KINGSVILLE — The laying of a manslaughter charge against a man who allegedly supplied opioids to a Kingsville overdose victim is part of a growing trend among police forces in Ontario.
Provincewide, from 2018-22, the OPP has laid 30 charges of manslaughter or criminal negligence causing death against dealers who sold drugs to victims who later died.
Last week the OPP said it had charged Douglas Darcy Jarvis, 54, of Kingsville, with manslaughter and opioid trafficking.
“The OPP is resolved to holding drug traffickers accountable for opioid overdose-related deaths,” said OPP media officer Const. Steve Duguay.
The death occurred March 20 of last year. Police would not release the name of the victim.
Duguay said the case is before the courts and he was limited in what he could say about the investigation that led to charges against Jarvis. He could not comment on whether an autopsy was performed on the victim, the relationship between the accused and victim or whether the accused was known to police prior to the overdose.
Duguay said the focal point of any case involving an alleged drug dealer is to find and arrest their suppliers.
“That’s the million dollar question. Where are these people getting their supplies? It’s such a big network right now. These drugs are moving all over the place and that’s the key. We’re trying to go up the ladder and find where the big players are.”
Duguay said all OPP officers have kits of naloxone, a lifesaving medication that blocks the effects of opioids on the body.
It is used with fentanyl, heroin, morphine and codeine overdoses and can be administered by nasal spray or injection.
The effect of naloxone is temporary and a second dose is often required.
All Kingsville pharmacies provide free naloxone kits and information on their use.
Last year, a Sarnia man was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and trafficking in the overdose death of a 17-year-old girl.
While there may be a subset of financially motivated traffickers who may take heed and refrain from partaking in the trafficking of opioids as a result of these types of court decisions, I think the vast majority of people who are involved in the sale and use of these opioids will be undeterred.”
Text messages showed Derrick Adams knew the fentanyl he supplied Rachel Cook was potentially deadly because he had given the overdose victim a naloxone kit.
The judge concluded ”a reasonable person would have foreseen the risks of providing fentanyl.”
Toronto criminal defence lawyer Ehsan Chebrai, who represents clients accused of trafficking opioids, said in an interview with the Toronto Star that charges like manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death can be a deterrent.
But he questioned their effectiveness.
“While there may be a subset of financially motivated traffickers who may take heed and refrain from partaking in the trafficking of opioids as a result of these types of court decisions, I think the vast majority of people who are involved in the sale and use of these opioids will be undeterred,” he said.
“They are too deep in the throes of their own addictions.”
The legal definition of manslaughter is unintentional, culpable homicide.
The maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
Figures provided by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit show there were 505 overdoses resulting in hospital admissions in 2021 and 84 deaths.
More current numbers are being compiled and early indications point to a further increase.
“The trends are going up and up and that’s particularly concerning for us,” said Gordon Thane, the unit’s manager of chronic disease and injury prevention.
To address opioid abuse, the unit in partnership with police, local hospitals and EMS services, has created Windsor Essex Community Opioid and Substance Strategy.
Thane said the program offers “pillars” to fight opioid abuse. The pillars include education and prevention, promotion of “harm reduction” with the use of naloxone kits, policing, the creation of safe injection sites and mental health support.
“That would also include wraparound services such as income support, food support, that sort of thing, recognizing that a lot of people who use substances are really struggling with other types of social issues, like housing and connecting them to the appropriate agencies,” he said.
Thane said he would encourage “everyone to carry a naloxone kit … whether they have lived the experience of substance use of opioid themselves or they know somebody who knows someone because you never know if (you might be in a situation) where you could resuscitate someone.”