Supreme Court of Canada to review Good Samaritan drug overdose case

Good Samaritan law review

The Supreme Court of Canada says it will review the case of a man arrested after calling for help to save a friend overdosing on drugs in a case that has raised questions surrounding the Good Samaritan law.

The top court said Thursday it will review the case of Paul Eric Wilson but as per regular practice did not give reasons why.

The court is expected to clarify application of the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, which was passed to help reduce deaths from substance use.

The case surrounds the arrest and conviction of Wilson.

Wilson was in a truck with three others in Vanscoy, Sask., southwest of Saskatoon, on a morning in September 2020, when a passenger overdosed on fentanyl and lost consciousness.

They called 911 and remained at the scene as paramedics and police arrived to help.

Court has heard Mounties found a clear bag containing a white substance believed to be crystal methamphetamine on the ground near the driver’s side of the truck. Wilson denied the substance was his, but he did present a case that contained syringes and other drug paraphernalia.

Wilson was arrested for drug possession.

Officers then searched the truck and several bags in the vehicle. They found modified handguns, firearm parts and ammunition, along with paraphernalia that suggested drug trafficking.

Wilson was arrested a second time for drug trafficking and firearm offences.

He was later convicted of the firearms offences and sentenced to eight years.

Those convictions were overturned last year by Saskatchewan's Court of Appeal.

Saskatchewan's top court ruled Wilson's rights were violated under the federal law that prevents someone from being arrested for drug possession while reporting an overdose.

Under the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, no one who seeks emergency medical or police assistance can be charged or convicted of simple drug possession if the evidence was discovered because that person sought assistance or stayed at the scene of the emergency.

During the appeal, the Crown argued that although Wilson was arrested for drug possession, he was never actually charged with it, meaning the Good Samaritan law should not apply.

But the court ruled that the law invalidated the weapons charges stemming from the second arrest, and the flawed initial arrest led to the discovery of Wilson’s backpack with the weapons.

“Because Mr. Wilson could not be charged with simple possession of a controlled substance, his first arrest was unlawful. This means that his rights were violated by the search that was incidental to it,” Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Justice Robert Leurer wrote in a Sept. 8 decision.

“Mr. Wilson’s first arrest was unlawful. It follows that his rights were violated."

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