UN Report Cites Canada as Growing Source of Illicit Drugs in U.S.

Canada has emerged as an increasingly important exporter and transit point for illicit drugs — and partly to blame is the “easy-to-penetrate” border, a senior drugs-monitoring official warned Wednesday at the United Nations.

The statement by Melvyn Levitsky of the International Narcotics Control Board comes as Canada is working to resist demands by some members of the U.S. Congress to apply stronger checks along the border.

“The Canadian government and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have done a good professional job (in combating drug trafficking), but the market in the United States is a big one, and the border is a peaceful border which is relatively easy to penetrate,” Levitsky told Postmedia News.

He stopped short of calling for tighter border security, but said “remaining vigilant” and resisting “pressure to cut (anti-illicit) drug and related budgets” was essential.

Canada’s standing in the international league of illicit drug-trafficking countries is detailed in the North American section of the board’s 2010 annual report, which Levitsky presented at a news conference.

INCB is the independent and quasi-judicial control organ for the implementation of the United Nations drug conventions.

The report says Canada is self-sufficient in illicit cannabis production, but also provides the United States with a “significant amount” of the homegrown cannabis, some of which is traded for “cocaine and other contraband, such as firearms and tobacco.”

Canada also supplies a “significant share” of the international market for methamphetamine. And it continues to be a “major source” internationally of MDMA, a party drug whose street name is ecstasy.

Beyond production, INCB says Canada is “increasingly being used as a transit country for cocaine.”

“Cocaine shortages persisted in many areas of the United States in 2009, as evidenced by higher prices and lower purity levels,” the report says. “Criminal groups are smuggling cocaine into Canada, mainly through Mexico and the United States, to be sold on the illicit market in Canada or shipped overseas.”

Levitsky said cocaine traffickers clearly focused on Mexico and Central America as transit hubs after seeing their transit operations in the Caribbean progressively curtailed in years gone by. But the relative ease with which they could cross the U.S.-Canada border also made Canada a transit target.

“Traffickers do not just give up; they find new routes for doing things,” Levitsky said. While it is “principally Mexico” that supplies the United States with cocaine, he added that Canada’s “long border has made it a supplier.”

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, whose ministry is the umbrella group for the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews were unavailable for comment, but their spokespeople said officials had started to study the report.

“Our government is committed to working with the Obama administration to keep our shared border open to trade and investment, but closed to threats to our mutual safety and security,” said Chris McCluskey, spokesman for Toews.

Among the latest Canadian government initiatives are one that would impose mandatory sentences on traffickers, and another aimed at improving policing on either side of border waterways.

“If passed in its entirety,” McCluskey said of the waterway bill, “this legislation would allow law enforcement from Canada and the U.S. to pursue and arrest criminals regardless of whose side of our shared waterway they are on.”

INCB cites without comment the government’s National Anti-Drug Strategy, but highlights that Ottawa has made a “national priority” of combating the illicit manufacture of synthetic drugs, since Canada is a “major source” for them.

Canadian law enforcement officers seized more than 34 tons of cannabis herb in 2009, a slight decrease over the previous year, according to the report. It says the amount of cannabis seized at the border in 2009 increased slightly, to 3.4 tons.

The report notes the potency of illegally cultivated Canadian cannabis is generally high since most is grown indoors.

Organized crime groups using clandestine laboratories produce “on a large scale” most methamphetamine in Canada, the report says. It adds that a “significant amount” ends up in East and Southeast Asia, Oceania and Australia. Authorities shut down 23 of the laboratories in 2009 — more than double the 2008 figure.

The United States and East and Southeast Asia were destinations for Canada’s illegally produced ecstasy, while traffickers also use Canada as both a destination and transit hub for the chemicals used to make the drug, the report explains.

– Article from The Vancouver Sun.