In 2016, 914 British Columbians died from an illicit drug overdose, and illegal fentanyl was detected in approximately 60 percent of these fatalities. Witnesses to an overdose often do not call 9-1-1 for fear of police involvement. If medical attention is received quickly, however, many overdose deaths are preventable.
The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, people who call 9-1-1 for themselves or another person suffering an overdose will be exempt from charges related to simple possession. The act also protects individuals who call 9-1-1 if they are in breach of conditions concerning a pre-trial release, probation order, conditional sentence or parole violations under section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Finally, these exemptions also apply to anyone who is at the scene when emergency help arrives. Thanks to the hard work of my colleague Ron McKinnon this Act is now law.
Harm reduction is a key part of the government’s strategy to address the opioid crisis. As part of this strategy, the government has been building a new approach to drug policy over the past year by working collaboratively with communities, provinces, territories and key stakeholders, including addiction experts, the medical community, first responders, Indigenous groups, non-governmental organizations, as well as Canadians with lived experience.
Mr. McKinnon’s bill aligns with the government’s ongoing federal action on opioids which includes the new Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy and Joint Statement of Action to Address the Opioid Crisis.
Our government has already allocated $10 million to our province, British Columbia, to assist with its response to the emergency, and a further $65 million will be invested over the next five years to develop national measures to respond to the opioid crisis and implement the government’s Opioid Action Plan.
The severity of this crisis in cities like Vancouver requires that governments work together and move as fast as possible in order to confront the issue from all sides. We hope the Act will help to reduce fear and encourage people to help save a life.