Editorial – Fentanyl crisis brings harsher consequences

Tom Henihan

Several jurisdictions across Canada are laying charges against those suspected of dealing hard drugs to people who subsequently die of an overdose.

The Fentanyl crisis is such an overwhelming issue especially in B.C. and here in Alberta, and while the number of fatalities in Alberta is not as high as B.C., it is still an alarming and tragic situation.

In 2017, eighty-one percent of illicit drug deaths in B.C. resulted from Fentanyl and considering that high rate, law enforcement and the legal profession believe there must be consequences to selling these often-fatal drugs.

A woman from Sarnia, Ontario, who was charged with manslaughter for selling a fatal combination of cocaine laced with Fentanyl, ultimately pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of criminal negligence causing death, and trafficking in Fentanyl.

The 59-year-old woman, Karen Edel-Savage sold crack cocaine laced with Fentanyl to Daniel Lapointe in August 2017 and a few hours after Lapointe died of an overdose because of Fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than morphine.

It is important to note, that neither Edel-Savage nor Lapointe had any idea that there was Fentanyl mixed with the cocaine.

This marks the second instance within a year where a person in Canada is convicted of causing death due to selling drugs that proved fatal. The other conviction was in Woodstock Ontario.

As with the rest of society, these punitive measures come down hard on the hapless individuals on the streets who deal drugs in order to support their own drug addiction and who live in the same addled, desperate circumstances as the people they are selling too.

Not that they are in any way blameless but there are mitigating factors because these people are not preying on individuals in this environment they are part of the same abject environment.

However, I believe that those who knowingly engage in the distribution and sale of Fentenyl should be given no margin. Selling Fentanyl is a reckless, homicidal act that shows complete disregard for the lives or welfare of others.

No matter the extent of one’s addiction, to willfully put someone in harm’s way by selling them Fentanyl, is a complete abdication from any moral or civil restraints and that alone poses grave danger and should be apprehended.

Unless one is permanently catatonic from drugs, it is impossible not to know that dealing in Fentanyl is dealing with an extremely dangerous substance and putting the lives of others in serious jeopardy. Every time someone uses the drug, they are playing Russian Roulette, they don’t know if they are going to overdose or not.

But the same could be said about users as it is about dealers, that the user is also more than likely to be aware that hard drugs are a high risk and that Fentanyl is the highest risk of all.

And of course, those left behind to suffer the loss of people who died of a drug overdose, those people recognize that some of the onus is on the person they lost.

However, they also see that a substantial portion of the responsibility remains with the person who sold the drug and so that person must be held responsible.

It would be difficult for anyone to claim they are unaware of the Fentanyl crisis, and while ignorance is never a defense, at this stage, ignorance of the Fentanyl crisis should be deemed criminal negligence.

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