Supreme Court Of Canada To Review Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Case | CBC News


The Supreme Court of Canada will review the case of a man who was arrested for drug and firearm offences after police encountered him at the scene of an overdose.

8-year sentence overturned in Saskatchewan due to Good Samaritan Drug Overdose ActThe Canadian Press

· Posted: Feb 22, 2024 4:59 PM EST | Last Updated: 4 hours ago

Paul Eric Wilson’s eight-year sentence was overturned by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal under the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act. The Supreme Court of Canada will review the case. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)The Supreme Court of Canada will review the case of a man who was arrested for drug and firearm offences after police encountered him at the scene of an overdose.

The top court’s examination is expected to clarify application of the federal Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, passed to help reduce deaths from substance use.

Under the law, 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.

In September 2020, Paul Eric Wilson was at the scene of a woman’s fentanyl overdose in Vanscoy, Sask.

After police arrived, Wilson was arrested for drug possession and, following a search, he was arrested a second time for drug trafficking and firearm offences.

Wilson’s conviction for several firearm offences was overturned last year by Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal, prompting the Crown to seek a hearing in the Supreme Court.

Sentence overturned in Sask. appeal hearingDuring the appeal hearing in Saskatchewan, the Crown argued that the Good Samaritan Act did not apply because it prevents the police from charging or convicting people, but it doesn’t mean they can’t arrest or search.

In this case, the Crown’s argument relied on Wilson never being charged with possession of a controlled substance.

The judge’s ruling said Wilson’s overarching argument was that the search leading to the incriminating items and the subsequent charges was incidental to the first “prohibited” arrest.

Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Justice Robert Leurer rejected the Crown’s interpretation. 

“I agree with the Crown that it was proper for the officers to understand that Mr. Wilson was found committing a crime. However, as I will next discuss, I cannot agree with the Crown’s further submission that this nonetheless justified his arrest,” Leurer said. 

Leurer concluded that Wilson’s arrest was unlawful based on evidence suggesting that the police had violated two sections of Wilson’s Charter rights:

Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.

Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

“It should have been obvious to the officers that no lawful purpose would be served by Mr. Wilson’s arrest,” he said.

Pierre Hawkins, legal counsel for John Howard Society, led the charge as an intervenor in Wilson’s case. He said this is one of the first cases in the country where the Good Samaritan Act was considered in the overturning of a conviction.

“We see this as the court sending a strong message to both police forces about arresting people in these situations and about training officers in those cases,” Hawkins said.

Read the full Court of Appeal ruling here: 

With files from CBC’s Shlok Talati

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