Comic: No police at overdoses

In 2017, the Canadian government passed the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, a law meant to provide certain legal protections for people who witness an overdose in Canada and call 911 for emergency assistance. 

Janet Butler-McPhee and Sandra Ka Hon Chu of the HIV Legal Network partnered with Emily van der Meulen at Ryerson University on a new research study with people who use drugs, looking at the Good Samaritan law and whether it is working as intended. You can find their preliminary research findings report, published in June 2020, here.

This comic illustrates one of their important findings: that while overdoses are a medical emergency, police are often attending overdose scenes – with negative consequences for people who use drugs – despite the fact that police presence has not been requested nor is it warranted.

(Click each image to enlarge)

Sandra Ka Hon Chu is a lawyer and the director of research and advocacy at the HIV Legal Network, where she works on HIV-related human rights issues concerning prisons, drug policy, sex work, women, and immigration.

Janet Butler-McPhee is the director of communications and research at the HIV Legal Network. She is the principal investigator on the research project that inspired this comic.

Emily van der Meulen is a professor of criminology at Ryerson University. She conducts research on the criminalization of sex work, prison and community-based harm reduction, and surveillance.

Nicole Burton and Hugh Goldring are an artist/writer team who work full time adapting research with social justice themes into comics. Their next full length graphic novel, on the history of psychedelic psychotherapy in mid-century Saskatchewan and its influence on the politics of psychedelics, is due out next fall.

Readers like you keep Briarpatch alive and thriving. Subscribe today to support fiercely independent journalism.