The Alberta government has launched revised laws purported to ensure those adding fuel to the opioid addiction fire are duly held accountable. Mental health and addiction minister, Dan Williams, stated that the intended amendments would bolster the province’s standing in ongoing class action lawsuits aimed at recouping the fiscal toll of opioid-related healthcare and ancillary damages.
From the moment our administration took office in 2019, we have been unwavering in our commitment to making manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and other players answerable for their role in the egregious addiction crisis and the financial strain it places on our healthcare system. “My resolve is unshakeable—I intend to extract every last penny possible from those who have had a hand in igniting this crisis,” stated Williams.
In a historical move in 2018, British Columbia initiated a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Ottawa, all provinces, and territories against over 40 opioid producers and distributors. The defendants stand accused of minimizing the detrimental effects of these painkillers, falsifying the risk of addiction, and omitting mention of side effects and withdrawal symptoms.
The opioid crisis has seen more than 38,000 suspected opioid-related fatalities across Canada from January 2016 to March 2023. Experts speculate that the COVID-19 pandemic has likely exacerbated the situation.
In response, several provinces and territories have enacted laws to facilitate the class-action process. A certification hearing for the lawsuit in British Colombia is slated for late November.
In October 2019, Alberta joined the class action, setting the wheels in motion by passing the first round of legislation in December that year. Key amendments proposed include placing pharmaceutical consultants under potential legal scrutiny, refining the definition of opioid products, and revising the formula for calculating damages.
Williams emphasized that all future damages would be funneled into mental health support and addiction recovery programs. “Every cent we recover will feed back into the recovery model,” he asserted. “Our main objective is to enhance treatment capacity, most notably for rehabilitation – detox, recovery treatment, and recovery communities.”
In the same vein, both the Nova Scotia and Quebec governments have recently introduced updated laws and submitted an opioid-related bill that aligns with those in other provinces.