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‘Fentanyl is here and it’s killing Albertans’: warn health officials amid Calgary arrest

WATCH ABOVE: 27-year-old Kasmir Tyabji has been charged with importing fentanyl from China to Canada. Global’s Doug Vaessen reports.

CALGARY – Police have laid drug charges against a 27-year-old man allegedly caught trying to smuggle fentanyl into Canada last month.

Officials announced the charges during a news conference at Calgary Police Service headquarters on Thursday.

The investigation was launched on July 14 when officers with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) in Vancouver intercepted a parcel destined for Calgary via China that was declared as a muffler. Upon further inspection, an unknown white powder was found in the parcel, suspected to be fentanyl.

Tests at a CBSA laboratory confirmed the substance was in fact fentanyl.

On July 22, Calgary police executed a search warrant on a home in the 2400 block of 14 Street S.W., where 122 grams of fentanyl was seized with an estimated value of $348,000.

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Detectives arrested 27-year-old Kasimir Tyabji charging him with one count of importing a controlled substance.

Below is a photo of Tyabji from his Instagram account, which also includes photos of himself with former B.C. politician Judy Tyabji. She was the youngest elected member of the Legislative Assembly and is married to former B.C. Leader of the Opposition Gordon Wilson.

KASIMIR TYABJI

He remains in custody and is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.

WATCH: S/Sgt. Martin Schiavetta speaks about the recent arrest of a Calgary man accused of attempting to smuggle fentanyl.

Calgary police deal with “many” fentanyl seizures

Police said the July fentanyl seizure is one of 34 that have occurred in Calgary in 2015, compared to only 12 the year before.

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“The increase in demand and resulting increase in availability of this toxic drug within our community is greatly concerning,” says S/Sgt. Martin Schiavetta of the CPS Drug Unit. “We are now seeing this extremely harmful drug being used in combination with other drugs, such as heroin, caffeine and xylazine.”

Schiavetta said fatalities associated with fentanyl use are increasing in Alberta.

From January 1 through June 30, there were 145 deaths in the province where fentanyl was detected and implicated.  Of those, 45 were in Alberta Health Service’s Calgary Zone.

By comparison, there were approximately 120 deaths associated with fentanyl in Alberta in total, in 2014.

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Alberta Health Services launches new fentanyl awareness campaign

Alberta Health Services (AHS) used Thursday’s news conference to officially launch a newly expanded campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the dangers associated with fentanyl.

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The drug is a powerful painkiller said to be 40 times more toxic than heroin and 100 times more toxic than morphine.

“Whether you’re a recreational user popping a pill, or an entrenched user shooting heroin: you won’t see, smell or taste fentanyl, but, it could very easily kill you,” said AHS Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Nicholas Etches.

“Fentanyl is here and it’s killing Albertans.”

Officials with AHS are encouraging Albertans to participate in a new program which makes take-home Naloxone kits readily available. Naloxone an antidote for opioids, and can quickly reverse the effects of Fentanyl.

AHS began handing out Naloxone Kits to opioid users in the Calgary Zone on July 7. Fifteen kits had been handed out as of August 5, and of those, one has already been used to save a life.

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If you are using drugs, or are with someone who has used drugs, and you or they have any of these symptoms, AHS advises you call 911 immediately:

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  • breathing is slow or not breathing at all
  • nails and/or lips are blue
  • choking or throwing up
  • making gurgling sounds
  • skin is cold and clammy

For more information on fentanyl, overdose prevention, and Naloxone, visit www.drugsfool.ca or www.stopODs.ca.

If you are concerned about your own drug use, the drug use of a friend or loved one, or would simply like more information on drug and alcohol use, you can also contact the AHS Addiction & Mental Health 24 Hour Helpline at 1-866-332-2322.

WATCH: Dr. Nick Etches speaks to the dangers of fentanyl and a new awareness campaign from AHS