opioid crisis

Judges Respond to Opioid Deaths on the Rise in Canada

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Canada, amongst other countries, is facing an opioid crisis. Between January 2016 and June 2018 more than 9,000 Canadians died from the use of opioids. The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that opioid overdoses are increasing in our country.

Opioids are medications that can relax the body and help relieve pain, such as fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone, and hydromorphone. Opioids are drugs that can affect your mind, mood, and mental processes, which may bring about the feeling of being euphoric or “high”.

In Canada, the majority of those that have accidentally died as a result of opioids (72%) have involved fentanyl, a highly potent and addictive opioid. Fentanyl is considered up to 100 times stronger than morphine and is often mixed into opioids sold on the street. Therefore, users do not know the potency of the drugs that they are ingesting.

Canadian judges are well aware of the opioid crisis in this country and are therefore handing down harsh sentences to those found to be trafficking and importing fentanyl.

THE CASE OF PHARMACIST WASEEM SHAHEEN

In March, 2018, an Ottawa pharmacist, Waseem Shaheen (“Shaheen”), was sentenced to 14 years in prison for dealing fentanyl out of his pharmacy. Shaheen was found to be responsible for trafficking more than 5,000 fentanyl patches (street value of more than $1,000,000).

Shaheen was involved in an elaborate scheme, which even involved faking a robbery at his own pharmacy. He was found guilty of trafficking fentanyl, public mischief for reporting a fake crime to police, and insurance fraud.

Ottawa Police Detective Guy Seguin stated,

I think the sentence is a clear message…. Hopefully a clear deterrent in the court that the justice system takes this very seriously, and hopefully other professionals like Mr. Shaheen will not be involved in trafficking fentanyl.

Justice Wadden, when handing down this harsh sentence, stated,

Mr. Shaheen is not an addict. None of the fentanyl was for his own use. His only apparent motivation was greed. As a trained professional, he would have been aware of the debilitating and deadly effects of this drug in the hands of addicts. Yet he conducted a drug trafficking scheme worth over a million dollars, profiting on the misery of others.

Shaheen was stripped of his pharmaceutical license and lost all three of his Ottawa pharmacies. However, he has not begun serving his sentence as he is appealing his conviction.

THE CASE OF ASHLEY BRODERICK

Ashley Broderick (“Broderick”), a woman from Kitchener, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic fentanyl. She was one of 14 people arrested as part of a lengthy police investigation called Project Titus, which concluded with the confiscation of 1.5 kilograms of powdered fentanyl found under a bed in her home. The fentanyl had a street value of $450,000 and 398 grams of methadone were also seized, with a street value of $11,500.

Broderick was discovered to be the second in command of an organization that sold fentanyl, methadone, and cocaine throughout southwestern Ontario. When Broderick was arrested, she was found with $2,900 cash, two cellphones, and a debt list. Police also found that she had two hotel room keys, and uncovered 21 grams of fentanyl and debt lists showing hundred of thousands of dollars in drug transactions in one of the hotel rooms.

In April, 2018, Justice Craig Perry sentenced Broderick to 13 years in prison stating that the sentence needed to reflect the seriousness of the crime. He emphasized that the primary principles of sentencing were denunciation and to deter others from committing similar crimes. At the time, this was the stiffest fentanyl sentence for trafficking handed down in Ontario.

THE CASE OF BARNA OLVEDI

The stiffest fentanyl sentence in Ontario was handed down by Justice Petersen in November, 2018. Barna Olvedi (“Olvedi”) was sentenced to 15 years in prison for importing and 12 years concurrent for trafficking fentanyl. Olvedi was found to have imported 499.5 grams of 100% fentanyl from China, which would have a street value of at least $14.9 million.

In his reasons for sentence, Justice Peterson stated:

Mr. Olvdei’s offences are extremely serious. He was not only in possession of a large quantity of pure fentanyl citrate for the purpose of trafficking, he also imported it into Canada from overseas. … I have concluded that a sentence of 15 years imprisonment is proportionate to the gravity of the offence and Mr. Olvedi’s degree of personal responsibility and moral blameworthiness. This sentence satisfies the principle of restraint and achieves parity with sentences imposed on other offenders w ho committed similar crimes in similar circumstances, though there are no other cases in which the circumstances involved importing a large quantity of 100% pure fentanyl citrate.

As both the Canadian government and the judiciary respond to the opioid crisis in Canada, Affleck & Barrison LLP will continue to provide updates through this blog.

If you are facing a drug related charge or have any questions regarding your legal rights, contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.