An OPP officer displays bags containing fentanyl as Ontario Provincial Police host a news conference in Vaughan, Ont., on February 23, 2017. File photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

20 investigations launched involving fentanyl from China

RCMP says charges to be laid in Canada involving fentanyl shipments from China.

The RCMP has launched at least 20 investigations involving dozens of vendors shipping fentanyl from China as Canada grapples with a record number of illicit opioid deaths, the force’s director of serious organized crime says.

“Most intercepts are done here in Canada,” Sgt. Yves Goupil said, adding arrests have been made and charges will be laid.

Goupil said their investigation has only uncovered Chinese suppliers of fentanyl for the illicit market.

“It’s not just Canada, it’s the U.S., and it’s all the other countries as well that are putting a lot of pressure on China,” Goupil said, adding Mounties have met with Chinese officials twice since November 2016.

“When we were there in April we basically provided them with a lot of intelligence as to all the seizures we had made,” Goupil said from Ottawa, adding that about 100 seizures of fentanyl were made up to then by the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency.

Chinese officials could no longer ignore their country’s role in Canada’s growing opioid epidemic, he said.

“We suggested a course of action for China to actually stop and disrupt the influx of shipments of fentanyl. We want to make sure that China assists us once we identify vendors.”

Goupil said the Mounties, along with the CBSA and Canada Post, have worked together to identify the best way to flag parcels arriving from China at three international mail-sorting centres — Montreal, Mississauga, Ont., and Vancouver, which gets most of the mail going to destinations across the country.

Fentanyl is prescribed as a painkiller but is also sold illicitly and often pressed into pills. Two milligrams of fentanyl, the equivalent of about four grains of salt, can kill someone who may not even know it’s been mixed with drugs including heroin and cocaine.

“We know that for every little package that comes into Canada people can die,” Goupil said. “Time is of the essence and we have to fight all the time to tackle the issue.”

Fentanyl’s strength means it’s often mailed in small packages and envelopes, and that has made it challenging to detect, Goupil said.

After the passage of Bill C37 in May, CBSA officers could open mail weighing under 30 grams in order to stop drugs such as fentanyl from entering Canada.

From June 2016 to Sept. 6 this year, the agency made 156 fentanyl seizures across the country, 83 of them in the Pacific region, it said in an email.

“While most fentanyl seizures are made at the Vancouver International Mail Centre in the Pacific region, it is important to note that fentanyl has been seized at Pacific region’s air cargo operations and in other modes and regions,” the CBSA added.

However, the agency declined to provide further comment in an interview about its role in intercepting fentanyl shipments.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said last week that at least 2,816 people across the country died from opioid-related deaths in 2016. She said fatalities involving fentanyl more than doubled in the first three months of 2017, compared with the same period last year.

Goupil said Mounties have identified about 70 vendors from China, though at least two domestic sellers with ties to that country are also involved.

“For example, you could have one individual buying a certain amount from China and tableting here and selling the pills here,” he said.

Pressure on China over fentanyl shipments, mostly from Canada and the United States, mounted to a point that in March, it banned the manufacture and sale of four variations of the synthetic drug.

“In order for them to keep their status with different organizations … they need to show the world that they are actually doing the best they can to tackle organized crime and illegal narcotics trafficking,” Goupil said.

He said the RCMP is also developing technological expertise in the so-called dark web, a hidden part of the internet, which is used to anonymously sell drugs such as fentanyl.

In the last year, fentanyl has increasingly made its way from China to Europe, Goupil said, adding the Mounties have been asked to provide expertise to Europol, possibly in November at a meeting of the European Union’s law enforcement agency.

— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Donalda’s Curtis Cassidy win’s $26,230 at NFR

Big Valley’s Zeke Thurston bucked off

World Champion Saddle Bronc rider, Zeke Thurston of Big Valley consistent at NFR

Donalda’s Curtis Cassidy third overall and wins $15,653

Local cowboys Zeke Thurston and Curtis Cassidy have solid night at NFR

Big Valley’s Thurston has wild ride. Donalda’s Cassidy ranked number one steer wrestler in world

Bailout or buy out? You decide, says MP Sorenson

Liberals breaking yet another election promise

Kenney calls for Alberta election at earliest opportunity

Elections Act requires election between March 1 and May 31, 2019

Girl opens Christmas present she gave to boy when she dumped him in 1971

Adrian Pearce, now a married father of two, received the small present from his highschool sweetheart

Top House Dems raise prospect of impeachment, jail for Trump

It could be an “impeachable offense” if it’s proven that President Donald Trump directed illegal hush-money payments to women during the 2016 campaign.

Macron addresses France amid protests; is it too late?

Paris monuments reopened, cleanup workers cleared debris and shop owners tried to put the city on its feet again Sunday.

CUPE calls off Flair Airlines job action citing job security concerns

The union says it’s going to challenge Flair’s move at the Canada Industrial Relations Board before proceeding with any job action.

Trump looking at several candidates for new chief of staff

Trump’s top pick for the job, Nick Ayers, is out of the running and Trump is now soliciting input on at least four individuals.

Canadian physicist collects Nobel Prize

Canada’s Donna Strickland is one of three winners of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics.

Canada Post backlog, Greyhound exit creating headaches ahead of the holidays

The federal government forced members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers back to their jobs late last month

Top EU court rules UK can change mind over Brexit

Britain voted in 2016 to leave the 28-nation bloc, triggering a two-year exit process

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Most Read