Everyone knows by now that Toronto police raided 43 cannabis dispensaries on Thurs May 26 but it is still not clear to everyone who influenced the chief of police in his decision to create Project Claudia. Mayor John Tory, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are all washing their hands clean from the decision making process. Tweed, a Licensed Producer, is apparently training Toronto police how to determine whether or not a suspect is in possession of cannabis legally obtained by an LP versus black market herb, giving many reason to believe large LPs are pushing for police action on illegal dispensaries. But aside from the police, who always seem keen to arrest people, who pushed for these raids?
The real accomplice in these raids in the little known Public Prosecution Services of Canada. This is the group mentioned by chief Mark Saunders in the press conference but those asking questions did not focus on it, instead pointing to political pressure as the reason for the sudden heavy show of force. Clearly these raids would never have occurred if the PPSC was not fully in support of spending millions of dollars of taxpayers money seeking convictions for both trafficking cannabis and possession of proceeds of crime.
This is not the first time the PPSC had pushed for criminal charges in cases that have a questionable likelihood of success of conviction and where the public interest is not clearly in support of seeking convictions. In the case of Owen Smith, former head baker of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, it was obvious at several points that the PPSC is out of control in its relentless pursuit of cannabis convictions. After appealing the case all of the way to the Supreme Court of Canada they lost a unanimous decision that forced the government to make changes that should have been implemented after they lost in the lower courts. Instead of dropping the case before trial, leaving the law unchallenged, these lawyers pushed their frail arguments before the courts as far as they could until the whole country could see how profoundly backward the medical cannabis programs are.
So what is the PPSC? According to their webpage:
“The creation of the PPSC reflects the decision to make transparent the principle of prosecutorial independence, free from any improper influence.”
“The relationship between the Attorney General and the Director is premised on the principles of respect for the independence of the prosecution function and the need to consult on important matters of general interest.”
“Safeguarding the Director’s independence is the requirement that all instructions from the Attorney General be in writing and published in the Canada Gazette. In turn, the Director must inform the Attorney General of any prosecution or planned intervention that may raise important questions of general interest, allowing the Attorney General the opportunity to intervene in, or assume conduct of, a case.”
Since nothing has appeared in the Gazette there has been no formal efforts on behalf of the federal Liberals to pressure the PPSC for police raids on dispensaries, nor do other levels of government have direct influence on crown lawyers. On the flipside, it does not appear that the director of the PPSC informed the AG that these raids were planned. If the AG, Jody Wilson-Raybould, was contacted it is unlikely she would have agreed to raid less than half the dispensaries in one city without directing crown lawyers to shut them all down across the entire country.
The same sudden rash of raids on dispensaries happened in Naniamo, BC late last year, with 3 of 11 clubs getting robbed under the guise of a warrant in one day. All of the clubs reopened soon after the raids and that city is now preparing to license dispensaries, due in part to public pressure in support of storefront clubs. It does not seem like any trials will even start as a result of these raids, despite the PPSC being fully supportive of each one.
With legislation to legalize cannabis less a year away, the federal Liberals are looking very weak for dragging their feet while so much police and court time is being used prosecuting people for crimes that will be soon become highly sought after jobs. If the Liberals want to earn any respect from the public on this issue, they need to reign in the director in charge of the Public Prosecution Services of Canada before more police raids and lengthy trials waste valuable government resources hurting people helping patients. Letting zealous crown lawyers and police that care little about human rights set the tone for legalization is making Justin Trudeau look very bad.