Is the CBA becoming too political?

Is the Canadian Bar Association becoming too political?

That was the question some CBA council members were asking over the weekend as they debated the divisive and disparate issues of drug policy and daycare.

Resolution 12 on harm-reduction drug policy urged the federal government to soften its approach to drug addicts in the criminal justice system by approaching all drug use as a “normal human activity that may have harmful consequences to the health of individual users and society as a whole, and take a policy approach through the regulation and taxation of drug use and distribution that aims to reduce any harm and dedicates funds raised to effectively addressing that harm, such as through the creation of more supervised injection sites.

Supporter Gail Wartman of Moose Jaw, Sask., said she had seen friends and clients struggle with addiction.

“What criminalization does is it penalizes them additionally way beyond the addiction that they struggle with. And until they’re able to be treated as human beings, and taken care of, including at safe injection sites, the problem is only going to get worse,” she said.

Detractors like Kathleen Kelly questioned the effectiveness of safe injection sites, but Ken Armstrong of Vancouver wondered whether it was a suitable subject at all for the CBA.

“We ought not to be taking political positions that go outside sort of the lawyers for lawyers kind of issue,” he said. “This is not necessarily a rule of law issue. In my opinion, it’s a political issue . . . we do have to be mindful of where the boundary is between us as a legal organization versus just taking a political position. I do believe it’s beyond our scope.”

The resolution was eventually tabled after its sponsors agreed to go back and have another look at its wording.

Earlier, another resolution on the retention of women in the profession urged the CBA to support a 2001 study by the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation that recommended expanding “publicly funded preschool education for all 2- to 5-year-olds. It would be available, affordable, top-quality and voluntary.”

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