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Drugs, Alcohol & Communities

Dealing with drugs and alcohol in the community usually involves a few key areas. Education about drugs and alcohol can prevent problems from arising in the first place. Laws can be aimed at reducing the supply of illegal drugs. Laws can also regulate use of prescription drugs, alcohol and other substances. Offering support and treatment to people affected by drug or alcohol dependency and addiction is equally important.

Throughout our communities, there are a number of organizations and individuals working together to tackle drug and alcohol misuse and abuse. They include community and school-based organizations, government ministries, law enforcement agencies and individuals.

Increasing awareness of some of the many tools that are already available is a good place to start when dealing with drug and alcohol-related problems in our communities. Learning about some innovative approaches that other communities are using and options for your community can also be helpful.

The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act

If a property is closed under a Community Safety Order occupants must leave immediately. Anyone refusing to leave may be removed. No one else can enter or occupy the property unless they have the approval of a Director of Corrections, Public Safety and Policing.

Sometimes drug and alcohol use in the community can hit very close to home. A suspected "drug house" or "booze can" on your block can raise all kinds of concerns. People may come and go at all hours of the day and night. These homes are sometimes turned into fortresses, with bars on the windows and doors. Neighbours may not actually witness any crimes and the noise or disruption may not amount to enough to justify a call to the police.

Under Saskatchewan's Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act (SCAN) community members can make complaints about problem residences or businesses. Their identity will be kept confidential. SCAN targets residences and commercial buildings and lands that are habitually used for illegal activities such as...

  • producing, selling or using illegal drugs
  • prostitution
  • solvent abuse
  • unlawful sale and consumption of alcohol
  • gang activity

If justified, complaints may be investigated further through the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Investigation Unit. Following an investigation, property owners may be issued a warning letter. If efforts to fix the problem are unsuccessful a court may order that the property be closed.

SCAN also allows police to deal with public safety concerns related to fortified buildings. These buildings are designed to keep out law enforcement. They may have bars on windows and doors, extra metal plating, or other types of reinforcements that can prevent police officers, firefighters or ambulance personnel from entering the house. If these types of fortification cause public safety concerns the Act provides a process to ensure that they are removed.

SCAN acts as a useful tool for dealing with so-called "booze cans" - houses where people gather to purchase or use alcohol and illicit substances. The Act can also be used to deal with makeshift meth labs. Meth labs pose a serious danger to neighbourhoods. They are at high risk for fires and explosions and produce by-products that are extremely hazardous to anyone who comes into direct or indirect contact with them.

More information about this legislation is available from the Government of Saskatchewan. You can also report a problem property onlineor by calling 1-866-51-SAFER (1-866-517-2337). Your call will be kept confidential.

The Alcohol and Gaming Regulation Act

A person under the legal drinking age is not permitted to buy alcohol or have someone else purchase it for them. A person who breaks this law faces a fine of up to $2000.

The Alcohol and Gaming Regulation Act, 1997 regulates the sale and service of alcohol in Saskatchewan. The legal drinking age in our province is 19. Young people under 19 are not allowed to buy alcohol or possess alcohol. The law does make an exception which allows a parent or guardian to provide alcohol to their underage child in their own home or yard or other private place such as a hotel room. The spouse of an underage person can also do the same.

In all other cases, a person who sells or gives alcohol to someone under the age of 19 commits an offence. They can be fined up to $10,000 and may also be sentenced to jail for up to two months.

People of legal drinking age can legally drink in a private residence such as a house, apartment or hotel. This typically includes the private property around the residence, such as a yard.

Other than private residences and licensed premises, such as bars and restaurants, people cannot drink alcohol in public places. It is an offence to consume alcohol in a public place or to be intoxicated in public.

The police may issue a ticket or arrest anyone who is found committing an alcohol-related offence or who is believed to have committed such an offence.

The Tobacco Control Act

More information about tobacco control in Saskatchewan is available from the Government of Saskatchewan, including tools to help raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco use and tips to help engage youth, school communities and the community at large.

Tobacco use in our communities is responsible for scores of preventable illnesses, disabilities and premature deaths. Our tobacco control laws are designed to ensure that young people have reduced access to tobacco products. They also help protect communities from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) as it is sometimes called.

Smoking is banned in enclosed public places and within 3 metres of doorways, air intakes and windows of enclosed public places. Tobacco advertising and displays are also strictly regulated and sales to young persons are prohibited. Pharmacies and retail stores that include a pharmacy cannot sell tobacco and tobacco-related products. Smoking is banned in vehicles if there are children under the age of 16 present. Tobacco use is also banned in K-12 schools and their school grounds.


Criminal Offences

It is a criminal offence to create a disturbance by being intoxicated in a public place, meaning anywhere but a private residence. Being drunk and singing loudly, shouting or fighting are some examples of behaviour that could create a disturbance. This offence carries a maximum sentence of a $5000 fine or 6 months in jail or both. A conviction will result in a criminal record.

The Controlled Drug and Substances Act requires mandatory prison terms for some drug offences and a number of aggravating factors for the courts to consider. Aggravating factors include things like where the offence...

  • takes place at or near a school or other place frequented by youth
  • engages a youth to carry out the offence
  • involves selling to a youth
  • involves the use or threat of weapons

Local Bylaws

Communities across the province have local bylaws to deal with matters such as noise control, loitering and curfews. Generally noise bylaws prohibit or limit loud and unnecessary noise. Many bylaws also designate certain "quiet hours" when even less noise will be tolerated. Sample bylaws, such as curfew bylaws, are available from the Government of Saskatchewan.

Working Together

Alberta Health Services' resource Community Action on Drug Abuse Prevention has information about determining what your community needs, selecting activities and evaluating progress.

Communities can work together to find effective solutions for problems within their community. Finding ways to involve youth and school communities can contribute to local success stories. Community action that can make a difference may include things like...

  • creating affordable alcohol and drug-free activities for youth and for families
  • having neighbourhood watches
  • raising awareness about drug and alcohol use as well as alternate activities in the community, through things like a newspaper column in the local paper
  • working together to build healthy public policy to better meet the needs of the community
  • establishing community programs to support parents and children

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PLEA gratefully acknowledges our primary core funder the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan for their continuing and generous support of our organization.