RCMP have launched at least 20 investigations involving 70 vendors shipping fentanyl directly from China to Canada.
Mounties are working with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to seize packages of the deadly opioid, make arrests and lay charges.
The Mounties and CBSA, along with 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.
The CBSA says 156 fentanyl seizures have been made across the country between June 2016 and Sept. 6 of this year, 83 of them in the Pacific region.
“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 said in an email.
Globalnews.ca coverage of the fentanyl crisis
Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer said Monday that fentanyl is “a huge concern and we’re working closely with all our partners to combat it.”
“This is a national issue, and quite frankly, an international issue. We’re seeing it come through the airport. Vancouver has become a bit of a hub. Traditionally, we are a big heroin city so we do have a lot of heroin users in this city.
“Vancouver started out as the epicentre. Now we’re seeing it creeping out across the country, it’s heading east. Interestingly, in the United States, the experience is a bit different where it started on the east coast and it’s heading west.”
Officers have met with Chinese officials twice so far about the issue.
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,” Sgt. Yves Goupil, RCMP’s director of serious organized crime, said.
As of the end of July, 876 people in B.C. have died of drug overdoses this year, 81 per cent of those deaths involved fentanyl.
– With files from The Canadian Press