Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau strikes a yoga pose with admirers after speaking to the media outside of Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 5, 2013.
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA - What's Trudeau smoking now?
Ever since admitting in mid-August that he once smoked dope while he was an MP, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has tried to build support for his policy position of legalizing marijuana use by claiming that 475,000 Canadians "have criminal convictions because of marijuana."
But that number -- 475,000 -- bears no relation to reality.
First, his own office concedes Trudeau has been mixing up arrests and convictions and, secondly, Statistics Canada data shows no number even close to 475,000 for either arrests or convictions associated with pot possession.
Trudeau has used that 475,000 figure several times, first in the Aug. 22 interview with The Huffington Post when he disclosed his history of marijuana use and as recently as Sunday on CTV's Question Period.
Asked for the source of that figure, Trudeau spokesperson Kate Monfette said Monday, "The stats we are referencing refer to arrests, not criminal records."
While Trudeau touts 475,000 "convictions because of marijuana," his own party's website is running a petition to end marijuana prohibition partly because "Stephen Harper keeps fighting a failed war on drugs that has resulted in more than 475,000 Canadians being arrested on marijuana-related charges."
But whether its arrests or convictions for pot possession, the total since Harper became prime minister is nowhere near 475,000, says Statistics Canada.
Statistics Canada records 366,902 -- not 475,000 -- "incidents" of suspected cannabis possession from 2006 -- the year Stephen Harper became prime minister -- to 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.
Of those incidents, 143,444 adults - not 475,000 -- were charged with cannabis possession between 2006 and 2012, StatsCan says.
So how many of those adults were convicted and ended up with a criminal record?
A StatsCan spokesman said Monday the agency tracks convictions in all drug possession cases but does not have separate data on cannabis possession cases.
But StatsCan can say that for the seven-year period ending in 2012, there were 53,934 convictions for possession of cannabis, cocaine, heroin and other kinds of illegal drugs.
Each registered conviction would have resulted in a criminal record.
So, while Trudeau is claiming "475,000 people since Stephen Harper has become prime minister ... have criminal convictions because of marijuana," StatsCan says there aren't even 54,000 who earned criminal convictions for possession of any drug including marijuana.