Will ‘Good Samaritan Drug Overdose’ Act save lives?

Image via @RonMcKinnonLib on Twitter
Image via @RonMcKinnonLib on Twitter

Private member’s bill promises to exempt drug possession charges when calling 911

By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter

BC has seen its unfortunate share of deaths due to drug overdoses. According to the BC’s Coroner Service, 465 people died due to illegal overdoses, an increase of 27 per cent compared to 2014. A local MP is vying to save lives with his latest private member’s bill. Rob McKinnon, Liberal Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam MP, has placed all his cards on the table with the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Bill, which he hopes will save countless lives across the province and potentially the country. Yearning for change, McKinnon presented the bill to Parliament on February 22.

Dubbed the “Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act,” the bill will ensure that those who call 911 during a drug overdose will not be charged with possession. Notably, pardon from charges will also be applied to witnesses, but not to those who are involved with trafficking or impaired driving.

McKinnon brought reality to the forefront in his press statement, saying that Canadians should care for everyone, from their family members, to neighbours, to new immigrants in the country. If the bill is passed, he’s convinced, without a doubt, that citizens won’t run away from drug overdose situations, but rather call authorities to assist and save a life. “Hopefully, they’ll pick up the phone and save someone’s son or daughter.”

Notable stakeholders, including Donald MacPherson, Director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, say that the barrier that makes the decision to call 911 is removed, thus placing the value on lives first. Christiana Slater, Executive of Waterloo Regional Crime Prevention Council, asked a simple, yet powerful question to voice her agreement with MacPherson: “Based in our review of the evidence and our own study, this Private Member’s Bill would go a long way towards making the saving of lives our highest priority. Who could argue with that?” Notably, 34 states in the United States have some form of overdose immunity law.

The bill had its introduction and first reading in Parliament on February 22 and is currently in the process of making its way through the House of Commons. McKinnon noted to Tri-City News that this bill “could happen in the spring, it might not happen until the fall.”

“With this parliament thing, it’s become clear to me that things move at a glacial pace.”