Pubdate: Wed, 15 Nov 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Page: A8


There are two things to be said about the 11-year-prison sentence
handed out last week to Kitchener fentanyl dealer Erin Vezina.

First, it is as hard as nails; indeed it's the most severe punishment
involving a fentanyl-related crime ever handed out in Waterloo Region.
Second, this is what real justice looks like. Bravo, Justice Melanie
Sopinka, for your wise decision. In only a few years, the abuse of
illicit opioids, especially fentanyl, has exploded into a national
crisis that is believed to have claimed 2,458 lives across Canada in
2016 alone.

In that same year, 38 people died of opioid overdoses in Waterloo
Region, and 24 of those deaths involved fentanyl. The situation has
only worsened in 2017 with the region on track to having the highest
number of opioid deaths ever.

By the end of September and with three months left in the year, 45
deaths had been blamed on opioids in this region - more than one a
week. Paramedics had responded to 556 overdoses by late October - far
more than in all of 2016.

And always remember, we're talking about human lives, not just

One of those lives belonged to 14-year-old Kitchener high school
student Zion Williams-Farrell, who died this spring after taking drugs
with friends, not knowing the drugs contained fentanyl.

His grieving mother, Jaimie Lee Farrell, is trying to educate the
public about the dangers of fentanyl, and she's right to do so.

Fentanyl is the most dangerous opioid of all, at least 50 times more
powerful than heroin. Even a tiny amount, the size of two grains of
salt, can kill.

Yet people often don't even realize they're taking it because it's
been added to other drugs.

It's fair to debate how our society should confront this drug

Those who categorize it as a health problem make a point, and one the
authorities recognize.

Just last week, the Ontario government awarded $1.3 million to four
Waterloo Region agencies that help opioid users.

That much-needed money will be used to open rapid action addiction
clinics, provide more crisis support on university and college
campuses, and offer better withdrawal assistance at a hospital.

But let's face reality: We need a multi-pronged attack against opioid
abuse, and this offensive should include getting tough with
unscrupulous, despicable traffickers.

Waterloo Regional Police are doing their part and, in late October,
made the largest seizure of fentanyl in the region's history, bringing
charges against seven people as they did.

Then, last week in a Kitchener court, Justice Sopinka did her part in
sentencing Vezina to 11 years.

Not only does her decision set a precedent that can guide other
judges, it strongly denounces a serious, life-threatening crime and
might, just might, deter others from selling fentanyl. Vezina got what
he deserved. And the region is a safer place with this criminal off
its streets for the foreseeable future.

We are not helpless in the face of this opioid scourge, and Justice
Sopinka has showed how we can fight back.
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