Canada is in the grip of a moral crisis, with the country on the verge of the worst drug overdose epidemic in its history.
But a new poll suggests that a war on illegal drugs is losing in public opinion.
The Angus Reid Institute survey found that people are increasingly dissatisfied with the criminal justice system, with half of Canadians believing that it fails to prosecute people who are caught in the illegal drug trade.
More than a third of Canadians surveyed said they believe that drug prohibition is unfair, with people’s views increasingly diverging from public opinion on the issue.
Angus Reid, a public opinion research firm, surveyed 2,096 Canadians from March 13 to 15, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent.
The results are based on a total of 1,094 Canadians who said they are registered to vote, of whom 790 are registered with the Angus Reid online panel.
The poll also asked respondents if they would support a new law that would make it easier to stamp out the drug trade, or if they think the government should continue to enforce existing laws.
The publics opinion of the government’s stance on the drugs war has changed over the last three years, with support for criminal justice reform dropping by eight percentage points since February 2016.
The drop was more pronounced among younger Canadians, those aged 18 to 24 and those who lean Conservative.
Support for the government on the drug war has also decreased among people aged 55 and older.
“People are now saying that we should take a harder stance on drug policy,” said pollster John Ibbitson.
“I think the public is starting to realise that there is a lot of room for improvement.”
I’m very concerned about the way we’re going about this and what’s happening to the criminalization of drugs in Canada, said Brian Fife, president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
“There is not enough room to change the way that we do things.”
The Angus reid poll found that two-thirds of Canadians are opposed to the idea of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, while more than a quarter oppose legalizing marijuana use in Canada.
And nearly half of respondents say they are concerned that a new legalization bill will undermine police work in the fight against drug trafficking.
“If there is no change to the existing laws, we will see more police officers targeted for criminal charges,” said Ibbitsons chief of staff, Adam Vaughan.
The findings are based upon responses from a random sample of 1.5 million people, and the margin of sampling error is plus or plus 3.5 percentage points.
The survey was conducted online between March 13 and 15, 2016, with a margin, of error, of plusorminus 2.2 per cent for the total sample.
With files from The Canadian Press.