities. In fact, markets for various illicit substances have continued to flourish and street-level prices have declined, while street-level possession charges have increased, and so have the costs associated with courts, policing, and the justice system. With fear of incarceration, people are more likely to use substances in unsafe environments and in unsafe ways, which has contributed to increasing rates of overdoses and overdose-related deaths, HIV, and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Finally, the criminalization of people who use drugs ties people to a criminal record, which can later serve to hinder access to employment and housing opportunities, as well as access to health and prevention services, including needle exchanges and treatment programs.,
In consideration of the negative implications of criminalizing illicit drug use, various leaders across the country are advocating for a public health approach to overdose prevention by decriminalizing all drugs for simple possession and personal use. It is hoped that decriminalization will improve the response to the growing number of opioid-related overdoses and deaths, and police services across the country have increasingly noted, “We can’t arrest our way out of the opioid crisis”.
Decriminalization offers a range of policies and practices to reduce the harms associated with the criminalization of illicit drugs by removing mandatory criminal sanctions, often replacing them with opportunities for education, harm reduction, and treatment services. The HKLN Drug Strategy is not taking a position on decriminalization at this time, but would like to draw attention to provincial and municipal police forces that have been promoting non-criminal justice alternatives to drug offences. These “de facto” enforcement approaches can be implemented relatively quickly compared to changes to formal legislation, and they can be tailored to respond to local issues. Such programs seen in the three counties include:
- Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act
- Mental Health and Police Programs (see right menu bar)
- Police Diversion Programs
- Prison-Based Harm Reduction Programming
Within the four pillars approach, the Justice and Enforcement Pillars have the opportunity to intersect with other pillars to consider strategic approaches explore the role of the legal context of substance use.
1 Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, University of Toronto, & MDSCNO. (2018). MDSCNO Coordinators Survey Analysis. [Unpublished manuscript]. University of Toronto, ON.
2 MacPherson, D., Mulla, Z., & Richardson, L. (2006). The evolution of drug policy in Vancouver, Canada: Strategies for preventing harm from psychoactive substance use. International Journal of Drug Policy, 17(2), 127-132.
3 Haden, M. (2006). The evolution of the four pillars: Acknowledging the harms of drug prohibition. International Journal of Drug Policy, 17(2), 124-126.
4 Haden, M. (2006). The evolution of the four pillars: Acknowledging the harms of drug prohibition. International Journal of Drug Policy, 17(2), 124-126.
5 MacPherson, D., Mulla, Z., & Richardson, L. (2006). The evolution of drug policy in Vancouver, Canada: Strategies for preventing harm from psychoactive substance use. International Journal of Drug Policy, 17(2), 127-132.
6 Haden, M. (2006). The evolution of the four pillars: Acknowledging the harms of drug prohibition. International Journal of Drug Policy, 17(2), 124-126.
7 DeBeck, K., Wood, E., Montaner, J., & Kerr, T. (2006). Canada’s 2003 renewed drug strategy: An evidence-based review. HIV/AIDS Policy & Law Review, 11(2-3), 1, 5.
8 Jesseman, R., & Payer, D. (2018). Decriminalization: Options and Evidence. Retrieved from http://www.ccdus.ca/Resource%20Library/CCSA-Decriminalization-Controlled-Substances-Policy-Brief-2018-en.pdf#search=decriminalization
List of Police Services in HKPR
Police Services Northumberland:
Northumberland OPP Detachment (Brighton, Campbellford, Cobourg offices)
Cobourg Police Service
Port Hope Police Service
Police Services CKL:
City of Kawartha Lakes OPP Detachment
Kawartha Lakes Police Service
Police Services Haliburton:
Haliburton OPP Detachment
Mental Health and Police Programs
Community Response Unit in CKL
It is a team comprised of a Mental Health Clinician and
For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message
M-HEART Program in Northumberland
A new partnership between Cobourg Police, Port Hope Police, Northumberland OPP, and community mental health providers was announced at a news conference at Northumberland Hills Hospital (NHH). M-HEART (Mental Health Engagement and Response Team) brings police and mental health professionals together to better assist individuals with mental illness and/or addictions in Northumberland.
Police Diversion Programs
Diversion is an integral part of the Canadian criminal justice system that promotes the use of “extra-judicial measures or responses outside the justice system, including informal warnings, formal cautions, and referrals to community programs (i.e., substance use treatment)”.
Compared with criminal charges, diversion programs can reduce criminal justice system costs and reduce adverse social and economic consequences for the individual. Furthermore, various countries and states have had positive outcomes with police diversion programs, including, lower rates of re-offending; improved relationships among police, people who use drugs, and community service agencies; successful referral systems to education and treatment; and more efforts targeting the root causes of substance use.
Local resources for diversion programs:
- John Howard Society
- Elizabeth Fry Bail Supervision and Verification Program in Lindsay 705-559-1225
Click here for a list of more programs and services.
- Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre & Court Worker Program
- Rebound Child & Youth Services
Prison-Based Harm Reduction Programing
Access to prison-based harm reduction
News Update: Correctional Service of Canada announces Prison Needle Exchange Programs in two federal prisons for people who use injection drugs. The two programs will be piloted, beginning in June 2018, with the Correctional Service of Canada planning to roll out the service at other institutions next year.
Click here for more information.