Sarah Runyon and Caitlin Shane file Charter challenge to drug possession at BC Provincial Court

UPDATE: Following our recent notice to challenge section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (drug possession), Public Prosecution Service of Canada has issued a stay of proceedings, meaning that this particular case will no longer proceed. While excellent news for our client, we know that many others continue to be criminalized for the personal possession of drugs at direct cost to their health, safety, and rights. We remain committed to fighting drug prohibition and will post updates as they arise.

September 26, 2023

Sarah Runyon (Marion and Runyon Criminal Lawyers) and Caitlin Shane (Pivot Legal Society) have filed Notice in the case of R v Ryan William David Blore to challenge the constitutionality of Canada’s drug possession laws.

K'ómoks First Nation (Comox Valley Regional District) / Courtenay, BCOn September 15, 2023, Sarah Runyon (Marion and Runyon Criminal Lawyers) and Caitlin Shane (Pivot Legal Society) filed a Notice of Charter Application at the BC Provincial Court in Courtenay, BC. On behalf of the Applicant, Ryan Blore, they seek a finding from the Court that Canada’s prohibition on drug possession under section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) is unconstitutional. The application advances that section 4(1) violates protections under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – namely the right to life, liberty, and security of the person (section 7) and guarantees against cruel and unusual treatment and punishment (section 12).


Section 4(1) of the CDSA prohibits adults in Canada from possessing controlled drugs outside of regulations:

Except as authorized under the regulations, no person shall possess a substance included in Schedule I, II or III.

Section 4(1) has long been criticized by various legal experts, elected officials, public health entities, police, and people who use drugs and their families for both its inefficacy as well as its stigmatizing and life-threatening effects. Earlier this year, BC announced a suspension of section 4(1) as it applies to the adult possession of small amounts of certain substances, stating that decriminalization “will help reduce the barriers and stigma that prevent people from accessing life-saving supports and services. Substance use is a public health matter, not a criminal justice issue.”

BC’s policy, however, fails to protect significant numbers of people who use drugs, especially those most in need of the policy’s benefits. It remains illegal, for instance, to possess amounts over 2.5 grams, even if only for personal use—a particular hardship for people in rural and remote communities who lack regular access to suppliers, and for unhoused people, who lack storage and indoor accommodations. For many, simply travelling to a safe consumption site with their own drug supply can result in arrest, detention, and entanglement in a prolonged court process.

The criminalization of drug possession has been an unequivocal failure, correlating with increased drug toxicity and death and directly at odds with Canada’s stated aims to protect public health and safety. As a now 7-year-old crisis claims the lives of nearly 7 people each day in BC alone, changes to our flawed approach are long overdue. Striking down the criminal prohibition on drug possession will not result in the safer drug supply we so desperately need, but it challenges a framework that we know drives the drug economy dangerously underground and at steepest cost to poor and racialized people.

Caitlin Shane, Lawyer (Pivot Legal Society)

Criminalizing what is for many people who use drugs a chronic and relapsing illness constitutes cruel and unusual treatment and punishment. Mr. Blore will also ask the Court to consider that people who use drugs effectively need to commit a criminal offence in order to make use of the lifesaving and health-protecting services offered across Canada, such as safe consumption sites and drug checking technology. The application of section 4(1) directly engages interests protected by sections 7 and 12 of the Charter.

Sarah Runyon, Lawyer (Marion and Runyon Criminal Lawyers)

The Applicant Ryan Blore was charged in 2022 on two counts of drug possession in Courtenay, BC. Blore says he has struggled with a substance use disorder since 2003, after being hit by a vehicle that left him with a broken sternum, lacerated liver, several broken ribs, kidney malfunction, compound fractures in his arm, and other injuries. At the time, a family physician prescribed him OxyContin and hydromorphone.

Media Contacts:

Sarah Runyon, Marion & Runyon
[email protected]

Caitlin Shane, Pivot Legal Society
[email protected]

Background Resources

Attached: FILED Notice of Charter Application

About Marion & Runyon Criminal Lawyers:

Marion & Runyon is a criminal defence firm located in Campbell River, BC. Sarah Runyon practices exclusively in the area of criminal litigation and appeals. She regularly appears in all levels of court in British Columbia, including the Supreme Court of Canada and has had numerous victories challenging laws that disproportionately impact marginalized people.

About Pivot Legal Society:

Pivot is a leading human rights legal organization based in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Using the law as a tool, we challenge unjust legislation, policies & practices that undermine human rights, intensify poverty and perpetuate stigma.

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Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.