Suspects charged with drug dealing as fentanyl overdoses hit Montreal
Published Monday, August 21, 2017 1:16PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 21, 2017 8:07PM EDT
Montreal police cracked down on suspected drug dealers this weekend following a flood of overdoses.
Police suspect the drugs being sold last week were cut with the powerful opioid fentanyl.
By Saturday, nine people overdosed in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve-Mercier area, and all survived thanks to a dose of naxalone, a medication that counteracts the effects of fentanyl.
The rush of overdoses prompted police to crack down on drug dealers in the neighbourhood, and they arrested five people on Friday afternoon and evening.
Police suspect the drug users bought other drugs, likely heroin, and did not realize it was mixed with fentanyl.
Four of the drug-dealing suspects, Michel Couturier-Bujold, Frederick Couture, Jean-Francois Masson and Mathieu Quintal, were granted bail on Monday. Bujold-Couturier returns to court Sept. 26, while Masson will next appear on Oct. 2.
The fifth suspect, Catherine Robitaille, is due in court on Tuesday.
Investigators from the violent crime division were able to move in quickly with the help of public health personnel.
Alexandre Paradis of SOS Itinerance volunteers with drug users, and he said the community is aware of the potentially deadly drug.
"We knew there were people dealing in fentanyl. The users also knew about it. But will the dealer say 'Hey, I cut this with fentanyl?' I don't think so. He will say 'It's good, it's good.' He's there to make money," said Paradis.
One of the victims was found in an alleyway on Friday afternoon by a street intervention worker who was able to revive her.
“Another ten minutes and she would have been dead,” he said.
While many paramedics carry naxolone kits, not all are equipped with the medication.
In some cities police and other emergency personnel are also carrying the drug overdose treatment kits, but that's not the case in Montreal.
Montreal police say they hope to be next.
“We first have to provide training to our officers,” said Cmdr. Karine Paquette.
Dopamine, an outreach group, is also providing training on how to use the kit, including to drug users.
“I think people that are in contact with people that use drugs should have the minimum training to save lives,” said Martin Page, director of Dopamine.
It's a precaution that's gaining ground in other cities, as the fentanyl crisis deepens.
In Vancouver, 232 people have died from fentanyl-related overdoses so far this year. Montreal has yet to face such a crisis.