The Opioid Crisis and Section 7: Charter Implications of Safe Supply and Simple Possession

Forthcoming, 55:2 UBC Law Review 2022

40 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2022 Last revised: 25 Feb 2022

See all articles by Robert Diab

Robert Diab

Thompson Rivers University - Faculty of Law

Rose Morgan

Thompson Rivers University, Faculty of Law

Robyn Young

Thompson Rivers University

Date Written: January 3, 2022

Abstract

Fatalities in Canada’s opioid crisis continue to rise, with 20 people dying per day due to overdose and 6.5 per day in British Columbia. Main causes include the prevalence of highly toxic concentrations of fentanyl in the street supply of drugs and the tendency of addicted users to consume alone and indoors. The federal Minister of Health has provided an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to facilitate programs for the safe supply of narcotics, and the programs are helping to save lives. BC and Vancouver have asked the federal Minister to issue a further exemption from the offence of simple possession, given evidence that fear of contact with police contributes to dangerous consumption patterns. This paper draws on the Supreme Court’s holding in the Insite decision (PHS v Canada, 2012) to argue that a decision by the Minister to suspend the safe supply program or refuse to grant (or extend) an exemption from the offence of simple possession would violate section 7 of the Charter, as arbitrary and grossly disproportionate. The arguments are important to debates about how best to respond to the crisis by pointing to constitutional limits on available policy options.

Note:
Funding Information: None to declare.

Declaration of Interests: None to declare.

Keywords: Opioid, charter, de-criminalization, fentanyl

JEL Classification: K14, K10

Suggested Citation

Diab, Robert and Morgan, Rose and Young, Robyn, The Opioid Crisis and Section 7: Charter Implications of Safe Supply and Simple Possession (January 3, 2022). Forthcoming, 55:2 UBC Law Review 2022, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3999489

Robert Diab (Contact Author)

Thompson Rivers University - Faculty of Law ( email )

900 McGill Road
Kamloops, British Columbia
Canada

Rose Morgan

Thompson Rivers University, Faculty of Law ( email )

900 McGill Road
Kamloops, British Columbia
Canada

Robyn Young

Thompson Rivers University ( email )

900 McGill Road
IB2008
Kamloops, BC V2C 5N3
Canada

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