Crackdown on cocaine users
Drugs threaten social fabric - judge

by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 15/96) - A territorial court judge says predators who sell drugs to teenagers are stretching Yellowknife's "social fabric".

And Judge Michel Bourassa says that others who support the drug trade by using and possessing hard drugs such as cocaine aren't much better.

In an unusually emotional statement this week, Bourassa explained why he will no longer allow adults he convicts of cocaine possession to leave his courtroom free.

"This court sits every Monday from two in the afternoon on, dealing with young offenders," said Bourassa.

"It's saddening to me to see 12-, 13-, and 14-year-olds throwing away their lives ... stealing items to sell for drugs."

"So many tragedies come into this room every Monday afternoon ... directly related to the drug trade," he said.

On Tuesday morning, Bourassa sentenced a 29-year-old janitor to 30 days in jail for possession of four grams of cocaine worth an estimated $560.

"The accused is involved in drug business ... others profit off him," said Bourassa. He suggested that small-time users are just as much to blame for the local drug trade, because they provide the cash that keeps the larger dealers in business.

In future cocaine possession cases, convictions will carry a minimum 30-day jail sentence on the first gram, more after that, he said.

Describing drug dealers as "predators," Bourassa said 14- and 15-year-old youths are being "drawn into the vortex of drug use" more frequently in this community, which is both "angering and sad."

Responding to a suggestion that Yellowknife's social fabric is less delicate than smaller communities, Bourassa shot back that "any social fabric is stretched with drugs such as cocaine."

He gave notice to Crown lawyers that he would hand down harsher sentences for cocaine possession convictions from now on.

"The law has to say no to cocaine and to drugs -- and it has to be loud and clear on it," said Bourassa.