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Monthly Archives: January 2017

Does Hamilton need a supervised drug injection facility?

Hamilton and Vancouver are two colonial cities that have historically existed since 1800’s. What else is common between the two? The heroin and fentanyl epidemic that has consumed both Vancouver and Hamilton. Access to a safe and supervised drug injection site is a reality of those struggling with Opiate addiction in Vancouver.  Where does Hamilton stand?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, which belongs to the same category of painkillers as morphine and heroin. However, it has been reported that fentanyl is approximately 50 times stronger than morphine and approximately 25 times more potent than heroin. It is believed that, a microgram of fentanyl can produce similar effects that may require milligrams of heroin. Surprisingly, the heroin sold illegally on the streets may be mixed with fentanyl without the user’s knowledge. The user administers the substance in an amount which may be safe to use if the substance was heroin but unknowingly, a user can administer quantity of fentanyl which can have fatal and tragic effects such as an overdose. Therefore, the inevitable result is the number of heroin/fentanyl overdoses is increasing at an alarming rate.

In Hamilton, the number of heroin/fentanyl overdoses resulting in the fatalities and hospital visits have increased significantly in the last five years reported (2008-2013). In 2013, there were 96 deaths in Hamilton related to opioid overdose, which is the highest in province. Similarly, the number of emergency hospital visits in Hamilton related to opioid overdose is also the highest in the province. Hospitals in Hamilton and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) have noted being  overwhelmed with an increase in people seeking help with heroin/fentanyl overdose. The problem does not stop there. Significant number of users are developing and spreading HIV and Hepatitis C by sharing needles/syringes and unfortunately, are not even aware of these diseases. In Vancouver, specifically Eastside Downtown, the epidemic is as bad or even worse. However Downtown Vancouver has InSite. supervised drug injection

InSite is a supervised drug injection facility where drug users can use medical equipment such as needles/syringes to administer the substance themselves. The staff at InSite, mostly nurses, do not help in administering the substance but are available to educate the user to use the substance in a safer manner. The users bring their own substance to use. The staff is also present to avoid fatalities and medical emergencies that result out of overdosage. On average, InSite serves more than 700 users a day and till date no fatalities have occurred at InSite. Furthermore, there are also counselling and rehabilitation services available for those who may want to seek help in giving up their opioid addictions.

It is clear from the data provided earlier that there is a definitive need for such a facility in Hamilton. According to a recent survey, over 84% of respondents in Hamilton supported the notion of having a supervised drug injection facility. City council is considering conducting a study to find out where and how such a facility can be accommodated. If the study takes place, the recommendations will likely be released in 2018. That also happens to be the year when the next city council elections take place. As a result, even if the study recommends a facility, it may end up being futile as the new council may not want to implement such recommendations. By 2018, there will be many more fatalities and more new cases of HIV and Hepatitis C.

There are compelling arguments supporting safe injection clinics. The cost of running a supervised drug injection facility will be far less than the cost related to hospital visits and EMS dealing with people affected by opioid overdose. There will be far less cases of HIV and Hepatitis C due to needle sharing amongst the users. It goes without saying that use of these drugs are illegal however, treatment of addictions with the use of safe injection sites is something that all cities should consider.

Further Reading:



11b Delay – Post Jordan

There was significant buzz after the decision of Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Jordan 2016 SCC 27 (Jordan) regarding the expansion of an individual’s right to criminal trial within a reasonable time, shrined in Section 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom (Charter). Jordan was an appeal from British Columbia Court of Appeal’s decision that affirmed conviction after an 11b delay of almost 50 months, from the laying of the information up to the end of the trial.

After the court’s decision in Jordan which had placed presumptive ceilings on the length of proceedings after which the 11b delay would be presumed unreasonable, many expected an Askov kind of ripple effect, during which thousands of proceedings were stayed that had already surpassed the Askov benchmark. To their surprise, not many proceedings have been stayed due to unreasonable 11b delay after Jordan.

The reason is the Supreme Court’s decision in Jordan itself. The Supreme Court, at Para. 94, clearly states that the decision is not meant to result in thousands of charges being stayed, which had occurred as the result of court’s earlier decision in Askov, more than two decades ago. None the less, post-Jordan, unreasonable 11b delays have resulted in stay of proceedings for few, whereas in many other instances the Crown has been able to rely on exceptions such as discrete circumstances and particularly complex matters to justify the 11b delay.

Although there have been complex cases where the delay has resulted in stay of proceedings. It should be noted that these cases are few and far in between. Majority of the times, the defense either contributes to the delay or waives the delay, which results in that delay being subtracted out of the total 11b delay. It is also noteworthy to mention that even before the Jordan decision was released, the average amount of time for a proceeding to complete was and currently is below the presumptive ceiling mark.

Jordan helps to crystallize the current status of 11(b), but it does not really change the legal landscape of an individual’s right to a trial within a reasonable time. At first sight, Jordan may and can force the Crown to proceed with all the matters in an expedite manner in order to remain below the presumed ceiling. However, upon closer look, presumptive ceilings in many instances can prove to be a barrier, instead of a carrier, to 11 (b). Most of the criminal proceedings commence and complete in Ontario Court of Justice and involve straight forward matters. An individual who may want to have a trial within a relatively short period after his/her arrest can have to wait for a longer period since the Crown or the Courts may not be able and/or interested to have a trial relatively quickly.

Supreme Court in Jordan stated that the onus was on the accused to expedite the proceedings where the accused wanted to raise 11 (b) before the presumptive ceiling had been reached. However, it can be challenging for an accused who has little or no control over the administration of the proceedings. This can have devastating effects on an accused’s section 7 rights to liberty and security under the Charter, who is being held in custody awaiting trial or living under strict bail conditions.

In conclusion, Supreme Court’s decision in Jordan has not resulted in any expansion of an individual’s right to a criminal trial within a reasonable time, but the decision has managed to capture the attention of those involved in the administration of the Criminal Justice System to move the proceedings expeditiously.

11b Delay

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