- Protecting Canadians from the harms associated with illegal substances, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to be a priority for the Government of Canada.
- Since January 2016, the opioid overdose crisis has claimed the lives of more than 17,600 Canadians and continues to represent a significant and ongoing public health emergency.
- The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the opioid crisis, leading to a reported increase in opioid-related deaths and substance use harms in 2020.
- Canada’s response to the opioid crisis, and problematic substance use in general, balances public health and safety considerations, and emphasizes the importance of demand and supply reduction measures as encompassed in the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy.
- Public Safety Canada, together with its portfolio partners, is actively working to support law enforcement in reducing the supply of illegal substances, including synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which are a key driver of this crisis.
- We know that many of these substances, and increasingly, the chemicals used to manufacture them, come from China and surrounding areas and that demand for them remains high.
- As such, cooperation with Chinese authorities is important to effectively disrupt the importation of, and trafficking in, these substances.
- As a result of international pressure, in May 2019, China implemented more stringent controls on fentanyl and its analogues.
- Public Safety Canada continues to monitor emerging trends in the illicit drug market and engage with its portfolio and international partners to advance supply reduction policies to mitigate the harms posed by these substances.
If pressed on what the Canada Border Services Agency is doing to stop these substances from entering Canada:
- CBSA is aware of the threat that fentanyl, its analogues and precursors pose and uses a variety of detection tools, techniques, and the latest scientific technology to interdict illicit drugs at the border.
- In recent years, the Government of Canada has invested in increased capacity at the CBSA to interdict illicit substances, including the training and deployment of six additional detector dog teams and equipping ports of entry for the safe examination of highly toxic substances.
- With China’s stricter controls on fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, synthetic alternatives and non-scheduled precursor chemicals are now being imported to meet expanding Canadian demand.
- In collaboration with its government partners, the CBSA continues to ensure that adequate controls are in place to combat the smuggling of toxic substances and decrease the risk of harmful opioids going undetected and entering Canada.
If pressed on recent Canada Border Services Agency seizures of fentanyl:
- Between January 2016 and December 31, 2020, the CBSA has performed 2,246 opioid seizures from global sources, totaling over 2,829 kilograms.
- In 2020, seizures included:
- 5.8 kilograms of fentanyl, an increase of 1,662% compared to 2019 and representing a potential 2.9 million lethal doses;
- 1,158 kilograms of cocaine (an 18% decrease compared to 2019);
- 788 kilograms of methamphetamine (a 46% increase compared to 2019);
- 659 kilograms of opium (a 109% increase compared to 2019);
- 92 kilograms of heroin (no change compared to 2019).
- These results can be directly attributed to improved targeting, intelligence, and deployment of additional enforcement resources.
If pressed on RCMP-China collaboration on investigations related to fentanyl:
- China remains a source country for fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and increasingly, precursor chemicals flowing to Canada.
- The RCMP has been working with Chinese authorities to investigate and disrupt the illegal export of fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and precursor chemicals to Canada.
- Through these efforts, China has become a key partner in combatting fentanyl trafficking and Canada appreciates China’s domestic efforts to improve its fentanyl scheduling regime.
- Unfortunately, ongoing tensions in Canada-China political relations have led to some obstacles in the RCMP’s relationship with Chinese law enforcement.
- The RCMP remains open to working with Chinese authorities to investigate and disrupt the illegal export of fentanyl to Canada, and targeting illicit synthetic opioids and precursors more broadly.
With more than 17,600 opioid-related deaths since January 2016, the opioid overdose crisis is a national public health and safety epidemic of significant concern to the Government of Canada. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the opioid crisis. Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are responsible for a significant portion of opioid toxicity deaths.
Fentanyl seizures by Canadian law enforcement have been increasing since 2011. Since 2016, China has been a significant exporter of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues to Canada. [Redacted]
China has been responsive to international requests to schedule fentanyl and related substances. In May 2019, China scheduled fentanyl and its analogues as controlled substances. Since China implemented these controls,[Redacted]. Import of precursor chemicals has been increasing since 2018.
Ultimately, the emergence of new countries as source and transit points for fentanyl and various analogues could signal the beginning of a diversification of routings as traffickers attempt to evade law enforcement efforts [Redacted] cooperation with Chinese authorities is key to effectively disrupt the importation of, and trafficking in, these substances.
To further assist health, law enforcement and border officials in addressing the opioid overdose crisis, the Government of Canada has amended several Acts to, for example, restrict the importation of pill presses and other devices used to produce pills containing illegal opioids and to allow border officers greater authority to interdict controlled substances in international mail.
The Public Safety Portfolio continues to monitor emerging trends in the illicit drug market and is engaging with its domestic and international partners to advance supply reduction efforts. To this end, the RCMP has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security that facilitates joint work on, inter alia, illicit drug trafficking. [Redacted]
Other federal actions include the creation of the Organized Crime Joint Operations Centre (OC JOC) between RCMP, CBSA and Canada Post to coordinate operational responses to address the illicit drug problem; the National Chemical Precursor Diversion Program to prevent the flow of precursors from legitimate industry to drug traffickers; and, the RCMP’s Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response team to assist other police services to combat drug threats.
Prepared by: Meagan Strasser, Policy Advisor, [Redacted]
Approved by: Name, title and phone number (ADM or equivalent only)
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