The Canadian Press
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 yesterday.
The law provides immunity from simple possession charges for anyone calling 9-1-1 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 law-makers from other parties.
“They know that their neighbours, their communities, are facing the problem of people dying from overdoses,” McKinnon added.
“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 said 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.
The exemption will not apply to offences such as drug-trafficking or driving while impaired.
Health Canada said 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 yesterday.
“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.”