It has been over one year since Dr. Perry Kendall to declare a Public Health Emergency in British Columbia.
That emergency announcement has not been retracted, but now, the Federal government is beginning to take additional steps to combat the ongoing crisis.
On May 2, 2017, Bill C-224, to be known as the Good Samaritans Drug Overdose Act, was unanimously passed in the House of Commons by MPs from all parties.
The bill aims to ensure that individuals who seek emergency help for someone suffering from an overdose can do so without fear of being prosecuted for drug possession offences. Additionally, it will protect those same individuals from facing breach charges related to drug possession.
The passing of Bill C-224 is fundamental in encouraging anyone witnessing an overdose to seek emergency medical treatment for that individual.
It is a very bold (and extremely necessary) stride in fighting back against one of the most lethal killers on the streets of British Columbia, which has claimed over 1,000 lives in the past 5 years.
Perhaps 1,000 doesn’t seem like a huge number – but do remember to that in the entire year of 2012, there were only 12 deaths attributed to Fentanyl overdoses.
In 2013, that number jumped to 50.
Fast forward to 2016, and that number climbs to 575 (roughly 47 people per month).
There is no question about the existence of a relationship between criminality and drug abuse. The two are not mutually exclusive, but are by no means estranged either. There is a direct link between them – profiting from crime (theft, fraud, etc) is the often only way to fuel addiction.
Our Provincial Government, however, is not obtuse to the unique circumstances that plague Vancouver’s drug scene. Vancouver’s Downtown Community Court is the first of its kind in Canada and serves roughly 1,500 people per year. It is a purpose-designed courthouse, and strives to bring resources for justice, health, and social services to the Vancouver community. Matters will be referred to the Downtown Community Court when the offender requires assistance to deal with underlying issues such as homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health problems.
With enactment of the Good Samaritans Drug Overdose Act, citizens do not have to worry about being penalized for seeking emergency assistance for someone who is overdosing. And rightfully so. Our government’s first priority should be harm reduction for every individual battling addiction, with no agenda to balance that objective with the war on drugs.
Bill C-224 does not however provide any immunity from prosecution for drug trafficking or other drug related offences.
There could not be a worse time to find yourself charged with an offence related to Fentanyl. Being charged with possession in circumstances unrelated to those discussed above can result in a lengthy term of incarceration, lifetime travel restrictions, and a host of other consequences. Contact a Vancouver Criminal Lawyer at Tarnow Criminal Law today for a free consultation.