Crafty Tactics in Canada’s Battle Against Border Drug Smuggling

Canada Border Services Agency members at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Aug. 6, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Canada’s border security is locked in a relentless struggle against innovative drug smuggling methods, as criminal organizations continue to employ cunning tactics to infiltrate the country with narcotics, including fentanyl. This alarming scenario was highlighted in a revealing interview with Aaron McCrorie, Vice-President of Intelligence and Enforcement at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), on CBC’s “The House.”

McCrorie’s insights paint a picture of an ongoing cat-and-mouse game at the border. As part of CBC’s extensive coverage of the escalating toxic drug crisis, he shared that officers have encountered a broad spectrum of “innovative” techniques used to conceal drugs. “We see shipments being concealed in machine parts, being dissolved in liquids and shipped as maple syrup, or hidden in baking tools,” McCrorie told host Catherine Cullen. This evolving threat underscores the agility and resourcefulness of criminal networks.

The crisis is underscored by grim statistics: an average of 21 people die daily in Canada from drug-related toxicity, with fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, playing a significant role in these fatalities. The CBSA’s first half of the year report for 2023 is telling — 496 grams of fentanyl seized, alongside nearly 31,000 kilograms of other narcotics, drugs, and chemicals. Given that a mere two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal, these numbers represent a substantial threat to public safety.

Dog teams like Patterson and Loki are part of CBSA’s strategy in clamping down on the flow of illegal drugs across Canada’s border. (Kristen Everson/CBC)

The CBSA employs various tools in its fight against this influx, including dog sniffer teams, as observed by “The House” at the Lansdowne border crossing in eastern Ontario. However, a concerning trend has emerged: while there’s a decrease in fentanyl imports, there’s an increase in the importation of its precursors. McCrorie noted that most fentanyl precursors enter Canada from China, either directly or via the United States or South American countries. This shift presents a complex challenge, as these chemicals can have legitimate uses, complicating regulatory efforts.

Canada’s collaboration with China, aimed at stemming the illegal fentanyl flow, and recent regulatory moves on some fentanyl precursors, reflect a broader, multifaceted strategy. This strategy also involves international partners, such as the United States, which recently restarted its cooperation on the issue following high-level discussions between U.S. President Joe Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping.

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McCrorie emphasized the multi-layered nature of the battle against the toxic drug crisis. “It’s not just about interdicting the drugs but it’s also about harm reduction. It’s also about preventing people starting to use these drugs in the first place,” he said, acknowledging the efforts of colleagues locally and globally. Every interdiction, he added, saves lives.

This ongoing battle at Canada’s borders, as detailed by McCrorie and reported by CBC’s “The House,” highlights the complex and dynamic nature of drug smuggling and the nation’s determined efforts to combat it. The CBSA’s vigilance and adaptability remain crucial in turning the tide against this pervasive crisis.