A Northwest Territories Supreme Court judge has sentenced a 25-year-old man to eight years’ imprisonment for four charges related to importing and trafficking furanyl fentanyl.
Justice Shannon Smallwood handed down the sentence in a Yellowknife courtroom on Tuesday afternoon as Darcy Oake appeared by video from the North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC).
At the start of his trial in August 2019, Oake had pleaded guilty to one charge of trafficking furanyl fentanyl – a synthetic opioid similar to fentanyl, considered 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
In March 2020, Smallwood also found Oake guilty of importing furanyl fentanyl from Hong Kong, possessing it for the purpose of trafficking, and criminal negligence causing bodily harm for giving it to a friend who suffered a non-fatal overdose.
At a sentencing hearing last week, Crown prosecutor Duane Praught argued for a sentence of nine years. Defence lawyer Katherine Oja argued a sentence of five to six years would be more suitable.
According to the facts of the case, in the fall of 2016, Oake had searched the dark web and purchased furanyl fentanyl, cigarettes, and Xanax from a seller in Hong Kong using Bitcoin.
“It wasn’t just a case of ordering from Amazon,” Smallwood said.
When the furanyl fentanyl did not arrive, Oake contacted the supplier twice and was sent a replacement package. Oake received the first package in late November, while the second package, containing about 10 grams of furanyl fentanyl, was seized by Canadian border authorities.
Shortly after he received the package, Oake ingested some of the drug and overdosed while walking his dog. After Oake overdosed for the second time in three days, his father gave police permission to search his garage and Oake’s bedroom. There, officers found a bag of furanyl fentanyl in a drawer and an envelope addressed to Oake with a Hong Kong shipping label. An officer who had contact with the bag had to be taken to hospital after he began feeling the effects of the drug.
Oake also gave some furanyl fentanyl to a longtime friend who, on returning home, passed out on her couch – where she remained, unconscious, for 24 hours.
RCMP in protective gear outside Darcy Oake’s father’s house in December 2016. Photo: RCMP
When she regained consciousness, the woman found she could not move and was taken to hospital. She was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a condition involving the rapid breakdown of injured skeletal muscle.
In a pre-sentence report, the woman said she felt the effects for months afterward. She described the incident as a “turning point” in her life and has since received treatment and counselling for drug addiction.
The woman said she has “a guilty conscience” about Oake’s situation, describing him as a close friend and “really nice guy who went down the wrong path.”
In the same report, Oake took some responsibility for his actions, Smallwood said, but denied that he intended to traffick furanyl fentanyl. He also blamed his friend, saying she had asked for the drug and he had warned her to be careful.
Smallwood said the woman was not the one who supplied the dangerous drug, however, and people with addictions “are eager to use a drug and may ignore warnings.” She said Oake would have known how strong the drug was, given he had overdosed the first time he tried it.
As Oake wasn’t familiar with the supplier, Smallwood added, he could not guarantee the quality of the drug or even what it was.
“He was essentially rolling the dice with her life,” she said.
Smallwood concluded Oake was a “low-level trafficker.” She said text messages indicate Oake had bigger plans to sell the furanyl fentanyl but, “in the throes of his addiction,” became too busy to follow through on them.
Given his addiction, Smallwood said it was likely Oake would have used any money earned to buy other drugs.
According to the pre-sentence report, Oake began using marijuana and alcohol when he was 12 years old and progressed to MDMA and cocaine before trying fentanyl. In June 2017, he attended an addictions treatment program in Nanaimo, BC, but was removed for not complying with the rules.
Smallwood said she hopes Oake is able to turn his life around.
She noted that while in custody, Oake has completed his GED and eventually plans to pursue a career in computer networking.
With credit for time served, Oake has three years and nine months remaining in his sentence. He is banned from possessing a firearm for 10 years and must submit a sample to a national DNA criminal database.
In March, defence lawyer Peter Harte had filed an application for Oake’s charges to be stayed. Harte argued that Oake’s trial had been unreasonably delayed for 32 months. That application was later withdrawn.
In April, Oake – who has asthma – applied to be released on bail on the grounds he was at risk of contracting Covid-19 while in custody.
Later that month, he withdrew his application and changed defence lawyers.