In the past few years we have been inundated with information telling us we are in an opioid crisis that is causing hundreds of sudden deaths across the country. The bulk of which, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada is caused by fentanyl which amounts to about 82% of all opioid overdoses according to their latest statistics.

Given that even a small amount of fentanyl can be fatal, as little as a grain of sand we are told, one might think that our courts might take very seriously any case where a fentanyl trafficker comes before it.

I was heartened last year when Ottawa pharmacist, Waseem Shaheen, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for dealing fentanyl out of his Rideau Street IDA pharmacy.  But alas, that would seem to be a one-off. 

This week in Vancouver Supreme Court, Warren Brett Oswald, 37, pleaded guilty to possession for the purpose of trafficking in fentanyl and possession of a loaded firearm, a Smith & Wesson .40 cal. pistol. He was sentenced to nine years in prison. 

Okay, that might sound like a lot, but once you take away the multiple of time-served it translates to a little over five years. 

If he serves the full two thirds of that sentence before mandatory parole he will be out in a little over three years, but he will be eligible for early release in a little over a year. One year. 

Oswald was arrested outside a condo in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside after he beat a woman, punching her three times in the face. He was carrying a backpack which contained 1.4 kilograms of meth, 535 grams of cocaine, 428 g of fentanyl and $28,000 in cash and one round of ammunition. 

A subsequent search of the condo turned up more drugs and the .40 cal.  The total value of the drugs seized was approximately $114,000. Oswald was no street corner dealer. 

In sentencing Mr. Justice Nigel Kent said these offences attacked “very fabric of society” and required a “very strong message” of denunciation, condemnation and deterrence. The judge noted that little needed to be said about the “opioid crisis” in general and the “scourge” of fentanyl in particular.

Kent took judicial notice of the fact that Oswald was involved in a “multi-kilo trafficking operation.”  He also said “Mr. Oswald’s conduct was predatory in the extreme,” and that Oswald was very much knew full well the extent of death and misery inflicted by fentanyl.

Now with all that said, the observer might think that Kent was going to throw the book at Oswald. 

Then consider that at the time of the arrest, Oswald was subject to a lifetime ban on possessing firearms from a previous weapons conviction. Previous conviction? Yes, he had 69 previous criminal convictions. 69!

Canadians may bristle at the so-called three strikes laws in some states like California, but what about 33 strikes and you’re out? 43? 53? But seriously, 69 previous convictions and breaking a court-ordered lifetime ban on possessing firearms? 

What Oswald got was essentially a judicial slap on the wrist for possessing enough fentanyl to kill hundreds of people. 

The two biggest threats in our cities are guns and drugs. Oswald pleaded guilty on both aspects and could be out of jail in a little over a year. 

When are we going to get serious about gun crime and drug crime? Because frankly, this sentence given to Oswald is a joke on Canadians. 

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