The passing of a federal law in Winnipeg has many in law enforcement hoping that drug overdoses will decrease. Never before have drug overdoses been at such epidemic proportions in Canada. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act is a law that is aimed at allowing people to call for help when they suspect that someone has overdosed without fears of prosecution. Proposed as a bill last year, its passing has many hopeful of change.
The law extends immunity to any individual who makes a call to 911 to report a suspected overdose. The person making the 911 call cannot be charged with possession of drugs, even if they are in possession. Due to the rising deaths in Canada by opioid overdoses, officials needed the legislation aimed at stopping, or at least reducing, the increasing tally of drug-related fatalities. It comes in response to an increasing concern for public safety and a frustration from Canadian organizations.
Health Canada, an organization that makes public health decisions and policy, is frustrated by the lack of tracking and reporting that the provinces are doing about drug overdoses around the Canada. Winnipeg has some of the highest overdose figures and, since 2015, hasn’t released statistics and figures. Even back in 2015, the opioid death toll in Winnipeg was 734, which was among the highest figures anywhere in Canada. With a rise in overdoses everywhere else in the country, it is safe to assume that the number has gone up over the past three years in Winnipeg as well.
Encouraged by the changing tide, proponents of the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act believe that the act can potentially save the lives of many around Canada and help tackle the drug overdose epidemic. There have been many instances, according to police, when people who witnessed someone overdosing were reluctant to notify or completely failed to notify the proper authorities for fear of being prosecuted. That shouldn’t be a problem anymore.
The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act applies to anyone who makes a call to save someone’s life whether they are in the classiest neighborhood or strung out on the streets.Those who fear their reputation will be tarnished or that they will lose their families hesitate to put their lives on the line to make a simple phone call to save someone else’s life. The problem isn’t just that people aren’t making life saving phone calls, either. If a witness participated in drug activity, they are much less likely to make the that the person who overdosed gets the much-needed healthcare or to ensure that first responders even show up. This new act helps alleviate that.
The act doesn’t just stop with the average citizen, either. Others who will be exempt from prosecution are those who are out on parole and those who have previous drug charges and convictions in their past. The only people for whom the Good Samaritan Law will not help are those who have been convicted of drug trafficking, which is one of the worst offenses in the criminal book in Winnipeg. Also not covered by this act are any individuals who have been convicted of driving while impaired.
The hope is that by providing immunity, the act will encourage many of those who are addicted to drugs to take the time to make a call when they see someone in distress from overdosing. Legislators hope that these individuals will not fear that they will face prosecution if they make the phone call to save a life. If this new act helps one person make a phone call and stick around to save someone else’s life, then giving bystanders immunity from being prosecuted is well worth it and will ultimately help to fight the rising tide of opioid overdose deaths in Winnipeg.
Good Samaritan laws have worked in the past when it comes to helping people to help other people in situations where there is an individual in peril. The hope is that the Good Samaritan Drug Laws and Winnipeg criminal attorneys will do the same for those who have overdosed and need someone to step in and make a call to save their life.