I agree with the legal analysis there that Canada would be in non-compliance with the cannabis section of the treaties, but I don't think withdrawal is a way to respect the treaty system. I think it's far more disrespectful to simply withdraw from the treaty system than to make a principled argument that the treaties are not serving the interests of member states and that they need to be modernized to bring them into line with the needs of member states. The power of the treaty system is essentially the consensus of member states that support it. That consensus is crumbling, and I don't think that in any way it is immoral to move into technical non-compliance of one element of these treaties, if a case is made that it is being done in order to serve higher UN goals of human rights, public health, development and security issues. I think the case can be made that it is in defence of the higher goals of the charter that one part of one treaty is moving into technical non-compliance.
Perhaps I can read a sentence from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which is a group of former heads of state and UN luminaries, including Louise Arbour, who is the Canadian former UN High Commissioner For Human Rights. It says:
Unilateral defections from the drug treaties are undesirable from the perspective of international relations and a system built on consensus. Yet the integrity of that very system is not served in the long run by dogmatic adherence to an outdated and dysfunctional normative framework. The evolution of legal systems to account for changing circumstances is fundamental to their survival and utility, and the regulatory experiments being pursued by various states are acting as a catalyst for this process. Indeed, respect for the rule of law requires challenging those laws that are generating harm or that are ineffective.
I would also point to Uruguay that by common consent has moved into a superb position of non-compliance. The sky has not fallen. The UN treaty system has not collapsed. Uruguay is not seen as a pariah on international human rights or at the UN. It still has a great deal of respect. It has a long history of respecting human rights law and being a very great advocate for the treaty system, just as Canada does.
I think there's a little bit of over-dramatization here, that somehow the whole system would cave in if you move into a technical non-compliance for a period, especially if you're making a clear moral case on UN grounds based on higher UN principles, and you are clearly showing an effort to resolve the tensions that have emerged. I would caution in regard to some of this rather over-dramatizing situation. It needn't be this terrible cataclysmic situation. You can progress things without the whole system collapsing. I just wouldn't worry quite as much as some of the committee members seem to be doing.