Good Samaritan Overdose Act

My son Kelly's story was mentioned in Ottawa in an effort to gain support of the act. RIP buddy, your job isn't quite done yet. 

Debate finished on Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act - vote today
Please see below the text of Mr. McKinnon’s speech in the House of Commons today at Third Reading. Debate finished on the bill and will be voted upon this upcoming Wednesday. If passed, it will be referred to the Senate.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all members of this House for their support of the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act. Members from all regions of Canada became co-seconders of C-224. The rules of this House did not allow for more than 20. That is a resounding call to the need for this legislation to be passed – and quickly. Members recognize that this bill will save lives.
During my second reading speech, I spoke of two young men – Austin and Kelly. Austin, Kelly– and indeed countless other souls – might have been with us today if the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act had been law when they made a mistake. A mistake that cost them their lives. We can never know for sure.

When I was researching this bill – even before I introduced C-224 – it was evident that this law is sorely needed. What I did not expect was the groundswell of support that came out shortly after the bill’s first reading. Groups and individuals from every part of Canada called and emailed telling me how much this legislation is needed. I thank them for that. That support motivated me even more to make sure this bill becomes law.

Mr. Speaker, this house is steeped in democratic traditions. Our legislative process gives members the ability to scrutinize legislation. We are elected by and for our constituents to represent their values, beliefs and desires. During second reading, I heard impassioned speeches from both sides of this House – some of which were very personal, making it clear that the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act had broad support.

Outside this chamber, it is the committees that continue Canada’s democratic traditions. Committees give each piece of legislation more scrutiny. The Standing Committee on Health did just that. The committee did its job well. They heard from many witnesses – from paramedics, frontline workers, Austin’s mom, academics and from drug users themselves. For me, the most compelling testimony came from the drug using community. That community does not feel safe and does fear law enforcement in an overdose situation.

The committee heard that this bill does not go far enough – that exemptions from prosecution should be broadened beyond simple possession. I agree with that. Studies show that fear of prosecution for possession is one of the key reasons that people do not call 911 in the event of a drug overdose. But there are also other reasons: outstanding warrants and breach of probation.
This bill is only one piece of the harm reduction toolkit – a toolkit that needs to be broadened and expanded over time. I believe it would have been good to have broadened the scope of the bill to include outstanding warrants and breach of probation. That however would have made the bill way to complex and controversial, lessening the chances of its passage. If passed in its current form, The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act will still save lives.

I laud the health committee for their work on this bill and for referring the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act back to this house without amendment. The committee recognized the urgency of opioid deaths and how C-224 is desperately needed in Canada.

The committee should also be commended for taking heed of the testimony they heard during the study on C-224. The powerful testimony of witnesses led to a motion being introduced during the deliberations on the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act – a motion to study the opioid crisis in Canada. Now, the committee is doing just that – and I have been honoured to have participated in some of the committee’s meetings on that study.

We can’t delay taking action on the opioid crisis in Canada. During the course of the deliberations on this bill, countless lives have been lost. I see it in the news every day. We do not know how many lives would have been saved if the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act was law.

Our government is continuing to put more tools in that harm reduction toolkit since this bill was introduced. That includes removing Naloxone from list of prescription drugs. It is also making the six essential ingredients that make deadly fentanyl controlled substances. And in the coming weeks, the Minister of Health is arranging an opioid abuse summit which will prioritize how we can start to get out of this mess.

Mr. Speaker, I thank members of this house for their support of the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act. I want to thank the Library of Parliament, the House of Commons legal department and the Private Member’s Business Office or their incredible support on Bill C-224. There are several moving pieces to drafting and supporting legislation and without them this bill would not have happened.

Ultimately this bill needs to become law. Mr. Speaker, I ask all Members of the House to come together and support The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act to help save lives.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

By Marie Agioritis