Appeal Court Judge Overturns Conviction, Upholds Good Samaritan Act Immunity


In an unequivocal legal directive, Appeal Court Judge Robert Leurer of Saskatoon overturned a conviction on appeal: a man found with weapons had been unconstitutionally searched, a consequence of his action to report a friend’s overdose. The ruling, nestled within a September 8 written decision, serves to robustly reinforce the federal Good Samaritan Act. This assistant-friendly espousal of the law offers immunity from prosecution to people seeking aid for individuals in medical exigency. As a result of this ruling, an eight-year sentence previously handed to Paul Eric Wilson was negated.

Wilson had been in the company of several acquaintances on an early morning drive in Vanscoy, September 10, 2020. Upon the unsettling realization that a companion was rendered unconscious following a dose of fentanyl, Wilson made the emergency call. Upon arrival, an RCMP officer from Warman found paramedics in active response. Near the vehicle, what the RCMP Constable believed to be methamphetamine was identified in a clear bag, leading to the temporary detention of the trio remaining on site.

The officer proceeded to disclose a combination of syringes and suspicious substances on Wilson’s person. With this, she detained him on grounds alleging simple possession. Following thorough investigation involving examination of several bags within the truck, she discovered tampered handguns and ammunition in a backpack, elements that connoted potential drug trafficking.

While the subsequent proceedings led to grave firearms charges against Wilson, these were arrived at without preceding opiate possession charges. According to Judge Leurer, the simple possession charge, which had governed his initial detention, was surprisingly absent. The presiding judge over the earlier trial had surprisingly dismissed Wilson’s assertion that his Charter rights had been breached on grounds of the arrest, and accepted the claim by the Crown that the protective clause of the Good Samaritan Act was immaterial. This assertion was based upon the skipping over of a simple possession charge on Wilson.

Yet, as Judge Leurer insists, the weapons discovered by the officers were a direct result of the search initiated on suspicion of simple possession. As such circumstances prohibit charges under the Good Samaritan Act, such evidence was ostensibly procured through unlawful means. Leurer opines that Wilson’s initial arrest, and thus his liberty, were unjustifiably infringed upon because of evidence acquisition linked to the call for emergency assistance.

The ruling does not shy away from expressing that such evidence brings the administration of justice into disrepute. Police representation lacked any evidence clarifying their perceived right to arrest Wilson for simple possession, an offense he could not legally be charged with. Leurer further asserts that police officers, when wielding the power of arrest, must exercise measured restraint.

Given their decision to delay for investigation, police officers had considerable time to reevaluate the situation. However, the observation that Wilson’s arrest served no lawful purpose eluded them.

The Judge also highlighted the lifesaving role played by the Good Samaritan law, suggesting that the distressed individual likely survived thanks to the group’s decision to contact emergency services. His argument further underscores its critical importance, urging that drug users must believe in the Act’s protective power when they report an overdose.

As a direct consequence of the ruling, Paul Eric Wilson has been acquitted of all charges.


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