Supreme Court upholds 'starting-point' sentences for fentanyl dealers

·3 min read

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has ruled that longer sentences for two Alberta drug dealers are appropriate.

Two men, Patrick Felix and Cameron Parranto, appealed their sentences to Canada’s top court after the Alberta Court of Appeal increased their time behind bars in 2018.

Felix was arrested in Fort McMurray in 2015. Parranto was arrested in Edmonton in 2016 as part of a separate investigation. Both men pleaded guilty to several offences, including the trafficking of wholesale fentanyl.

Felix was arrested in 2015 after undercover officers posed as buyers interested in selling fentanyl in Nunavut and other remote communities. Six other people were also arrested, but Felix was accused of being the ringleader of a drug trafficking network operating in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.

Police searched five homes, a hotel room and a supplement store. It took more than a week for police to catalogue their haul of fentanyl, psilocybin, marijuana and cocaine valued at the time at more than $1 million. Police also seized $23,150 in cash, six high-end vehicles, six recreational vehicles, a trailer, a loaded rifle with a magazine modified to hold more than the legally-allowed five bullets, and a shotgun.

The appeal court’s decision noted Felix “was responsible for pouring poison into his own community and potentially others, jeopardizing the health and lives of untold numbers of end users.”

Parranto was found to have more than half a million doses of fentanyl when police raided his Edmonton home. An anonymous tip told police he was selling fentanyl from his home.

Felix was first sentenced to seven years in prison and Parranto was sentenced to 11 years. The Crown appealed these sentences and asked the Alberta Court of Appeal to set a “starting point” for wholesale fentanyl trafficking. Wholesale trafficking is when large quantities of drugs are sold to others who distribute on the street.

The court of appeal set a nine-year minimum sentence for wholesale fentanyl trafficking, which increased Felix’s prison time to ten years and Parranto’s to 14 years. These sentences were sought by the Crown in the original trial.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 decision that the longer sentences were warranted. In their decision they wrote “a majority of the judges found the sentences at trial were ‘demonstrably unfit'” and that the Court of Appeal’s ruling was “appropriate.”

The Supreme Court also confirmed that appeal courts may set starting points to help lower courts determine an appropriate sentence, but are not binding.

“Deviating from a sentencing range or starting point alone does not justify the intervention of appeal courts,” the ruling stated. “It is only when a sentence is demonstrably unfit or the sentencing judge made a mistake that an appeal court may vary the sentence.”

The two dissenting supreme court judges argued starting points are for guidance. They also said the initial sentences were fit and the appeal court shouldn’t have intervened.

-with files from Vincent McDermott and Lisa Johnson

JeHamilton@postmedia.com

Jenna Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today

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