British Columbia

'If you're dealing fentanyl, you're dealing death': B.C. considers tougher penalties for fentanyl dealers

Investigators across Canada are increasingly pursuing manslaughter charges for those who sell fentanyl.

Investigators across Canada increasingly pursue manslaughter charges for those who sell the potent opioid

Fentanyl — a deadly opioid — has been linked to over 80 per cent of the drug overdose deaths in B.C. this year, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. (B.C. RCMP)

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says the province will consider tougher penalties for convicted fentanyl dealers.

"We strongly believe that if you're dealing fentanyl, you're dealing death, and you should be facing much more severe penalties such as manslaughter charges," Farnworth said.

Farnworth made the comments at a forum in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday — the same day the B.C. Coroners Service announced the number of overdose deaths in the province has hit a new high.

At least 1,013 people have died in the first eight months of this year from an illicit drug overdose — more than all of last year.

Some jurisdictions across Canada — like Ontario, for example — have started charging dealers with manslaughter. 

In one South Simcoe case, police said laying such charges is partly about sending a message to dealers. That case is still in its early stages.

But Sarah Blyth with the Overdose Prevention Society doesn't believe manslaughter charges are the answer.

"There's never-ending funding going to arresting people," Blyth said. "And I don't think it's worked."

Blyth said she believes the drug problem needs to be treated as a health care issue and government should focus its efforts on providing safe drugs to those with addictions.

With files from Stephanie Mercier