Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Drug criminalization causing overdose epidemic: lawsuit

The Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs is suing Ottawa, saying laws criminalizing the drugs behind the overdose crisis are unconstitutional.
CPT123418769.jpg
Registered nurse Sammy Mullally holds a tray of supplies to be used by a drug addict at the Insite safe injection clinic in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday May 11, 2011. Health Canada has approved a supervised consumption site in Victoria to allow people to inject illicit drugs in the presence of medical staff. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs is suing Ottawa, saying laws criminalizing the drugs behind the overdose crisis are unconstitutional.

The suit says criminalization of drugs has created fear among drug users and resulted in stigmatization by family, peers, police, doctors, social services and others.

That fear, it said, has contributed to the largely preventable deaths of some 21,000 Canadians from 2016 to 2020.

That is partly because drug users must go to illegal sources for their drugs, the claim says. And, since 2012, that drug supply has been increasingly tainted with deadly fentanyl.

“Contaminated drugs can be sold by drug dealers because they are immune from the accountability of a regulated market,” says the suit, filed Aug. 31 against the Attorney General of Canada in B.C. Supreme Court. “Contaminated drugs exist and predominate as no safe and lawful marketplace exists.”

The suit calls the regulatory scheme in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act “a prohibitionist scheme.”

The association is working with four plaintiffs, including harm-reduction workers and counsellors. All have experienced heavy, addictive drug use.

The specific offences they are taking aim at are those around possession, trafficking for subsistence, trafficking to support drug use costs and trafficking to create safe supply for users.

All claim multiple harms flowing from the criminalization regime.

The suit asserts Canada’s drug laws have infringed users’ constitutional rights to life, security of the person and liberty.

The suit noted certain vulnerable groups such as Indigenous peoples and members of the LGBT community have suffered disproportionately under the current drug law regime.