Manslaughter charges possible for fentanyl dealers: B.C. public safety minister
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SURREY, B.C. — British Columbia's minister of public safety says dealers whose fentanyl-laced drugs cause death could face a manslaughter charge.
Mike Farnworth, who is also solicitor general, says the NDP government is considering tougher penalties against fentanyl dealers.
Speaking at a news conference in Surrey, Farnworth said his ministry believes that anyone dealing fentanyl is, in his words, "dealing death."
A manslaughter charge was laid in Edmonton last year in an opioid death and, since then, the same charge has been laid in several similar cases in Alberta and Ontario.
Farnworth says the issue of stiffer penalties in deadly drug cases was raised at a recent meeting of Canada's public safety ministers.
Vancouver police have said the question is complex and convictions would rely on unique sets of circumstances and evidence, but Farnworth says the province is ready to press ahead.
"We are working on a package of initiatives to unveil in the weeks and months ahead," he said Thursday.
Figures from the BC Coroners Service reveal the death toll from illicit drug overdoses across the province remains unchecked.
Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said new data shows 1,013 people died of overdoses between January and the end of August, far ahead of the 982 deaths recorded for all of 2016.
More than 80 per cent of the deaths this year have been linked to fentanyl compared with 2012 when fentanyl was detected in just four per cent of overdose deaths.
The province declared a state of emergency last year and took a number of steps to try to reduce overdoses, including increasing access to the drug naloxone, which blocks the effects of opioids.