WINNIPEG — It packs a deadly punch in doses as small as a grain of sand. Fentanyl is a lethal opioid that has made its way to Canada from overseas.
But how it’s being distributed puts thousands of unknowing postal workers at risk every day.
Fentanyl is being shipped from countries, primarily China, and traffickers are using Canada’s postal service like a drug pipeline.
“We touch millions of pieces of mail, parcels and packages. CBSA only recognizes and catches a small amount,”Canadian Union of Postal Workers Winnipeg President Jarrett Schmidt said. “The risk is major.”
In 2014, Canadian law enforcement seized 894 fentanyl samples at the border. In 2016, that number jumped to 4,009.
Because the amount of fentanyl crossing the border is growing, the RCMP are working closely with the CBSA to try and establish patterns of packages coming in to more effectively target certain areas within the mail stream.
“Any mail or parcels arriving from outside Canada must first be cleared by Canadian Border Services Agency before being handed to Canada Post for sortation and delivery,” Canada Post media spokesperson Sylvie Lapointe said in an email. “We have long-standing processes in place to handle any potentially suspicious items in the mail.”
But they can’t catch it all. Postal workers are concerned about being exposed especially when letters and packages break open.
“At the end of the day packing from the areas that its coming from, aren’t as hardy and as sturdy as something that is coming from the United States or Canada,” Schmidt said. “The packages from there are loose… thinner. We see that a lot of packages break open more consistently than ones from here.”
Schmidt said workers are currently receiving very little training when it comes to how to deal with the drug and keep themselves safe.
“When you are dealing with something that is potentially so dangerous, training is paramount. You always need more training. You can never have enough,” Schmidt said.
Canada Post said if an unidentified substance is detected it takes precautionary measures, which includes evacuating the area and contacting authorities to investigate. However, the service did not specify any training related to fentanyl.