Reverend Jessica Williams Rochester
Ceu do Montreal, Quebec, Canada
October 30, 2012
writen especially to this site.
My initiation into the Santo Daime religion occurred in 1996, after the International Transpersonal Conference in Manaus, Brazil. Based on my experiences I brought the Santo Daime religion back to Canada and made the commitment to found a church, Ceu do Montreal. Over the next few years, many people in Quebec and Ontario visited our Works, and over time numerous other centres/groups branched out from Ceu do Montreal.
Until September 2000, I imported the Santo Daime sacrament through Canadian Customs, with the appropriate agricultural documents. At that time a shipment of the Santo Daime sacrament for our Centre was intercepted by Canada Customs and given to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP, the Federal Police) for investigation and analysis. When I explained that the tea is a sacrament used only for religious purposes, I was informed that I would require an exemption to be able to import the sacrament in the future, as the tea contained controlled substances, DMT and harmala alkaloids.
In April, 2001, having hired a lawyer to represent us and done the necessary research for the application, we applied to Health Canada, the Office of Controlled Substances (OCS), for an exemption under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Acts, for the importation, transportation and administration of the sacrament. Five years of research and investigation followed, and in July, 2006 I was informed that the evaluation of our request had been concluded and that we were granted an exemption, in principle, pending Brazilian export permission.
This request for Brazilian export permission revealed the complexity of the situation; at the time, Brazil had no policy on export, and many factors needed to be examined, including existing Brazilian national regulations as well as international laws and policies. Today, the most recent information that we have is that export permission, while promised on various occasions, is neither defined nor issued.
In 2009, based on the evidence of Brazil permitting the export of Ayahuasca -for religious use only – to nations that had granted import permission based on court cases, such as the United States (UDV) as well as Holland and Spain (Santo Daime), I initiated a request for Health Canada to research and consider the question of Canadian import permission. In their 2008 Issue Analysis Summary of the Santo Daime the OCS advises the issuance of an exemption 56 for the religious use of the Santo Daime.
In November 2010 our affiliation with the organization we were formerly associated with was terminated and we ceased importation, to focus on legalization of the Santo Daime. In July 2011 we formed an affiliation with Ceu Sagrado, of Sorocaba, Brazil, as an independent Santo Daime Centre.
In May 2012 we made a legal demand on the government to respond to our request for an exemption. They responded with a request for 90 days to conclude their review. On October 23, 2012 we received a letter from Health Canada stating that they are refusing to grant permission for us to import our sacrament. Although we have had the ongoing support of the OCS, the 2006 decision on our application was overturned outside of that office, on the Ministerial level.
From 2006 to the present, we feel that there have been a number of factors outside of our control. While we have worked diligently on obtaining export permission from that time to the present, in the end this has been a case of unfortunate timing. In addition to the complexity of export permission from Brazil, other factors played significant roles, both within the internal Brazilian ayahuasca field and Brazilian politics.
During this period of time, the Canadian government under the Liberal Party, which had responded positively to our application in 2006, lost the 2008 election to a minority Conservative government. In May 2011, the federal election resulted in a majority Conservative government. We believe that the Health Minister’s decision, which is in direct opposition to the recommendations of the OCS, has been a political one that reflects the position of the current party in government.
We are assessing our options, particularly on the legal front. Given the circumstances, no export permission as yet despite promises on SENAD’s part, and with no surety of when it will be issued, coupled with the fact the Brazilian post office will not ship Ayahuasca or Santo Daime until there is export permission, we feel it would not be wise to make a quick legal approach. Much as we feel that our case is strong we feel that it is better to be fully prepared with all the documents and expertise in order. In the words of Sun Tzu; “he who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious”.
We are determined to stay in the Light on this and trust that the Light will reveal the way forward.