New law aims to reduce drug deaths by encouraging people to report overdoses

New federal law aims to reduce overdose deaths

OTTAWA — A new federal law aims to reduce the number of people who die from opioid and other drug overdoses in Canada.

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act was introduced as a private member’s bill last year by Liberal backbencher Ron McKinnon and received royal assent on Thursday.

The law provides immunity from simple possession charges for anyone calling 911 to report an overdose.

McKinnon said he was spurred to action by an epidemic of opioid overdoses in his home province of British Columbia and the rising number of deaths in Alberta and other provinces.

“It will save lives all across the country,” he said in an interview, noting the bill was supported by lawmakers from other parties.

“They know that their neighbours, their communities, are facing the problem of people dying from overdoses. They understand they need to take action.”

McKinnon said there have been cases where people have been afraid to call police or an ambulance for help when someone is having an overdose over fear they will be charged with drug possession.

He said it doesn’t matter if it is a drug addict on the street or a middle class kid at a party. Making a simple phone call for help could save a life.

Health Canada says the law also provides an exemption from charges for people who are on a probation order, serving a conditional sentence or who are on parole.

McKinnon, the MP for Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, said the exemption will not apply to offences such as drug trafficking or driving while impaired.

Health Canada says opioid overdoses are killing thousands of Canadians of all ages and from all walks of life.

“Protecting the lives of Canadians is our most important priority,” Health Minister Jane Philpott said in a release Thursday.

“This law ensures that you can call for help when someone is having a drug overdose — and stay to provide them support until emergency responders arrive — with guaranteed immunity from certain charges related to simple possession of illegal drugs.”

Last month, Philpott said Health Canada wants to release statistics on overdose deaths but is frustrated with provinces and territories that haven’t provided data.

British Columbia reported 931 fatal overdoses from illegal drugs last year. There was also an increase in the number of fentanyl-related deaths.

Alberta has said 343 people died in the province last year from apparent drug overdoses related to the opioid fentanyl.

The latest figures for Ontario show there were 734 opioid-related deaths in 2015.

— By John Cotter in Edmonton

 

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Vancouver Island homeowners buy more earthquake insurance than the rest of B.C.

Insurance Bureau of Canada says that’s because the perception of risk is greater on the Island

District of Oak Bay issues notice to cease tent city

The notice is effective immediately

‘Leaning tower’ rental building proposed for downtown Victoria

The building would offer 93 residential units targeted at young professionals

Anxiety amongst voters on amalgamation referendum

Non-binding referendum asks Victoria and Saanich residents to endorse citizens’ assembly

Lisa Helps campaigners target downtown Victoria bikes for election ads

Flyers were hung off of parked bikes in the downtown area

B.C. NDP retreats again on empty-home tax for urban areas

Rate reduced for all Canadians, dissident mayors to get annual meeting

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

Jets score 3 late goals to beat Canucks 4-1

Winnipeg ends three-game Vancouver win streak

POLL: Do you support amalgamation for communities in the Capital Region?

Residents in Victoria and Saanich will be voting on Oct. 20 on… Continue reading

San Group announces plans to build new sawmill in Port Alberni

San Group has purchased 25 acres of Catalyst Paper land for expansion

Two B.C. cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Port Alberni dispensaries ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

Canada not sending anyone to Saudi business summit

Sources insist Ottawa never intended to dispatch a delegation this time around

VPD ordered to co-operate with B.C. police watchdog probe

According to the IIO, a court is ordering Vancouver police to co-operate with an investigation into a fatal shooting

Earthquake early-warning sensors installed off coast of B.C.

The first-of-its kind warning sensors are developed by Ocean Networks Canada

Most Read