Watson in favour of manslaughter charges for drug dealers

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson says he’s in favour of stiffer penalties for drug dealers who can be linked to overdose deaths in the city.

Speaking on CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Evan Solomon Watson said he would like to see manslaughter charges laid in such cases.

“They are, in fact, killing people,” the mayor says. “We see it, certainly, in large numbers in British Columbia and we’re seeing it here, about a couple dozen in the last year that have lost their lives as a result of drug overdoses.”

Watson says a stronger message is needed to deter dealers.

“I think we have to send a very strong signal to those people who are going to be engaged in illegal activity,” Watson says. “They have to pay a much stiffer penalty, otherwise the deterrent is not there, and they stay in the business and continue to poison kids.”

Watson says Kanata South councillor Alan Hubley has raised the issue with Kanata-Carleton MP Karen McCrimmon, to discuss what changes need to be made the Criminal Code, so that people who are selling fentanyl-laced pills can be charged with manslaughter.

“I fully support that,” Watson says. “That is going to be looked at as one of the issues we raise with [Public Safety] Minister [Ralph] Goodale.”

In an effort to combat overdose deaths, Watson also told Ottawa Now he is working with first responders to try and get Naloxone kits into the hands of firefighters and police officers.

“I asked our City Manager and our new General Manager of Safety and Security, Anthony DiMonte , to come back with a report on what it would take to get them in fire trucks,” Watson says. “And I know Chief Bordeleau, in his capacity as chair of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, has asked the Province for support to put them in police cars.”

Watsons says first responders will need some training before the kits—which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose—will be put into fire trucks and police cars.

“But if we can get over those things, and Calgary has done it, then, obviously, the more that have access to it, the better.”

The Province of Alberta made naloxone kits available to all first responders earlier this month, providing them at no cost to emergency services.

Watson is hopeful there would be no cost to the City to provide Naloxone to first responders in Ottawa, because they’re available to citizens for free with a valid OHIP card.

“Maybe that’s not realistic, but that would be our opening position,” he says.

Watson has scheduled a 30 minute meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne on Monday, while he’s in Toronto on a business delegation, where he plans to ask for more funding for treatment facilities.

“While we appreciate the great work that they’ve done, we do need more treatment facilities,” Watson says. “The frustration that parents are telling is me is that they understand that their children have a problem, they want to get them help and get them off drugs, and they’re often having to wait weeks and months to get into detox or treatment.”