Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act Becomes Law in Canada

New law would provide immunity from simple possession charges for those who call 911 in the case of an overdose

OTTAWA, May 4, 2017 /CNW/ - Opioid overdoses are claiming the lives of thousands of Canadians of all ages, and from all walks of life. The impact of the opioid crisis continues to be devastating to individuals, families and communities. Many of these deaths are preventable if medical attention is received quickly, but evidence shows that witnesses to an overdose often do not call 911 for fear of police involvement. This is why the Government of Canada has taken action to encourage and protect people who are witnessing an overdose so they can seek help, and ultimately, save lives.

The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice, announced today that the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act received Royal Assent and became law. The Act provides an exemption from charges of simple possession of a controlled substance as well as from charges concerning a pre-trial release, probation order, conditional sentence or parole violations related to simple possession for people who call 911 for themselves or another person suffering an overdose, as well as anyone who is at the scene when emergency help arrives.

The Act was originally introduced as a Private Member's Bill by MP Ron McKinnon, the original Bill sponsor and Member of Parliament for Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam.

Drug addiction is an illness that requires care and compassion like any other health condition. The Government of Canada recognizes the dedication of first responders as key players on the front line in addressing the opioid crisis. Over the past year, the federal government has been building a new approach to drug policy 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.

The Government of Canada is committed to implementing a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate and evidence-based response to Canada's opioid crisis. For more information on what the Government of Canada is doing to combat the opioid crisis, please visit Canada.ca/opioids.

Quick Facts

  • In December 2016, the Government of Canada announced the new Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, which reinstates harm reduction as a core pillar of Canada's drug policy.
  • The new strategy is supported by Bill C-37, which proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Customs Act to better equip both health and law enforcement officials to reduce the harms associated with drug use in Canada.
  • The Bill would streamline the application process for supervised consumption sites in Canada and allow border officers to open international mail of any weight, should they have reasonable grounds to suspect the item may contain prohibited, controlled or regulated goods.
  • Other proposed amendments would make it a crime to possess or transport anything intended to be used to produce a controlled substances (such as pill presses), allow for temporary scheduling of new psychoactive substances and support faster and safer disposal of seized chemicals and other dangerous substances.
  • The passing of the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act complements the Government's new drug strategy, as well as ongoing federal action on opioids and the Joint Statement of Action to Address the Opioid Crisis signed at the Opioid Summit in Ottawa last November.

Quotes
"During an overdose, a call to 911 can often be the difference between life and death. We hope that this new law, and the legal protection it offers, will help encourage those who experience or witness an overdose to make that important call, and save a life."
The Honourable Jane Philpott
Minister of Health

"Protecting the lives of Canadians is our most important priority. 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 charges for simple possession of illegal drugs as well as certain related charges."
Ralph Goodale
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Associated Links
Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act
Backgrounder - The New Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy 
Opioid Action Plan
Joint Statement of Action to Address the Opioid Crisis

 

SOURCE Health Canada

For further information: Andrew MacKendrick, Office of Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, 613-957-0200; Media Relations, Health Canada, 613-957-2983; Public Inquiries: 613-957-2991, 1-866 225-0709


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