A man walks past a mural by street artist Smokey D. about the fentanyl and opioid overdose crisis, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, B.C., on Dec. 22, 2016. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
"They know that their neighbours, their communities, are facing the problem of people dying from overdoses. They understand they need to take action."Health Canada says the law also provides an exemption from charges for people who are on a probation order, serving a conditional sentence or who are on parole. McKinnon, the MP for Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, said the exemption will not apply to offences such as drug trafficking or driving while impaired. Health Canada says opioid overdoses are killing thousands of Canadians of all ages and from all walks of life. "Protecting the lives of Canadians is our most important priority," Health Minister Jane Philpott said in a release Thursday. "This law ensures that you can call for help when someone is having a drug overdose — and stay to provide them support until emergency responders arrive — with guaranteed immunity from certain charges related to simple possession of illegal drugs."
Health Minister Jane Philpott speaks with reporters in Ottawa on Dec. 19, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)Last month, Philpott said Health Canada wants to release statistics on overdose deaths but is frustrated with provinces and territories that haven't provided data. British Columbia reported 931 fatal overdoses from illegal drugs last year. There was also an increase in the number of fentanyl-related deaths. Alberta has said 343 people died in the province last year from apparent drug overdoses related to the opioid fentanyl. The latest figures for Ontario show there were 734 opioid-related deaths in 2015.