Ministerial Question Period: Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act

By: The Hon. Marty Klyne

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Maman statue and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Hon. Marty Klyne: Minister, the epidemic of overdose deaths continues to devastate Canadian families and communities from coast to coast to coast. In 2023, my province of Saskatchewan recorded an all-time high in fatal overdoses, with 484 deaths confirmed or suspected to be due to drug toxicity. On May 4, 2022, in this Senate, the government committed to expanding the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act. Such an expansion could provide persons calling 911 to report an overdose immunity from prosecution for additional non-violent offences — like stolen property — in addition to possession, which is already covered.

There is no time like the present to save lives, and this measure would have no cost to taxpayers. What can we do to prioritize this expansion of Canada’s Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act?

Hon. Ya’ara Saks, P.C., M.P., Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health: Thank you, Senator Klyne, for the question, and I couldn’t agree with you more, because the epidemic of overdose deaths is tragic. I don’t think there’s a single community in our country that is untouched by this crisis, and the ramifications and ripple effects have been devastating.

Legislation such as the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act ensures that we can lower barriers to access of care in the immediate moment of overdose crisis. It allows us to reduce stigma and for good actions to be taken to save lives. Our government is unequivocal that when it comes to accessing life‑saving services, it must include in that immediate moment. As you’re well aware, we’ve supported making naloxone kits and other interventions available to prevent overdose. In Saskatchewan — as in many places — there is a compendium of services of care that can help save lives. This includes harm reduction, safe consumption sites and other needed comprehensive services. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act is one of many tools that we need to be able to meet people in that moment of crisis.

Senator Klyne: Minister, we have another chance to save lives with Senator Dalphond’s proposed Canadian postal safety act. Bill S-256 would allow police with a warrant to search items in the mail prior to delivery, including drugs like fentanyl. This is already allowed with private couriers like FedEx. This bill is supported by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and many First Nations. How will the government help pass this bill?

Ms. Saks: Thank you, Senator Klyne, for the question. I always appreciate the work of Senator Dalphond. We’ve worked together in the past.

The Canada model, as I like to call it, is a very comprehensive framework for how we are addressing the overdose crisis, but also the illicit and very poisoned toxic drug supply spreading throughout the country. We have to balance between and keep hand in hand public health and public safety as we move through this, and we need to use every tool that is available to us to combat it. However, I can’t really comment further on Canada Post operations as it is out of my scope of purview; however, I would be more than happy to —

The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you, minister.

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