Canada works hard to stop illegal drugs crossing border

Dec 29, 2023

A recent article published by CBC News and authored by Christian Paas-Lang examined Canada’s efforts and challenges to stop illegal drugs at the border. As the toxic drug crisis continues, smugglers have been employing increasingly creative and complex ways to transport illicit drugs across the U.S. border.

“We see shipments being concealed in machine parts. Being dissolved in liquids and being shipped as maple syrup, for example. Being hidden in baking tools,” said Aaron McCrorie, vice-president of intelligence and enforcement at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), in his interview with CBC News. “It’s an ever-evolving game where we’re constantly looking at new and different tactics to smuggle drugs into the country or out of the country.” 

In the first two quarters of 2023, CBSA reported having seized a total of 496 grams of fentanyl, along with nearly 31,000 kilograms of other drugs and chemicals.

In turn, CBSA have been using a variety of tools and strategies, including dog sniffer teams, in order to detect illicit substances at the border. Criminal organizations in Canada produce fentanyl both for domestic consumption and selling it abroad, while the main markets for Canadian fentanyl currently include the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

In 2023, CBSA also reported a growing number of intercepted shipments containing chemical precursor ingredients used to manufacture fentanyl.

Furthermore, the majority of precursor chemicals for fentanyl are imported to Canada from China, either directly or via the United States or South America. Recently, the Canadian federal government also took action to regulate some fentanyl precursors.

“It’s a constant battle to on our part to identify new precursors coming into the country and then working with our partners — like in Health Canada, for example — to get those precursors listed so we can stop them coming in,” said McCroire. He added that some fentanyl precursors are difficult to regulate, since they also have legitimate uses.

Finally, McCrorie noted that stopping drugs at the border is merely one aspect of mitigating the ongoing 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.

“I’ve got colleagues all across town, all across the country, all around the world who are tackling this. Every interdiction, even if it’s one dose, we’re saving one life. We just got to keep doing that, keep making a difference and turn the tide.”