Opinion Column


More resources for drug users a better idea than trampling rights

By Laila Yuile, City Hall




Columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford battle over the issues of the day. The winner of the last duel on pipelines was Laila with 52%.

This week’s topic:

Should civil liberties be suspended for violent and mentally ill chronic drug users?

While Brent makes a couple of good points in his column this week, I’m sure glad he isn’t in charge of public safety in our province.

To make an assumption that the perpetrator behind the tragic death of Julie Paskall was an agitated, mentally ill hard drug user, and to use that assumption to bolster the debate, is tragic in itself. Yes, enough is enough, but let the investigation play out without putting something out there that we don’t know is fact or fiction.

If solving the problem of violent and mentally ill chronic drug users was as easy as rounding them all up, and shipping them to a facility in the middle of nowhere, it would have been done long ago. Quite frankly, it’s not that easy and it’s not the right thing to do. Mental illness and drug addiction are two totally separate issues. While they often co-exist, they must be treated separately and differently.

Read Brent Stafford's column

Individuals with more severe forms of mental illness, such as schizophrenia, can lead full and productive lives when accurately diagnosed and followed by a professional to ensure medications are taken as required, if needed. Unfortunately, funding cutbacks over the years have resulted in the inability to follow up on those individuals who are marginalized. They end up on the streets, often using drugs and becoming repeat offenders.

Then there’s the other scenario. A perfectly healthy individual with no prior mental illness begins taking something like crystal meth, which as Brent points out, can cause severe paranoia and psychosis.

Here is the problem. We take all these people off the streets, ship them up to a work camp and get them clean — what happens then? They get released back into the community, where there is a known lack of resources to follow marginal individuals with mental illness to ensure they take the medication that helps keep them on track. And the cycle begins again. Mental institutions have been closed, funding has been cut and probation officers, social workers and mental health workers are overloaded because of it. It just doesn’t work.

Sometimes it feels like criminals have more rights than victims. The laws of our country govern each of us and civil liberties are part of our social fabric. There are no easy answers, but rounding up mentally ill and addicted people off the street isn’t the way to provide public safety — unless you live in the dark ages.

Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. You can read her blog at lailayuile.com.





Who wins this week's duel on limiting drug users' civil liberties?

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