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April 7, 2005

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Blame the West
Toronto Star, March 29

Toronto's top drug cop, Dan Hayes, says “general liberal attitudes toward drugs on the West Coast” and “a lack of appropriate policing” in western Canada are ultimately responsible for the explosion of indoor marijuana grow-ops in the greater Toronto area. He says growers learn the ropes in B.C., “and then bring their expertise to Toronto.” SFU criminologist Neil Boyd disagrees. He says changing culture and attitudes, not migration, are responsible for the spread of grow-ops across the country. “There's been a cultural change in the 1990s, just as there was in the 1970s, and it's not confined to Canada. You can see it in North America and increasing rates of cannabis use globally. It's a cultural phenomenon. It's not a phenomenon that has much to do with law enforcement or migration east or west.”

It can happen here
CTV,March 27

A recent U.S. study published in the New England Journal of Medicine predicts that obesity trends could lead to a decline in life expectancy for the average American by as much as five years. Those tracking the problem say the same could happen here in Canada. SFU kinesiology professor Scott Lear says that as a discussion point, the new study is crucial. “It brings to light the possible downstream negative effect on population health. Obesity, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes, has a chance to undo some of the progress we have made.”

$100 million for pine beetle epidemic
Canadian Press, March 24

The federal government's injection of $100 million to fight British Columbia's pine beetle epidemic was welcomed by the province as a good start, but B.C. forests minister Mike de Jong warned more federal money will be needed because it will cost $1.5 billion over 10 years to help the province's forest industry deal with the devastation. John Borden, an entomology professor at SFU who is an expert on the bug, said a lack of political will has led to the current crisis. Politicians have also been influenced by various groups with different agendas, he said. “There's the environmental input that says doing anything in the woods is wrong and we should let nature take its course and the apparent influence of industry, which says let us harvest it. And there's always the suspicion that all they're after is cheap lumber.''

Ethicists disagree over right-to-die
Vancouver Sun, March 22

B.C. ethicists are divided over whether the Terri Schiavo saga in the U.S. could happen here. SFU criminologist Robert Gordon maintains the Canadian constitution would preclude federal government intervention (because health care delivery and end-of-life medical care statutes are provincial matters.) “The religious right in Canada has never had that kind of fundamentalist view embedded in politics the way it is in the U.S. where the federal government is clearly interfering in matters that are clearly within the purview of the state and the courts,” says Gordon. “It is unprecedented and highly problematic, not to mention foolish, because it will open the floodgates for similar requests in the future.” Tom Koch, an ethicist who teaches at SFU, disagrees with Gordon. He thinks the U.S. government has rightly entered the picture because “what else do we have the federal government for, if not to protect the most fragile among us? Could it happen here? Not only could it, but it should, so that we can have this kind of debate.”

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