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

Delayed grant decisions could send new Crystal Pool costs soaring

Delays could cost the City of Victoria up to $500,000/month more in construction costs

Campfire ban coming into effect across West Coast

The Coastal Fire Centre says bans will begin on Wednesday

UPDATE: Woman hit by car in parking lot 93 years old

Driver of sedan backs into older adult walking through lot

Stolen West Shore vehicle found in ocean off Oak Bay

SUV was submerged 90 feet from shore at Cattle Point

Delivery truck downs power lines in Sidney

A tractor trailer delivering eggs clipped a low-hanging wire on Second St.… Continue reading

Trudeau asks transport minister to tackle Greyhound’s western pullout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s asked Transport Minister Marc Garneau to find solutions in Greyhound Canada’s absence.

Hub for mental health and addictions treatment opens at B.C. hospital

St. Paul’s Hospital HUB is an acute medical unit that includes 10 patient beds

Saanich Police investigate store robbery

Store video captures image of suspect

Restaurant Brands International to review policy over poaching employees

One of Canada’s largest fast-food company to review ‘no-poach’ franchise agreements

Calgary family’s vacation ends in tragedy on Texas highway

Three people died and four others were injured in the crash

Union construction cost competitive, B.C. Building Trades say

Non-union firms can bid on infrastructure, but employees have to join international unions

Trudeau to shuffle cabinet ahead of Liberals’ team for 2019

Trudeau could lighten the work loads of cabinet ministers who currently oversee more than one portfolio

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 17

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Car calls 911 on possible impaired B.C. driver

A luxury car automatically calls Princeton police to scene of crash involving alcohol

Most Read