POILIEVRE MIGHT NOT HAVE
SOLUTIONS TO CANADA'S OPIOID EPIDEMIC,
BUT SENATOR DALPHOND DOES.
Pierre Poilievre’s unsubstantiated vilification of safer supply pilot projects misdiagnoses the causes and overlooks the practical policy solutions to Canada’s opioid epidemic: 32, 632 Canadians died of opioid toxicity between January 2016 and March 2022 because individuals suffering from opioid use disorder will consume opioids whether they’re clean or contaminated.
Safer supply pilot projects have been implemented to provide Canadians with non-toxic alternatives that reduce the risk of overdose. Contrary to Poilievre’s suggestions, canceling safer supply pilot projects would be a step in the wrong direction. In fact, a more pressing policy challenge is eliminating the distribution of toxic and illegal substitutes prevalent in Canada.
It may come as a surprise, but Canada Post is the shipping method of choice for drug traffickers in Canada. Fentanyl,cocaine, heroin – you name it! For years, criminals have exploited an antiquated legal quirk that prevents police officers from searching packages sent through Canada Post. This flaw does not exist for private courier services such as FedEx and UPS.
In 2015, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police adopted Resolution 08-2015 requesting that the Government of Canada amend section 40 (3) of the CPCA. Thankfully, Senator Dalphond has finally answered their call by sponsoring Bill S-256 (An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act) to close this loophole.
Section 40 (3) of the Canada Post Corporation Act (CPCA) overrides the search and seizure provisions of the Criminal Code by prohibiting police officers from detaining, searching, or seizing mail in “the course of post.” An item is deemed to be "in the course of post" from the time it is posted until it is delivered to the addressee or returned to the sender.
For a long time, section 41 (1) of the CPCA complemented section 40 (3) by allowing a postal inspector to “open any mail, other than a letter, to determine in any particular case whether the mail is non-mailable matter.” Although Canada Post only has 25 postal inspectors responsible for spotting contraband in the mail across the country, this option was better than nothing.
For example, Canada Post delivered 6.4 billion items in 2020: 2.5 billion were letters weighing under 500 grams (500 grams worth of fentanyl has a street value of $30, 000), 384 million were inspectable parcels, and the remainder were advertising materials. Thus, Canada Post inspected 3, 287 of the 384 million inspectable parcels and found that 3, 067 contained non-mailable matter. Evidently, searching for a needle in a haystack is better than being unable to search at all.
That became the reality when the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador declared section 41 (1) of the CPCA unconstitutional in R v. Gorman. Put simply, Justice Boone determined that section 41 (1) of the CPCA violated the guarantee against unreasonable search or seizure enshrined in section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court granted the Attorney General of Canada until April 12, 2023 to fix the problem.
With the Gorman decision, postal inspectors are no longer allowed to intercept packages pursuant to section 41 (1) of the CPCA. In other words, there are no definite legal means to respond to possible threats in mailed parcels.
Put differently: unless section 40 (3) of the CPCA is amended before April 12, 2023, illicit materials which include fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin will flow freely through the mail – delivered by Canada Post agents directly into the hands of traffickers and consumers. This legal vacuum is a nightmare scenario for Canada’s national security.
To be clear: amending section 40 (3) of the CPCA will not end Canada’s opioid epidemic. Far from it. Nevertheless, Bill S-256 is a concrete solution to a significant part of a much larger societal issue – and that’s more than what Poilievre has proposed thus far.
Originally published by The Hill Times on March 13, 2023.