Parliament has recently passed the largely supported Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act (Bill C-224) [the Act]. This Liberal private member’s Bill was unanimously approved last November 2016 and continues to receive wide political support. According to Vishaal Gupta, writing for Rights Watch,
[s]upport for the Bill has come from all corners of Canada, and this was reflected in the bipartisan, unanimous vote”.
Importantly, the Act may represent a change in tactics in the war on drugs. To respond to the challenges created by fear of prosecution, this Act signals a new approach that puts human life first and foremost. In short, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act recognizes the rising problem of drug-related deaths and represents a novel approach to a growing societal issue.
Summary of Bill C-224
The Act amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, SC 1996, c 19 [CDSA] in order to bar laying charges under s 4(1) (illegal possession of drugs listed in schedules 1-3) where the would-be-accused has sought emergency medical or law enforcement aid on behalf of themselves or another person.
The purpose of the Act is to reduce the pandemic of opiate-related overdoses. Research indicates that most overdoses are witnessed and, in many cases, witnesses fail to call for help out of a fear of prosecution for drug-related offences. According to Angie Hamilton, Executive Director of Families for Addiction Recovery, in a brief regarding Bill C-224, the Act prioritizes survival rather “than [the] cold comfort of knowing that if the [person] dies the trafficker can be prosecuted.”
Following the Act’s approval on May 2, 2017, and in anticipation of its coming into force, Health Canada has already prepared an information campaign to alert the public and raise awareness of the Act.
For more information regarding Bill C-224, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, click here.