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May 13, 1998

Canada, believing the hemisphere's foreign ministers should hold a dialogue on the effects of the drug trade, is expecting to host a first meeting of that dialogue group by year-end.

Dr. Peter M. Boehm, Canada's ambassador to the OAS, explained to the Permanent Council Wednesday that "Canada's new activism on the hemispheric anti-drug agenda is a deliberate commitment on the part of Prime Minister [Jean] Chrétien and Foreign Minister [Lloyd] Axworthy to address what they see as a principal obstacle to long-term hemispheric integration and cooperation." He said the Canadian prime minister's proposal got the necessary endorsement from the hemisphere's leaders who were at last month's Summit of the Americas in Chile.

The diplomat said it was a reflection of his country's desire to see more foreign ministers engaging in the anti-drug issue. Canada has taken a key role in the hemispheric counter-narcotics fight.

While acknowledging that different countries dealt with anti-drug efforts under specialized ministries, Ambassador Boehm insisted that it was important to see how illegal drugs also affected relations among states. Illegal drug activities had the effect of destabilizing several foreign policy objectives of the hemisphere's nations, Ambassador Boehm stressed, identifying some of the objectives that stand to be undermined as good governance, judicial systems and human rights.

The foreign ministers' group would not be duplicating efforts already underway through the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, CICAD, Ambassador Boehm added.

Last week, the Canadian deputy solicitor general, Mr. Jean Fournier, was elected to preside over a working group set up under CICAD to work out a multilateral system for evaluating member states' counter-narcotics efforts.

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