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Pembroke – The detachment commander of the Upper Ottawa Valley Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has little sympathy for a Pembroke resident facing a manslaughter charge after he allegedly sold illegal narcotics resulting in the death of a 58-year-old man last April.
When Clement Mainville, 55, was formally charged with one count of manslaughter on February 4 of this year, it only compounded his troubles that began last April. It is alleged Mr. Mainville provided Jim Witters of Pembroke with an undisclosed amount of illegal narcotics on April 28.
Unfortunately the narcotics ingested by Mr. Witters contained a lethal amount of fentanyl and he collapsed and was found unresponsive at an Elizabeth Street residence in Pembroke. He was transferred by the Renfrew County Paramedic Service to the Pembroke Regional Hospital where he later died.
Police took Mr. Mainville into custody on May 4 and subsequently charged him with obstructing a peace officer and trafficking of a schedule I substance (fentanyl). At the time of his arrest, OPP said the cause of death was still under investigation and toxicology results were pending.
With the assistance of the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario and the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service, the cause of Mr. Witters’ death was directly linked to his ingestion of the fatal mixture. With the cause of death linked to illegal drugs allegedly supplied by Mr. Mainville, Detachment Commander Inspector Neufeld authorized members from his detachment to once again take Mr. Mainville into custody.
Valley OPP Concerned of Widespread Use of Fentanyl
Insp. Neufeld said the charge of manslaughter may be common in larger urban centres, but this will be the first time the more serious charge was brought against someone alleged to have supplied the deadly drug. He is supportive of the charge laid against the accused.
“During the height of COVID many communities across Canada last year, the Ottawa Valley included, were dealing with what was best described as an opioid crisis,” he said. “We had two people die as a direct result of an overdose and some may say that is not really a crisis. But two members of our community died a needless death. In my opinion, if one person dies of an opioid overdose, then to me, that is a crisis.”
Over 14,000 Canadians have died of opioid overdoses since 2016 and 94 percent of overdoses are accidental. Even more alarming is the fact that young Canadians aged 15 to 24 are the fastest growing segment of the population requiring hospitalization as a result of an overdose.
It is for that reason Insp. Neufeld began the practice of issuing all officers under his command to be equipped with Naloxone each time they begin their shift. Naloxone is a medication that helps reverse opioid overdoses until medical help arrives.
“We have begun a number of proactive measures to combat this crisis and whether it is equipping and training our officers on how to use Naloxone or partnering with the local health unit in a county-wide education on the dangers of opioids, we are not sitting back waiting for the next overdose,” he said. “Going out and arresting everyone who uses these drugs is not the answer and this is not a policing problem that we are going to solve. This is a community problem and police are not going to solve the problem by charging our way out of it.”
He said all community members owe it to the families of the victims to address the problem and through collaboration with partners such as addiction services and social service agencies is a good start to reducing the influence of drugs.
He is a strong proponent of the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act as a way to get immediate medical assistance to a person who is overdosing.
“This is a fairly new piece of legislation that encourages anyone who is with an individual to contact 911 immediately and not have to worry about getting in trouble with the police because they also might have been using drugs as well,” he said. “Previously if a person were to overdose with a needle in their arm or by ingesting narcotics containing high levels of fentanyl, it was common for the people they were with to panic and flee the scene.
“They would run out of a fear of being arrested for possession or use of illegal drugs and quite often they would not seek out medical aid for the person they left behind, and unfortunately, many of those people were left to die alone. The Good Samaritan Act is meant to take that fear away and the law encourages them to call 911 without any legal repercussions.”
Insp. Neufeld recognizes police officers have an important role to play in the war on drugs and they strive to provide Crown prosecutors with enough evidence to successfully prosecute those who traffic any illegal narcotics. He points to some recent arrests as proof that police forces are committed to trying to reduce the flow of drugs into the community.
“We are never going to fully rid our community of all illegal drugs, but now that we have our officers recognizing the problem is a community problem, we have had some successes along the way,” he said. “Last December three OPP detachments (Pembroke, Renfrew, and Arnprior) worked with fellow OPP officers in highly specialized units to execute OPERATION NIELD. The joint effort resulted in 21 individuals taken into custody with over 200 charges linked to the drug trade.
“Subsequent arrests brought that total up to 26 arrests and it caused the criminals out there to realize that the community was working together to try and solve this problem. It may not completely stop the spread of deadly drugs throughout the Valley, but it sure sends a message out and we hope those who profit off the misery and destruction of innocent lives will think twice before they get involved.”
Insp. Neufeld said no baby is born with the desire to be a drug addict and it is up to all members of the community to do their part to help keep drugs away from their family, friends and neighbours.
“It is all about providing a safe community where people can live knowing they are safe and it all comes back to the core principal of the OPP. Everything we do links back to our commitment to public safety.”
Mr. Mainville was taken into custody and appeared before the Ontario Court of Justice in Pembroke on February 22 and remains in custody until his trial. A trial date has not been set.
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