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The Drug Situation Report 2006 provides a strategic overview of the illicit drug trade in Canada. Th is year, the Report features two new sections: Drug-generated Proceeds and Emerging Trends. Th e Drug-generated Proceeds section discusses the money laundering aspect of the drug trade, while Emerging Trends highlights new patterns relating to cannabis, cocaine, and opiates, both within Canada and globally.
As witnessed in recent years, the involvement of organized crime has signifi cantly expanded the Canadian illicit drug trade, posing a major threat both domestically and internationally. In fact, criminal organizations that previously specialized in one drug commodity type have now branched out into multi-commodity traffi cking, importation and exportation. These organizations are powerful, well-connected and are dealing in high profi t-yielding illicit ventures across the globe.
The information presented in this Report is based on seizure data and investigations conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other Canadian enforcement agencies and departments involved in drug enforcement.
In 2005, a total of 2,556 kilograms of cocaine was seized in Canada with the most common method of importation for this illicit substance remaining the commercial air stream. While the total number of cocaine seizures decreased for 2005, the overall quantity of cocaine seized increased.
The Canadian Addiction Survey, conducted in 2004, is the latest national prevalence survey on alcohol and other drug use. Survey findings indicate that cocaine is ranked as the third most widely-used drug in Canada, after marihuana and hallucinogens. The lifetime rates, defined as having ever used or tried cocaine and/or crack, increased significantly within a decade from 3.8% in 1994 to 10.6% in 2004. As for Canadians reporting cocaine use in 2004, rates also increased to 1.9% from 0.7% in 1994.
Cocaine use-rates among the youth population remained relatively stable when comparing the 2003 and 2005 findings from the Ontario Student Drug Use Survey. As such, reported lifetime cocaine use among Ontario students in 2005 remained at 5.3%, and past year drug use at 4.4%. However, within the student subgroups those in grade 12 and of the western region of Ontario showed marked increases in cocaine use from 2003 to 2005.
According to the World Drug Report 2006, the overall level of cocaine production remains essentially stable. Colombia continues to represent over half of coca bush cultivation (54%), followed by Peru (30%) and Bolivia (16%). Moreover, Colombia’s potential for cocaine production continues to dominate, representing 70% of the global total with Peru at a distant 20% and Bolivia at 10%.
Colombia remains the predominant source country for cocaine trafficked in the Canadian market.
The most common transit countries for cocaine en route to Canada are the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Antigua; as well as the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Panama and Costa Rica. The quantity of cocaine seized indicating Venezuela as a main transhipment country increased significantly during 2005.
There are two main trafficking routes identified for cocaine smuggling into Canada. One is the land border smuggling route where cocaine is moved across the Canada-U.S. border, and the other route consists of cocaine shipments from the Caribbean to Canada by air or marine modes.
The United States remains an important transit point into Canada along the land border in Ontario and British Columbia as well as more recently Alberta. An identified ongoing tendency is the cross-border smuggling where Canadian grown marihuana is brought into the United States and exchanged for cocaine, currency and occasionally firearms that are transported back into Canada. British Columbia and Alberta have also reported cases of polydrug cross-border smuggling where Ecstasy has been added to marihuana shipments in exchange for cocaine.
Originating from South America, cocaine is typically transited through the Caribbean to Canada via direct international flights. Consequently, the Dominican Republic represents an area of concern with numerous commercial flights to and from Montreal. In addition, in 2005 customs officials seized significant quantities of cocaine from the air stream originating directly from Venezuela. With ongoing direct flights from Venezuela to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, this country will continue to be a source of concern for cocaine smuggling.
The most predominant method of cocaine importation is by air transport where 1,115 kg were seized in 2005. The air passenger stream, which consists of passengers either hiding the drugs on their person, swallowing them or concealing it in their luggage, represented the most common method. However, it is important to note that over half of the seized cocaine (671 kg) was concealed within the commercial aircraft or in the air cargo. The quantity of seized cocaine via this smuggling method is mainly due to three large seizures that originated from Venezuela, Haiti and Dominican Republic flights.
Although smuggling through Canadian-U.S. land border crossings ranked a distant second with 383 kg of cocaine seized in either commercial or passenger motor vehicles, the drug accounted for 91% of the total value of all types of drugs seized at border crossings.
While there has been an increase in the use of personal vessels (i.e. sailboats) by organized crime groups to smuggle cocaine into Canada, marine ports continue to pose a considerable risk as do the ongoing use of marine containers and bulk carrier vessels for the importation of cocaine into Canada. For example, 400 kg of cocaine entered Canada via a marine container shipment at the Port of Halifax that was then transported to Quebec.
Canadian organized crime groups are no longer limiting themselves to cocaine importation and interprovincial trafficking within the country. In fact, two very large separate cocaine shipments destined for Spain were seized in 2005. In both cases Canadians were apprehended for their involvement in these international cocaine trafficking attempts, reflecting the transnational nature of their organized crime group. Canadian organized crime groups have demonstrated that they possess the expertise and the international networks to both smuggle large shipments of cocaine into Canada and traffic between other countries.
There are three main points of entry into Canada for cocaine, notably that of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. Once smuggled into the country, the cocaine is then trafficked inter-provincially by organized crime groups. For instance, cocaine found in the Maritime provinces most often entered Canada through the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. More recently, smuggling has occurred along the Alberta border where the cocaine is partially redistributed to its neighbouring provinces, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Many organized crime groups have some level of involvement in the cocaine trade due to its profitability and high demand. Across the country, Colombian brokers continue to serve as intermediaries between Canadian criminal organizations and Colombian producers. Traditional organized crime groups and outlaw motorcycle gangs remain heavily involved in cocaine importation activities. As for cross-border land smuggling between the U.S. and Canada, this is mostly linked to independent groups who will transport cocaine for other organizations.
Generally, due to the limited number of organizations involved in large cocaine importation shipments, once in Canada cocaine is subsequently sold to other organized crime groups who use their own network to further distribute it across the country.
Although a continuous decrease in the overall number of cocaine seizures has been noted, the overall quantity of cocaine seized increased. For 2005, this increase is attributed to the seizures of large quantities of cocaine from commercial aircrafts and commercial motor vehicles.
A marginal increase has been noted in heroin seizures from 77 kg in 2004 to 83 kg in 2005. For 2005, India was identified as the primary source/transit country to Canada with Brazil ranking second.
According to the Canadian Addiction Survey conducted in 2004, 0.9% of the Canadian population aged 15 years or older acknowledged having ever tried or used heroin during their lifetime. Due to the sampling variability no conclusions could be drawn regarding heroin use in the last 12 months for 2004.
In 2005, Afghanistan continued to account for the overwhelming majority (89%) of global opium production, which is used to make heroin.
Previous years indicated Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Viet Nam) as the primary source of heroin representing as much as 93% in 2000 of all heroin on the Canadian market. However, in 2005 there were no reports of heroin seizures originating in Southeast Asia. In fact, the majority of heroin seized in 2005 originated in Southwest Asia (Afghanistan and Pakistan).
In contrast to the Southeast Asia phenomenon, in 2000 heroin from Latin America (Mexico and Colombia) represented barely two percent of all Canadian heroin seizures yet increased dramatically to 38% by 2005. It is predicted that with the continuous increase of Latin American heroin on the Canadian market, this may become the dominating source of heroin by the next decade. Subsequently, the remaining portion of heroin source will originate in Southwest Asia.
In 2005, heroin seizures originating in India increased dramatically becoming the number one source/transit country to Canada. Notably, heroin seizures from India accounted for approximately 19% of all heroin seizures in 2004 and jumped to 68% of all heroin seizures by 2005. The second-largest number of heroin seizures originated in/transited Pakistan. Nonetheless, Brazil ranked second with respect to the total quantity of seized heroin in Canada.
Various methods are used to import heroin into Canada such as postal and courier modes, air transport as well as by land via commercial or traffic vehicles. Particularly in the case of air passengers, an array of concealment methods are utilized to smuggle heroin that range from individuals swallowing the drug to modified suitcases, picture frames, rolling pins, statues and even hiding the heroin in a baby’s diaper bag.
The postal mode will continue to be a popular method for smuggling smaller quantities of heroin into Canada. A common use of this mode is by way of simultaneously mailing multiple small packages. This ensures the anonymity of the sender and limits the monetary loss if a package is intercepted.
It has been noted that Latin American heroin is at greater risk to be smuggled via the commercial air passenger stream and the highway land mode. Southwest Asian heroin is entering Canada primarily by the commercial air stream via passengers and in the air cargo.
Prior to 2003, Southeastern Asian organized crime groups were strongly linked to the importation of Southeast Asian heroin into Canada. However, with the current domination of Southwest Asian heroin and the noted increase in Latin American heroin into the Canadian market, this has impacted the level of involvement of organized crime groups in importation activities. Correspondingly, Southwest Asian and Latin American organized crime groups have been identified in 2005 in heroin trafficking investigations.
Once the heroin has been smuggled into Canada it is sold to other organized crime groups located in major urban centres. This is in part explained by the fact that heroin users primarily reside in major metropolitan areas, particularly in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
Opium is a narcotic analgesic drug found in the opium poppy plant, which is native to Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. Raw opium is obtained by making cuts to the seed pod of the poppy allowing a latex substance to seep out and dry into a sticky brown resin that is then scraped off from the pod.
Consumption methods can range from chewing or eating the raw opium to the more prevalent use of smoking opium. However, to be able to smoke the opium it has to be processed and refined, commonly referred to as “cooking.” Compared with raw opium, this process renders the opium much more potent due to its higher morphine content. Opium and its derivatives are used as painkillers and can also be processed into heroin.
In 2005, estimates for world illicit opium poppy cultivation decreased by 22%, yet opium production decreased only by five percent according to the UNODC (1) World Drug Report 2006. Afghanistan continued to dominate as the world’s main opium poppy cultivation country, representing 68% of all global cultivation.
In contrast, it has been noted that opium production in the Southeast Asian countries of Myanmar and Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) has continuously been decreasing. This tendency is even more remarkable when examining the 1998 data where Myanmar and Lao PDR accounted for one-third of global opium production and by 2005 had fallen to represent only seven percent of all global opium production.
There were 16 kilos of opium seized in Canada in 2005. The largest number of these seizures (7) originated in India, followed by Iran (3), and Taiwan (2). An additional seven opium seizures each indicated a different country of origin/transit.
It is anticipated that opium smuggling into Canada will continue through high volume of small shipments in the air cargo stream, the postal mode, and the courier mode.
In 2005, the largest number of opium seizures was from the air passenger stream, whereas the largest total quantity of seized opium was from the air cargo stream.
Vancouver International Airport accounted for the largest total quantity of opium seized (6.9 kg) at a Canadian port of entry with ten seizures. The Montreal Postal Unit ranked a distant second with three seizures equating to 2.5 kg. Moreover, seven other Canadian ports of entry, each corresponded to one opium seizure.
Law enforcement agencies consider marihuana and hashish to be two distinctive drug commodity types; however, government and non-government agencies do not make any distinction between the two for reporting purposes. As a result of this lack of specificity, separate statistics for marihuana and hashish are not available from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Health Canada or the Canadian Addiction Survey. Given this reality, the Demand Section cites combined data for both marihuana and hashish.
According to the Canadian Addiction Survey, 44.5% of Canadians reported using cannabis at least once in their lifetime, and 14.1% reported use during the 12 month period prior to the survey. Males were more likely than females to have used cannabis in their lifetime. Younger people were also more likely to have been users in the past 12 months. Almost 30% of 15 to 17 year olds and just over 47% of 18 and 19 year olds confirmed cannabis use in the past 12 months. Of those surveyed over the age of 45, less than ten percent of the population has used cannabis in the past 12 month period.
Marihuana usage is widespread across Canada. The number of marihuana plants seized in 2005 was slightly higher then the previous year and police departments across Canada dedicate many of their drug enforcement resources to target marihuana grow operations. Marihuana cultivation has far-reaching health and safety implications ranging from toxic moulds and the use of condemned houses as grow-sites to fire hazards and chemical vapours from pesticides. Additionally, individuals involved in marihuana cultivation often experience violence through home invasions, assaults and “booby-trap” related injuries.
The Canadian marihuana market is supplied predominantly by domestically cultivated products. The exportation of Canadian grown marihuana is much greater than any marginal importation of foreign marihuana. As a result, there is no important source country, other than Canada itself, for marihuana found on the Canadian market.
Canadian marihuana production occurs both outdoors and indoors. While seizures reflect a more outdoor production trend in Eastern Canada, Western Canada, particularly British Columbia, favours indoor production.
Canadian marihuana is smuggled into the United States via several methods-backpacking, snowmobile, water craft, helicopter, float planes, commercial transport trucks and private vehicles modified to hide the shipments. Currency, firearms and cocaine are smuggled back into Canada in exchange for Canadian-grown marihuana. Proceeds generated from the sale of marihuana are often used by organized crime groups to finance other criminal activities.
The marihuana industry consists of growers, brokers, transporters and money launderers. Organized crime groups involved in the marihuana market typically control all aspects of the industry -- cultivation, distribution, smuggling and money laundering. However, smaller and less sophisticated marihuana growers limit themselves to the production aspect and rely heavily on hydroponic stores, electricians and contractors to set up indoor cultivation sites. Once their crops are harvested, the growers distribute their marihuana through a broker.
Brokers have become a key component of the industry as they have a strong network of contacts within Canada and the United States. They have the ability to find marihuana buyers and arrange for payment and distribution. Some brokers have also been known to oversee the transportation of marihuana. Brokers are usually supplied by several growers and some may own or control multiple marihuana grow operations.
Once grown, marihuana is destined for distribution to various cities while profits are sent back to the groups controlling the market. A key component of the marihuana industry is the money launderer who facilitates the movement of currency to offshore bank accounts, hence participating in the laundering of profits.
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs and Asian Organized Crime groups are the two predominant groups involved in the Canadian marihuana grow industry. While several other regional and local groups are involved, their share of the market represents a much smaller proportion. The marihuana industry in Canada is showing a pattern of collaboration between organized crime groups of different cultural backgrounds who share their efforts to grow and export the marihuana, sometimes in exchange for other commodities such as cocaine and weapons.
The United Nation reports that Western Europe is the largest market for cannabis resin or hashish. Although it represents a much smaller market, hashish can also be found in Canada, where consumption is concentrated in central and eastern provinces. Another cannabis derivative, hashish oil, can also be found in Canada. As with hashish, hashish oil consumption is essentially concentrated in central and eastern provinces.
Historically, Canadian law enforcement authorities have made large multi-tonne seizures of hashish, an occurrence repeated in 2005. Despite such large and spectacular seizures, Canadian hashish seizures continue to be less frequent than those of other illicit drug commodities.
The world’s largest producing countries of hashish include Morocco, Pakistan and Afghanistan. All three countries have been identified for the past several years as primary source countries for hashish trafficked into Canada. Hashish oil found in Canada originates primarily in Jamaica.
Hashish is typically smuggled into Canada concealed in commercial cargo containers or large mothership operations off loading multi-tonne shipments at sea onto smaller vessels. In most cases, Middle Eastern, Southwest Asian or African countries are used as staging and/or transit points for hashish en route to Canada. Western European sea ports can also be used as transit points for commercial cargo containers entering Canada at the ports of Halifax or Montreal. Large hashish shipments can also enter Canada through Vancouver, to be further smuggled to Toronto or Montreal.
Hashish oil shipments are often smuggled directly from Jamaica into Canada via commercial air carrier services. In such cases, Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is often used as the entry point.
Well-established criminal organizations in Eastern Canada are responsible for the majority of hashish importations and trafficking into the country. These organizations secure large shipments from international drug brokers in Europe, the Middle East or Southwest Asia. They have the financial capability to purchase, smuggle and resale large quantities.
Concealed in commercial air carriers, hashish oil shipments tend to be smaller. Drug trafficking organizations capable of undertaking such smuggling activities are numerous.
As criminal networks recognized the financial opportunities associated with the Ecstasy trade, the illicit synthetic drug problem in Canada evolved from a relatively low-level concern into a national priority for law enforcement. Demand A decade ago, Ecstasy was not readily available in North America due to low demand. With the onset of raves in the late 1990s, demand skyrocketed and was met by abundant supply in the form of tablet shipments arriving from Western Europe. Organized crime was instrumental in exploiting demand that was, in turn, linked to raves and Ecstasy use. A new pattern has evolved over the last several years whereby excessive amounts of domestically manufactured MDMA is actually propelling demand.
Ecstasy producers/traffickers in Canada are known for their MDMA/MDA cocktails in tablets, capsule or powder forms containing multiple substances marketed as Ecstasy. The Public Health Agency of Canada (formerly Health Canada) reports that drug analysis trends for drug samples submitted as Ecstasy show that between 2001 and 2003 Ecstasy samples were purer and contained mostly MDMA. Between 2003 and early 2005, analyses of Ecstasy samples revealed a mixture of multiple substances, including MDA, methamphetamine, ketamine, caffeine, pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. Over the past year, analyses showed that cocktail mixtures are still present, although an increasing amount of methamphetamine, sometimes only methamphetamine, has been found in tablets held out as Ecstasy.
The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) (3) reports that 40% of students surveyed in 2005 felt that the greatest risk of harm is associated with Ecstasy use, ranked as the second highest risk behaviour after regular marihuana use (53%). Notwithstanding, 4.5% of these students reported past year use of Ecstasy, up from 4.1% reported in 2003. Overall, the demand for Ecstasy use remains stable and is likely to continue as long as traffickers make the drug readily available to target populations.
The continuing rise in domestic Ecstasy production has given Canada an increased role as a source country in both the domestic and international markets. The saturation of the Canadian illicit market coupled with the expansion of organized crime’s role in the synthetic drug trade worldwide, has made Canada an important source for illicit synthetic drugs. This was confirmed in 2005 by escalated cross-border MDMA trafficking from Canada to the United States and overseas smuggling of MDMA and methamphetamine, particularly to Japan and Australia.
A major development in MDMA trafficking patterns observed over the last year was the virtual halt of imported shipments from Europe into Canada. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) seized a total of 54,475 tablets of MDMA in 2005, compared to 1,198,434 dosage units in 2004. MDMA smuggling from Europe began to slow down in 2004 when the approximate total seizure amount of 15 million dosage units was accounted for mostly by domestic lab seizures. Again, in 2005, MDMA tablets/powder encountered at domestic laboratory sites accounted for a majority of the estimated 3.2 million dosage units seized in the country.
In 2005, an unprecedented amount of Ecstasy originating in Canada was seized in the United States. An estimated 2.4 million MDMA tablets were intercepted at U.S. border points in New York, Michigan and Washington. (4) Along with the increased activity, more evidence of cross-border bartering of Ecstasy shipments for other commodities was reported, including firearms and other drugs such as cocaine and marihuana. For 2006, the escalating cross-border problem shows no sign of abating.
While cross-border MDMA trafficking activity has been tracked since the late 1990s, international smuggling from Canada to other countries is a recent phenomenon. In 2005, Australian authorities effected at least seven seizures of Ecstasy shipments sent through the postal system or exported directly by air passenger couriers from Canada. A few small shipments of Ecstasy tablets were also effected in Japan. It is expected that Ecstasy smuggling from Canada overseas will increase through 2006.
Criminal networks with origins in Southeast Asia expanded their activities at an alarming rate and became involved in all dimensions of the trade, notably domestic production. These groups currently have a stronghold on Ecstasy smuggling worldwide and hold a virtual monopoly over domestic production, with most of their lab sites located in the Ontario and British Columbia regions. Since 2003, the involvement of Asian-based crime networks first caused a pivotal change in the nature of MDMA importation and subsequently replaced importation with an exponential increase in domestic manufacture. More recently, these groups have expedited their manufacturing processes by smuggling the MDMA precursor MDP-2-P (PMK) directly from China. As a result, clan lab operators have been able to reduce the number of synthesis steps considerably, thus increasing their productivity and reducing the production time drastically.
Over the past year, Indo-Canadian criminal groups have been increasingly identified as high-level transporters of synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals from Canada to the U.S.. In particular, these groups have been involved in smuggling multi-commodity shipments, including Ecstasy and precursor chemicals and/or marihuana. Further, these groups are known to engage in commodity exchange smuggling whereby they deliver shipments of drugs and chemicals to the U.S. and return with other commodities such as cocaine, marihuana and firearms. Other criminal groups that continue to be or have recently been identified as active in the Ecstasy trade include those with origins in Israel, Europe, the Dominican Republic and Colombia and outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Of the 51 synthetic drug labs seized in 2005, 17 were Ecstasy laboratories (15 MDMA, 2 MDA). Despite the relatively low and stable seizure rate, all of the dismantled labs were classified as “super" labs with production capacities of five kilograms or more of finished product within a single “batch”. In fact, several of these laboratories had far greater capacity typical of factory level production.
While the number of MDMA lab seizures does not necessarily represent an increase, both the production capacity levels of actual lab seizures and intelligence point to a continuing surge in domestic manufacture. This is further supported by the advent of MDMA precursor importations. By the end of 2005, law enforcement interdicted 7,176 kilograms of MDP-2-P in marine containers originating in China and destined for organized crime groups operating lab sites in Ontario and British Columbia.
Methamphetamine has emerged as a major drug threat in Canada over the last several years. The resurgence in the drug’s use, trafficking and production is being felt throughout the country.
The resurgence of methamphetamine popularity evolved from the rave/Ecstasy phenomenon and has claimed a place for the drug in the lexicon of “party” drugs. Methamphetamine continues to be found as a predominant ingredient in tablets marketed as Ecstasy while in the Quebec region, methamphetamine is sold at raves and clubs in tablet form as methamphetamine where it is readily available and in great demand. Comparatively, the 2005 OSDUHS showed a decline in past year usage of methamphetamine from 3.3% in 2003 to 2.2% in 2005. This result is consistent with other Canadian findings of higher meth use among specific populations, including “ravers” and “clubbers”, street youth, segments of the gay community and cocaine users. Over the past year, reports have indicated newer marketing strategies whereby traffickers are lacing other drugs such as cocaine, marihuana, heroin and ketamine with methamphetamine to either cut costs or possibly accelerate addiction among their clientele. Hard core cocaine users are reportedly switching to methamphetamine due to its increased street popularity.
Declining use in mainstream populations is also attributed to widespread media coverage and coexisting public and political concerns over the effects of methamphetamine use and of domestic meth labs. In August 2005, the federal government responded to these concerns by reclassifying methamphetamine from Schedule III to Schedule I of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). Methamphetamine is now considered as a higher threat substance subject to increased penalties for production, possession and trafficking offences.
A significant indicator of continued and increased meth use and trafficking is the rise in associated criminal activities including robberies, break and enter, property offences, credit card fraud, counterfeiting and identity theft. Over the past year, intelligence and police occurrence reports continued to link these crimes, notably identity theft, to meth use and trafficking.
Methamphetamine supply to the domestic market continues to derive predominantly from domestic laboratories. Over the last several years, trafficking of the domestic supply to the international market has occurred. The flow of methamphetamine to the U.S. from Canada is on a significantly lesser scale when compared to Ecstasy exportation. While cross-border smuggling of methamphetamine (land and postal modes) has been reported coming both into Canada from the U.S. and en route to or in the U.S. from Canada, trafficking patterns remain sporadic and relatively low-volume. Notwithstanding, intelligence indicators point to a potential increase in cross-border meth trafficking from Canada to the U.S.. Canada has been identified as a possible source for methamphetamine tablets circulating in the American illicit market. The growing problem is methamphetamine exportation from Canada overseas. Methamphetamine manufactured in Canada is being transported to other international markets via the postal system, air passenger couriers and marine cargo.
The highest concentrations of domestic trafficking activity continue to be found in British Columbia and Alberta in the West and in Ontario and Quebec in the east. Although no methamphetamine labs were encountered in Quebec in 2005, intelligence and investigative activity have determined that labs operating in the region specialize in producing methamphetamine logo tablets which are readily available in Quebec and more recently, in New Brunswick. In the rest of Canada, meth availability ranges from widespread to new and emerging.
Over the last three years, Canadian traffickers have extended their distribution networks to the international market. Numerous seizures of methamphetamine have been effected in Japan since 2003, including two, five kilogram seizures from Canadian air passengers last year. Single seizures of meth originating in Canada were reportedly seized in South Korea and in Canada en route to Iran. While Ecstasy smuggling from Canada to Australia continues to escalate, incidents involving methamphetamine were not detected until last December. Canada’s role as a supply source for methamphetamine to the world market follows Ecstasy supply patterns dictated by organized crime involvement.
Organized crime interests in the meth trade have significantly contributed to the escalating rise in use, trafficking and domestic production. Traditionally, independent entrepreneurs, users (“speeders”) and outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs) were involved in production and trafficking. They have continued to be active, with an increased number of independent crime groups and more OMG involvement evident through 2005. In the Western region of Canada, Aboriginal Street Gangs are trafficking methamphetamine in urban centres and in their communities where meth consumption has reportedly increased. Crime groups with origins in Southeast Asia have expanded their involvement from the Ecstasy and other drug trades to become major players in the meth market. Their involvement has raised the level of threat posed by methamphetamine production and trafficking.
An estimated 29 methamphetamine labs were seized in 2005. Compared to Ecstasy lab operations which are largely economic-based and produce at least five kilograms in a single production cycle, meth labs encountered in Canada comprise both addiction-based (small labs for personal use or “speeder” trafficking) and economic-based operations. As other organized crime groups have joined OMGs in the meth trade, there has been a significant rise in the number of economic-based or “super” labs.
While methamphetamine lab activity continues to be most prevalent in the West, its expansion eastward is occurring at a rapid rate. The number of production sites discovered in Ontario rank second only to British Columbia. Smaller site operations utilizing the Birch Reduction Method are predominant in the Ontario region however indicators point to further expansion from the West of “super” lab operations using the red phosphorous/hydriodic acid method. Meth labs are still being discovered in Alberta although the number of seizures has declined significantly. While only one methamphetamine lab was seized in Alberta in 2005, it was a “super” lab run by an Asian-based organized crime group. As long as organized crime groups sustain interests in the methamphetamine industry, the potential for further expansion in large capacity lab operations similar to the Ecstasy trade is high.
As the illicit synthetic drug market in Canada transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry, traffickers began to specialize in different aspects of the trade, including the diversion and exportation/importation of precursor chemicals, chemical brokering and transportation.
Since precursor chemicals are not finished drug products meant for direct consumption, demand for these substances in the illicit market is mostly sought after by traffickers involved in the clandestine manufacture of controlled drugs. As legal, governmental and community measures have strived to block criminal access to domestic supply sources, demand for smuggled precursor chemicals from other source countries has increased.
As domestic restrictions on the sale and distribution of chemicals have fallen into place over the last several years, drug traffickers have increasingly turned to international sources for precursor supplies. (5) In 2005, the postal system was used to import numerous small shipments of ephedrine from the U.S., China, Pakistan, Bulgaria, Taiwan and India. Also, a courier service, air passenger and commercial and private vehicle were used in a few instances to transport small quantities of ephedrine into Canada. Chemical diversion also continues to be detected through the internet. Comparatively, Canadian-based organized crime groups utilized both private and commercial land vehicles and private aircraft to smuggle larger chemical shipments from Canada to the U.S. and marine cargo to smuggle shipments into Canada from overseas.
Notwithstanding the significant reduction in cross-border chemical trafficking, diversion from Canada to the U.S. continues to occur. For 2005, Indo-Canadian criminal groups were frequently identified with the illegal cross-border movement of precursor chemicals. Throughout the past year, Asian criminal groups were very active in smuggling large-scale chemical shipments into Canada from China via marine cargo. In 2005 alone, three major seizures of MDP-2-P were effected. In one seizure, MDP-2-P and P-2-P (BMK), a methamphetamine precursor that has fallen out of favour with meth clan lab operators over the last decade, were discovered in a storage locker in Vancouver. (6) Several other chemical seizures in 2005 reveal that these groups are also involved in smuggling essential chemicals into Canada from China. In connection with one of the MDP-2-P cases, a seizure of methylamine, an essential chemical used in Ecstasy manufacture, was effected in Vancouver from a storage locker. It was determined that the chemical had also been smuggled into Canada from China. The discovery of a large quantity of the chemical reagent sodium borohydride (used in the synthesis of amphetamine-type stimulants) led the seizure of an Ecstasy “super” lab.
While Ecstasy, methamphetamine and precursor chemical diversion dominate the illicit synthetic drug trade, longstanding illicit synthetic drugs and newer substances continue to have an important presence in the Canadian market.
Ketamine (7) emerged alongside GHB (8) on the illicit market as new rave/club drugs that appeared in the late 1990s. Both of these substances continue to have a significant presence at raves and clubs and are consumed on their own as well as in combination with other illicit synthetics. Ketamine is also found in seized tablet samples that contain several other substances, mostly MDMA and methamphetamine. Both drugs, especially GHB, have also been used to facilitate sexual assaults because of their sedative properties. The 2005 OSDUHS revealed that 0.5% of students used GHB in the past year, compared to 1.3% of respondents who admitted past year use of ketamine.
GHB availability is dependent on domestic production supply. Traffickers have obtained the precursor chemical, GBL, from domestic sources or from foreign sources contained in “GHB manufacturing kits” via the internet. With the 2005 amendments to the Precursor Control Regulations (PCRs), the sale and distribution of GBL are now regulated. As a result of the new restrictions, it is expected that the use of international supply sources will increase.
Ketamine supplies to the illicit market are obtained through both domestic and international diversion. In 2005, a significant increase in international diversion occurred. India emerged as a source country for ketamine smuggling to Canada. The postal system was used to smuggle a moderate-sized shipment of ketamine while an organized crime group attempted to smuggle an extraordinary large amount of the drug by marine cargo.
While little or nil seizures of GHB have been reported since 2003, the drug continues to hold an important place in consumption habits at raves and clubs. This is a strong indicator that traffickers have an ongoing interest in marketing this substance. Two seizures of ketamine effected late last year disrupted a period of low seizure activity since 2003. One seizure consisted of over 500 kg of diverted ketamine and is the largest ever made in North America. Considering the nature of the current illicit synthetic drug market in Canada, this amount of ketamine does not appear to have been intended only for trafficking and distribution in the domestic trade. An organized crime network was likely positioned to further distribute at least a portion of the shipment to international buyers.
Although trafficking in other longstanding synthetic substances such as PCP, LSD and psilocybin has been infrequently reported over the last several years, intelligence indicators point to their continuing circulation in the illicit market, including rave and club venues. Similar trends are noted for diverted pharmaceuticals which have been a long-term problem but overall less of a concern in recent years. Diversion of OxyContin (slow-release form of oxycodone) has been notable primarily due to an increase in the number of fatalities linked to the drug’s use in Nova Scotia and Ontario. The 2005 OSDUHS reported new data on OxyContin, showing that one percent of the students surveyed used the drug in the past year. The circulation of diverted OxyContin in the illicit market is reflected in the large increase of OxyContin samples analyzed by the Toronto Drug Analysis Service of the Public Health Agency of Canada. In 2005, over 700 OxyContin samples were analyzed compared to 400 in 2003. Diverted and counterfeit Viagra continued to surface in the illicit market, mostly in demand by club and rave consumers. The demand for diverted anabolic steroids remained stable in 2005.
Supplies of diverted pharmaceuticals to the domestic market mostly derive from domestic supply sources with the exception of anabolic steroids. Diversion of both powder and tablet forms of anabolic steroids to the Canadian illicit market continued in 2005 to originate in the United States, Europe and Asia. Although the number of anabolic steroid seizures surpasses other synthetic drug seizures, these seizures consist mostly of small to moderate amounts compared to prior years when significantly larger amounts were regularly seized. CBSA reports that from 151 anabolic steroid seizures effected in 2005, 79 were in the postal mode, 65 in the courier mode, 5 were via air passenger, one in air cargo mode and one in marine mode. Cross-border smuggling of diverted pharmaceuticals via vehicle mode and the internet from Canada to the U.S. continues to be detected. In January 2005, a female vehicle passenger was found to be body carrying 38 tablets of OxyContin as a means to smuggle the drug into the United States.
The infiltration of organized crime into the synthetic drug trade has not significantly impacted on pharmaceutical diversion trafficking. Organized crime groups are still involved in anabolic steroid trafficking however to a lesser extent than in previous years.
Khat is a stimulant which produces a type of euphoria comparable to that of a very mild cocaine or amphetamine high. Khat leaves are typically chewed, but can also be smoked or prepared as infusions. Khat can also be sold as dried or crushed leaves or in powdered form. When sold as fresh leaves, packages are usually wrapped in plastic bags or banana leaves to retain freshness.
There is a demand for khat from Somali, Ethiopian and Yemeni groups who have migrated away from areas of production in the Horn of Africa where chewing khat is an ancient tradition. In Canada, Somali, Ethiopian and Yemeni groups have mainly settled in Ontario.
Khat is cultivated in the Horn of Africa.
Yet, most khat arrives in Canada from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
In 2005, there were nearly 900 seizures of khat in Canada totaling over 17 tonnes of the drug. This represents a substantial increase (38%) from the same time period in 2004. The United Kingdom (where the Catha Edulis plant is not a controlled substance) continues to be the primary transit country for khat smuggled into Canada. The Netherlands ranks second and Kenya third. Belgium, Burundi, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the United States are also transit countries.
Due to the perishable nature of the drug, khat is usually smuggled into Canada by air transport. Although conspiracies to import khat in large quantities continue, individuals have been found entering Canada with small quantities of khat for personal use.
Given a very culturally-based demand for this particular drug, trafficking of khat in Canada is mostly limited to groups with origins in the eastern part of Africa, such as Somali criminal organizations.
This section is new to the Drug Situation Report in 2005. This year, in addition to each commodity, as examined in years past, the prosecution aspect of the illicit drug trade is also examined. This section looks at the nature of drug incidents and charges as well as the results of court cases dealing with the illicit drug trade.
In 2005, Statistics Canada reported a total of 92,255 incidents involving drugs. Of this total, the majority included cannabis, followed by cocaine, and lastly, all other drugs combined. Furthermore, the majority of incidents were possession, followed by trafficking, and finally importation/production.
More than half of the incidents resulted in charges. Of the total number of drug-related charges filed in 2005, the majority were related to cannabis, followed by cocaine. While there were many more possession incidents compared to trafficking incidents, the percentage of trafficking incidents leading to charges was almost double that of possession.
Overall, the illicit drug trade seems to be male dominated. In all cases, there were a greater number of males charged than females, however this national ratio seems to be skewed by two areas: cannabis and possession. In terms of commodity, cannabis’s ratio of 7.1 males : 1 female was the only ratio over the national average. The next highest was for cocaine, followed by heroin. In terms of the type of charge, possession was the only charge to be over the national average.
|Proportion of Incidents||Charges||Proportion of All Charges||Males Charged||Females Charged||Ratio|
The Atlantic region, while for the most part following the national averages, showed some unique characteristics. Specifically, the Atlantic region had a much lower proportion of incidents involving cocaine whereas cannabis counted for a higher proportion of incidents.
Overall, there was a significantly lower proportion of charges in the Atlantic region; notably in terms of cocaine and “other drugs.” Heroin showed a higher proportion of charges than the national average. The Atlantic region also showed lower rates of charges across all types of charges, particularly trafficking ones.
Furthermore, the ratio of males to females was much higher in this region for all commodities and charges, except heroin offences.
of All Charges
|Males Charged||Females Charged||Ratio|
Unlike the Atlantic Region, the Central Region followed the national average. The most telling difference was a higher proportion of incidents to charges. This increase was prevalent in all commodities, notably in heroin and cocaine. An interesting note is the fact that there were more heroin charges in this region than there were incidents. Furthermore, there were also more trafficking charges than there were incidents.
The Central region ratio of males to females was slightly higher than that of the national average, notably due to a large increase in the ratio of cannabis charges as well as a similarly large increase in possession charges.
of All Charges
|Males Charged||Females Charged||Ratio|
The North West region showed some discrepancies from the national data. Specifically, the North West region saw a slight increase in cocaine incidents and a decrease in cannabis incidents when compared to the respective national averages.
While the North West region saw an overall increase in the proportion of charges, there was a rather large decrease in heroin charges (note: with a small sample of heroin incidents, it is difficult to know whether this difference is significant). A higher proportion of charges were cannabis related. In terms of the type of charge, trafficking charges were significantly lower in this region, however there were increases in both possession and importation/production charges.
he North West region’s ratio of drug offenders was largely similar to the national average, however with many interesting differences within the overall similarity. Heroin had a ratio of almost half that of the national average. Cannabis and the “other drugs” category were slightly lower than the national average, whereas cocaine showed a slightly higher ratio of males to females. The possession ratio of males to females was lower than the national average, whereas the importation/production ratio was higher.
of All Charges
|Males Charged||Females Charged||Ratio|
The Pacific region showed similar trends to that of the national average in terms of incidents of cannabis and cocaine, however the incidents of heroin were significantly higher than the national average, and there were comparatively fewer incidents of “other drugs.”
The Pacific region also showed a slight decrease in the proportion of trafficking offences. There was also a lower proportion of trafficking and possession charges. The Pacific region also had a higher proportion of charges related to importation and production, as well as trafficking, and a much lower proportion for possession.
The Pacific region showed a lower ratio of males to females in most categories, except for heroin which was about the same as the national average, and “other drugs” which was fairly similar.
of All Charges
|Males Charged||Females Charged||Ratio|
Note: While reporting to the Adult Criminal Court Survey was mandatory, Statistics Canada did not receive any submissions from Manitoba. Further, note that the most recent data available is for the 2003–04 fiscal year (April 2003 to March 2004).
Of the drug cases reaching the courts, 41% were concluded with a guilty verdict. Approximately half of all cases were either stayed or withdrawn.
In terms of trafficking cases, just under 44% of all decisions ended in a conviction. Nova Scotia was the only province with a conviction rate lower than the national average. Generally speaking, the provinces with the largest number of cases tended to have a conviction rate close to the national average.
Possession court cases had an even lower success rate, with less than 40% ending with a guilty verdict. Looking at the possession results by province, it is interesting to note that only results from Quebec and, to a lesser extent, Prince Edward Island, were around the national average. Other provinces were either significantly higher (i.e., New Brunswick) or significantly lower (i.e., Ontario) in obtaining convictions.
|Provincial Trafficking Court Cases 2003/04 Decisions|
|Provincial Possesion Court Cases 2003/04 Decisions|
Data Sources: Seizure data was compiled by the Public Health Agency of Canada from submissions by Canadian law enforcement agencies and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
3 The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) is formerly known as the Ontario Student Drug Use Survey (OSDUS). The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) decided to rename the 30 year old survey to better reflect its expanded content.
5 In November 2005, the Precursor Control Regulations (PCRs) were amended to strengthen the regulatory framework and to add new chemicals to the Class A Precursor list: gamma butyrolactone (GBL) (for the manufacture of GHB), 1,4 butanediol (for the manufacture of GBL and also used by itself as a recreational drug similar to GHB) and hydriodic acid, red/white phosphorous acid and hypophosphorous acid (for the manufacture of methamphetamine).
7 Ketamine is a general anaesthetic or preoperative sedative that is used in both veterinary and human medicine. The drug is available in liquid and powder form; when misused, the powder is smoked and snorted, and the liquid is injected or mixed into drinks. Street price per gram: $70 - $100.
8 GHB is a sedative used only as a recreational intoxicant known for its ability to induce a short coma-like sleep at high doses. GHB is mostly sold in liquid form in Canada and is often mixed into drinks. Street price per 5 ml vial: $20–$25.