After reviewing the microfilm for news articles from the Globe and Mail for the month of October, 1969, it became very apparent the large number of drug-related charges that were made at that time by the RCMP in Toronto: from those trafficking marijuana or hashish; to those caught for possession of LSD. In one such Globe and Mail report states that 12 people were charged by police in the same raid for trafficking offences. Interestingly, it appears that the concentration of charges were made just as the Le Dain Commission began hearing testimonies at the Penny Farthing. Mere coincidence? Not likely. If you read on, you'll discover the very serious concern the drug-users had with regards to "immunity" from prosecution by police when testifying at the commission which eventually became, as Marie-Andrée Bertrand pointed out in the Provencher article, a real tickler for the commissioners to work
-- John Whelan, Chief Researcher for the Ottawa Beatles Site
From the Globe and Mail, Saturday, October 18, 1969.
Drug probe is taken on grass-roots tour
The federal Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs went on a field trip to collect testimony in a Yorkville coffee house last night and heard bitter criticism of RCMP, and municipal police and hospital attitudes towards drug users.
The commission sat short-sleeved and informal at the Penny Farthing, listening to comments from a crowd of hippies, students and social workers -100-strong - who overflowed into Yorkville avenue.
The evening started slowly with an hour of good-humoured fencing on the philosophical and spiritual aspects of drugs as the commission members tried to draw statements on "what is positive about the drug experience."
The evidence stayed mostly on the "it makes you feel good" level and one neatly dressed and sharply articulated young man burned his OHIP card as a "medical protest" against the commissions attitude and the "amusing atmosphere" of the confrontation.
But a real edge of bitterness entered the debate as speakers began to attack police attitudes to anyone they suspected of being connected with drugs.
The substance of the testimony was that the RCMP and Toronto police persecuted suspected drug-users brutally and wilfully and several speakers said they believed the police enjoyed it.
"It's a power trip for them," one of them said. "More powerful than speed (amphetamine)."
Strong words came from a social worker with the Trailer, a Yorkville-based organization concerned with getting medical help for drug uers.
He said that drug users were afraid of Toronto hospitals because of the risk of arrest through information disclosed to police.
He also charged that many doctors had inadequate knowledge of drugs and prescribed dangerously for people on bad (LSD) trips.
Among the others, inhibitions were evident - not least the fear of police.
From the outset someone voiced the feeling that police would use what was said to make arrests. Chairman Gerald Le Dain, dean of the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, gave what reassurances he could but admitted that he could not guarantee immunity as the commission was independent of the police.
But there was little direct hostility, and as the evening progressed the testimony became franker -- even though the first direct admission by a speaker that he had used hard drugs seemed to cause some embarrassment.
Copyright by the Globe and Mail, October 18, 1969. All rights reserved.