A recent CBC article authored by Christian Paas-Lang examined seizures of fentanyl precursors at the U.S. border to be transformed into fentanyl by Canadian organized crime groups in Canada.
According to Mathieu Bertrand, chief superintendent of Serious and Organized Crime & Border Integrity at RCMP Federal Policing, fentanyl is produced in Canada for both local and international selling and trafficking.
“Sadly, Canada is a producing country of fentanyl and synthetic opioids. Not only are we a producing country, we’re an exporting country,” said Bertrand in his interview with CBC News. “Our collaborative efforts in law enforcement in Canada are to address the domestic production, because it is significant,” he said.
New regulations released by the federal government classify certain chemicals needed to make fentanyl as formal precursors, and permit law enforcement to take action against their illegal use, importation, and distribution. Furthermore, earlier in 2023, the U.S. and Canada made an agreement to improve their cross-border partnership on drug trafficking.
Bertrand noted that several Asian countries act as suppliers of key ingredients for Canadian-made fentanyl through shipments through South American countries or the United States, while Australia and New Zealand have been identified as destinations for fentanyl produced in Canada.
In 2021, a meeting summary from the law enforcement roundtable on drugs published by Public Safety Canada reported a tenfold increase in precursor chemicals seized by the Canada Border Services Agency, and said that most of the chemicals come from China and Hong Kong.
“[Signs] indicate that synthetic drugs are increasingly being produced on Canadian soil using imported precursor chemicals, and that surplus supply is being exported to foreign markets. Law enforcement officials believe that this concerning trend can be attributed, in part, to the increasing popularity of opioids, such as fentanyl, as well as their high profit margins,” states the summary.
While there are RCMP liaison officers in China working to tackle fentanyl trafficking, disrupting the fentanyl supply chain remains challenging. “One of the challenges is that a lot of these precursors are not illegal,” said Bertrand, adding that addressing fentanyl production in Canada is only one aspect of efforts to reduce the number of overdose deaths.
“The opioid crisis is more than a law enforcement issue,” he said. “I think we have to turn our minds to the demand and what we can do to ensure that individuals are not seeking out these substances — [that] they appreciate and understand how dangerous, and I would say how deadly they are.”