The Opioid Crisis and Section 7: Charter Implications of Safe Supply and Simple Possession
(2022) 55:2 UBC Law Review 393
46 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2022 Last revised: 31 Oct 2022
Date Written: January 3, 2022
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.
Funding Information: None to declare.
Declaration of Interests: None to declare.
Keywords: Opioid, charter, de-criminalization, fentanyl
JEL Classification: K14, K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation