A man is trying to get his life back after he said he "lost everything" when police wrongly accused him of dealing what they thought was fentanyl but actually turned out to be cosmetics.
On April 25, police arrested 51-year-old Royston Christie during a drug raid on his public housing unit, reports the Ottawa Citizen.
"I was presumed guilty," Christie told the Citizen.
A woman in the same unit nearly died from overdosing on the opioid, so officers checked surveillance footage, got a warrant and busted down Christie's door.
He was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking fentanyl, simple drug possession, and proceeds of crime after police seized the powder in addition to $135 that he had.
"We have already seen an increase in [fentanyl] overdoses and it's important that residents are aware of the dangers of these types of drugs, whether in powder form or as counterfeit pills," drug unit Staff Sgt. Rick Carey said in a press release after Christie's arrest.
Fentanyl abuse cases and overdoses have certainly been on the rise in Christie's hometown of Ottawa, Canada. An April report from CBC notes that hospitals were swamped that month with overdose cases, and officials are warning that some people could be buying fake "fentanyl" cut with other substances, which is dangerous and potentially fatal.
"When a sudden increase in the number and severity of suspect drug-related emergency department visits is observed during a short period of time, there is always a possibility of counterfeit drugs being cut with opioids," Ottawa Public Health said in an email to CBC.
Christie has seen the spike in opioid use first hand and told the Citizen that he frequently provides a safe place for addicts to go, offering them clean needles and access to showers in his apartment after seeing them shoot up in stairwells.
In part because of his connection to drug users, police raided Christie's home and, as per their policy, arrested him when they found the white powder in his bathroom.
He was evicted from his apartment and given 72 hours to remove his belongings. He lost three-quarters of everything he owned, he said.
"I lost everything," he recalled, adding that "it was horrible, the way you are treated" when suspected of a crime.
Charges have since been dropped because the suspected opioid turned out to be face powder that Christie said his girlfriend picked up from a food bank. But the damage has already been done.
"I want my apartment back," he said.