Canada is not only a significant producer of fentanyl but also exports the deadly drug, according to Mathieu Bertrand, the chief superintendent of Serious and Organized Crime & Border Integrity at RCMP Federal Policing. Bertrand expressed his concerns during an interview with CBC’s The House, highlighting the involvement of organized crime groups in Canada in both domestic production and international sales of fentanyl.
While fentanyl imports remain a concern, Bertrand emphasized that domestic production is currently the top priority for law enforcement. The fact that Canadian gangs are exporting fentanyl suggests either an oversupply in the domestic market or more lucrative opportunities abroad.
The opioid crisis is causing an average of 21 deaths per day in Canada, with fentanyl being a leading contributor to these fatalities. Bertrand noted that over 600 organized crime groups, as assessed by the RCMP’s criminal intelligence branch, are involved in the drug trade, with 21% of them contributing to the overdose crisis.
To combat the fentanyl trade, the federal government has introduced new regulations classifying certain chemicals required for fentanyl production as formal precursors. These regulations empower law enforcement to take action against the illegal use, importation, or distribution of these critical ingredients. Additionally, Canada and the U.S. have strengthened their cross-border partnership to combat drug trafficking.
Collaboration, both domestically and internationally, is considered essential in the fight against the fentanyl trade, according to Bertrand.
Canada-made fentanyl has been identified as reaching destinations such as Australia and New Zealand. Precursor chemicals for Canadian-produced fentanyl often come from Asian countries, passing through South American countries or the United States. A 2021 law enforcement roundtable reported a tenfold increase in precursor chemicals seized by the Canada Border Services Agency, with many of these chemicals originating in China and Hong Kong.
In October, the U.S. imposed sanctions and filed charges against several Chinese individuals and companies accused of illegal fentanyl distribution. The global fentanyl supply chain, responsible for American deaths, often starts with chemical companies in China, stated U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Efforts to disrupt the fentanyl supply chain face challenges, particularly because many precursors are not illegal. Bertrand acknowledged that addressing the opioid crisis involves more than just law enforcement, emphasizing the importance of addressing demand and educating individuals about the dangers of these substances.
Despite the complex political relationship between Canada and China, RCMP liaison officers are actively working on the fentanyl issue in China. Collaborative efforts between the two countries on combating fentanyl distribution were initiated in 2016.