Cablegate: Canada: 2009-2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy

Published: Mon 2 Nov 2009 10:10 PM
DE RUEHOT #0834/01 3062239
R 022239Z NOV 09
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Canada: 2009-2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy
Report, Part I
1. . (U) Summary
In 2009, Canada continued to implement its National Anti-Drug
Strategy, involving three action plans to reduce the supply of and
demand for illicit drugs as well as associated crime. Canada
remains a country of concern due to the amount of MDMA (3,
4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, commonly known as Ecstasy) and
marijuana crossing into the U.S. from Canada. While Canada's
passage of several additional regulations in recent years has
reduced the large scale diversion of bulk precursor chemicals
across the border, trafficking of marijuana and Ecstasy continues
at high levels. In July, Canadian law enforcement authorities made
one of the largest heroin seizures in Canadian history. Canada's
demand reduction efforts include a national awareness campaign
targeted at youth and their parents, with a strong message
discouraging drug use. However, local and provincial authorities
have embarked on a number of so-called "harm-reduction" programs,
including a drug injection site and distribution of drug
paraphernalia to chronic users. The federal government continues
to deliver a sharp message against these local and provincial
programs, which is in line with the International Narcotics Control
Board's recommendation for the Government of Canada to eliminate
drug injection sites and drug paraphernalia distribution programs,
stating that they violated international drug control treaties.
Canada and the U.S. cooperate in counternarcotics efforts through
increased information sharing and joint operations. Canada is a
member of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs and party to the 1988
UN Drug Convention.
2. (U) Status of Country
Like most developed countries, Canada's major narcotics problem is
primarily drug consumption, but it is also a significant producer
of methamphetamine and marijuana; it is also a major source country
for Ecstasy to US markets as well as a transit or diversion point
for precursor chemicals used to produce illicit synthetic drugs
(notably Ecstasy). The marijuana industry's production and
distribution are sophisticated and diverse, while Ecstasy
production continues to grow.
3. (U) Country Actions against Drugs in 2009
A. Policy Initiatives.
In August, Canada announced the Synthetic Drug Initiative (SDI),
the first Canadian drug strategy to focus on a single class of
drugs. Though still in the "strategic concept" phase, the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police-led program's eventual goal is to eliminate
illegal synthetic drug production and distribution in Canada, and
reduce the overall influence of organized crime on drug trafficking
in Canada. SDI targets the illicit synthetic drug industry on
three fronts; enforcement, deterrence, and prevention. It also aims
to inhibit the diversion of precursor chemicals from foreign and
domestic sources.
The RCMP will pay for the SDI through National Anti-Drug Strategy
funds and by re-allocating existing resources. The RCMP has not
announced a budget for SDI, but says that funds will be allocated
to domestic and international programs, including modernizing the
RCMP's chemical diversion program, hiring new personnel, and
improving training and awareness initiatives.
In 2007, the Canadian government committed about $95 million in
funding over five years to support its National Anti-Drug
Strategy's Enforcement Action plan, which provides for the hiring
of additional police and prosecutors for counternarcotics teams
involved in identifying and closing down grow operations and drug
manufacturing sites, and enhancing the capabilities of the Canadian
Border Services Agency (CBSA) to stop drugs at the border.
Introduced in 2007, the National Anti-Drug Strategy enhanced the
"proceeds of crime" program, enabling the government to seize funds
and assets acquired through the sale of illicit drugs. In
addition, the government committed new funding of about $29 million
over five years to support a Prevention Action Plan, as well as
approximately $95 million in new funding over five years to support
a Treatment Action Plan.
In June, the House of Commons passed new legislation (Bill C-15) on
mandatory minimum penalties for serious drug offenders. As of
November, the bill remains under consideration by the Senate. C-15
provides mandatory one and two-year minimum jail sentences for
various offenses including production, trafficking, possession for
the purposes of trafficking, importing and exporting, and
possession for the purposes of exporting of illegal drugs. The
bill also provides for additional, aggravated penalties when
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offenses are carried out for organized crime purposes or if they
involve youth.
B. Law Enforcement Efforts. In 2009, Canadian and U.S. law
enforcement agencies' bilateral efforts resulted in significant
interdictions of narcotics arriving in Canada and the U.S. by air,
passenger vehicle, truck, small aircraft, and ship, as well as
seizures from Canadian drug production operations. Seized drugs
included marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, hashish, and
On December 8, 2008, Canadian authorities received information that
led to the seizure of 276 kilograms of cocaine from a container
ship. The shipment arrived at the Port of St. John, New Brunswick
from Guyana, destined for the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The
Canadian investigation led to the identification of another ship in
the Caribbean carrying a similar container. On December 23, 2008,
DEA, ICE, and CBP, with the assistance of the U.S. Virgin Island
Police, seized in the Port of St. Croix 100 kilograms of cocaine
concealed in a container that was destined for Canada.
On January 25, 2009, a multi-agency operation led to an outbound
seizure of 24 kilograms of cocaine by CBP Officers at the Rouses
Point Port of Entry in Rouses Point, NY. The cocaine was destined
to be smuggled into Canada from the United States.
During February and March 2009, a coordinated effort by DEA, RCMP,
and U.S. federal and local law enforcement agencies led to the
arrest of nine individuals and the seizure of 750 pounds of
marijuana, over 80 kilograms of cocaine, 240,000 tabs of Ecstasy,
six weapons, and two helicopters. The targeted drug trafficking
organization used the helicopters to cross into the U.S. with
Canadian-sourced marijuana and Ecstasy in exchange for cocaine
destined for Canada. This organization was also linked to numerous
marijuana indoor grow operations and a clandestine laboratory,
which British Columbia provincial authorities seized in June 2008,
along with more than 1 million MDMA pills and 168 kilograms of MDMA
On July 7, 2009, CBP Officers at the Peace Arch Port of Entry in
Blaine, WA seized 80.64 kilograms of cocaine and 27.59 kilograms of
heroin concealed in a passenger vehicle during an outbound
In July 2009, in a joint operation in the GTA, CBSA, RCMP, Toronto
Police, and Peel Regional Police seized 117 kilograms of heroin,
with an estimated street value of $100-million, and more than
$600,000 in cash, making it one of the largest heroin seizures in
Canadian history.
The overall trend for 2009 law enforcement efforts continued
previous trends of joint drug enforcement efforts against steady
but diverse distribution patterns of traffickers. However, lack of
information-sharing among Canadian law enforcement agencies has
hampered some counternarcotics enforcement efforts. An RCMP report
in 2008 revealed that more 60 employees at Canada's 8 largest
airports had criminal links. On March 31, Transport Minister John
Baird ordered his department to fix persistent gaps in airport
employee screening after Canada's Auditor General also found that
"high-risk" criminals were still able to obtain security clearances
at Canadian airports due to the failure of Transport Canada and the
RCMP to share data. On April 8, the two agencies signed a new
information-sharing agreement to conduct expanded criminal
background checks for workers with access to secure areas at
Canada's airports.
Canadian officials report unofficially that most of the Ecstasy
laboratories dismantled in Canada in 2009 were capable of producing
multi-kilogram quantities. During 2008, the RCMP dismantled
approximately 15 Ecstasy laboratories, all of which were capable of
producing multi-kilogram quantities, as well as 17 methamphetamine
labs, 13 of which had a multi-kilogram capability.
C. Corruption. Canada has strong anti-corruption controls in place
and holds its officials and law enforcement personnel to a high
standard of conduct. Civil servants found to be engaged in
malfeasance of any kind are subject to prosecution. Investigations
into accusations of wrongdoing and corruption by civil servants are
thorough and credible. No senior government officials are known to
engage in, encourage, or facilitate the illicit production or
distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled
substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug
transactions. As a matter of government policy, Canada neither
encourages nor facilitates illicit production or distribution of
narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or
the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.
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D. Agreements and Treaties. Canada is party to the 1988 UN Drug
Convention, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and
the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol.
Canada is a party to the UN Convention against Corruption and to
the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and its
protocols against migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons.
Canada is also a party to: the Inter-American Convention on Mutual
Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters; the Inter-American Convention
against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms,
Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials; and, the
Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. Canada actively
cooperates with international partners. The U.S. and Canada
exchange forfeited assets through a bilateral asset-sharing
agreement, and exchange information to prevent, investigate, and
prosecute any offense against U.S. or Canadian customs laws through
a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement. Canada has in force 50
bilateral mutual legal assistance treaties and 66 extradition
treaties. Judicial assistance and extradition matters between the
U.S. and Canada operate under a mutual legal assistance treaty
(MLAT), an extradition treaty, and related protocols, including the
long-standing Memorandum of Understanding designating DEA and RCMP
as points of contact for U.S.-Canada drug-related matters.
E. Cultivation/Production. Criminal groups composed of Canadians
of East Asian origin (primarily ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese),
outlaw motorcycle gangs, and Indo-Canadian criminal groups, are the
most significant illicit drug producers and traffickers in Canada.
Overall, Canada supplies a small proportion of the marijuana
consumed in the U.S., however, large-scale marijuana cultivation
exists in Canada. Legal sanctions for growers are less severe than
in the United States, and it remains a significant domestic concern
in Canada. Organized crime organizations use
technologically-advanced organic growing methods. Large-scale
marijuana grow operations are primarily located in British
Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec provinces. According to the Ontario
Association of Chiefs of Police, 85 percent of marijuana growing
operations in Ontario are linked to organized crime. Marijuana
traffickers rely on profits from marijuana distribution to expand
their involvement into other profitable illicit drug activities,
such as expanding Ecstasy and methamphetamine production.
Organized crime dominates the methamphetamine trade. Criminal
groups composed of Canadians of East Asian origin operate
large-scale methamphetamine labs that are capable of producing at
least 10 pounds of methamphetamine per cycle throughout the
country. According to the 2009Annual Report on Organized Crime
prepared by Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC), organized
crime groups in Canada conduct large-scale ecstasy production and
distribution operations to supply the domestic market, and Canada
remains one of the top producers of ecstasy to the global illicit
drug market. Precursor chemicals for the production of ecstasy are
smuggled into Canada from source countries such as China and India
on a regular basis.
Increased smuggling from Canada to the United States included both
Ecstasy and combination tablets containing methamphetamine and
other synthetic drugs. In 2008-2009, Canadian authorities'
seizures of clandestine labs capable of producing large amounts of
combination tablets remained at approximately the same level as in
the previous reporting period in 2007-2008.
F. Drug Flow/Transit. The CISC's 2009 Annual Report on Organized
Crime in Canada estimated approximately 750 organized crime groups
in the country, of which most are involved in the illegal drug
trade in some capacity. Rising methamphetamine production in Canada
could led to increased distribution in the U.S., particularly by
polydrug traffickers, such as many Asian criminal groups and outlaw
motorcycle gangs, using established Ecstasy or marijuana
distribution networks.
G. Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. Local and provincial
authorities maintain a number of so-called "harm-reduction"
programs. In 2003, the federal Department of Health (Health
Canada) granted Vancouver "Coastal Health" a three-year exemption
from the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to establish
North America's first supervised injection site research pilot
project ("Insite"). British Colombia provincial judicial
authorities are resisting federal government efforts to close
Insite. In May 2008, the British Columbia provincial Supreme Court
ruled that the federal government does not have the constitutional
authority to close Insite, which the Court considered a health
facility and within provincial jurisdiction. The British Columbia
provincial Court of Appeal heard the government's appeal in April
2009, but as of November, the Court is still deliberating on its
judgment. Several cities, including Toronto and Ottawa, have also
approved programs to distribute drug paraphernalia, including crack
pipes, to chronic users.
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The UN International Narcotics Control Board's (INCB) 2007 Report
noted that the Vancouver Island Health Authority's approval of
"safer crack kits," including the mouthpiece and screen components
of pipes for smoking "crack," contravened Article 13 of the 1988 UN
Drug Convention, to which Canada is a party. The INCB called upon
the Government of Canada to eliminate drug injection sites and drug
paraphernalia distribution programs, stating that they violated
international drug control treaties. While Health Canada provides
funding for drug treatment services, other programs such as
delivery of demand reduction, education, treatment, and
rehabilitation are primarily the responsibility of the provincial
and territorial governments.
Canada's Anti-Drug Strategy includes a national awareness campaign
targeted at youth and their parents, with a strong message
discouraging drug use. Additional funding provides for modernized
and new treatment services as well as improving their availability
and effectiveness, more money for the provinces and territories to
expand treatment programs for addicted youth, and funding for a
National Youth Intervention Program to enable police to enroll
young drug users more quickly into assessment and treatment
programs instead of detention.
4. (U) U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
A. Bilateral Cooperation. The U.S. and Canada have continued
information sharing and binational cooperation through the
Cross-Border Crime Forum (CBCF), Integrated Border Enforcement
Teams (IBET), Border Enforcement Security Teams (BEST), and other
fora. At the CBCF's Spring Ministerial in March 2008, U.S. and
Canadian officials jointly released the 2007 U.S.-Canada Border
Drug Threat Assessment as a snapshot of cross-border narcotics
issues and trends. The CBCF is scheduled to do its next update for
release in 2011. The inter-agency forum also addressed
counterterrorism, mass marketing fraud, human trafficking,
organized crime, border enforcement, drug trafficking, and firearms
smuggling - a particular concern for Canada. Provincial, state, and
local governments also participate in the CBCF, as do police at the
federal, state/provincial, and local/municipal levels. CBCF working
groups met throughout the year to develop joint strategies and
initiatives and collaborative law enforcement operations that were
highlighted during the Ministerial meeting. Canada also regularly
attends the annual National Methamphetamine Chemical Initiative
(NMCI) meeting in the U.S.
In September, DEA conducted a five-day seminar in Montreal on asset
forfeiture and money laundering for 40 members from various law
enforcement agencies. In spring 2009, DEA Vancouver and El Paso
Intelligence Center personnel offered training at a Canadian law
enforcement pipeline school to more than 400 Canadian officers.
Canada has also participated in supporting naval interdiction
efforts as part of Joint Interagency Task Force South, including
during 2009. DEA, CBP, ICE, CBSA, RCMP, and U.S. state, local, and
tribal and Canadian provincial officers consult regularly and
maintain channels of communication in the field and at management
level to ensure a high level of cooperation and effectiveness.
On September 30, the Canadian government tabled in the House of
Commons the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime
Law Enforcement Operations ["Shiprider"] between the Canada and the
U.S. The two countries signed the framework agreement in Detroit,
Michigan, on May 26, 2009. Once Canada passes implementing
legislation, the agreement will allow the exchange of shipriders
and seamless maritime law enforcement operations across the
U.S.-Canadian maritime border. The program will facilitate more
effective maritime counter-smuggling efforts by designating
officers from each country to operate from one another's vessels or
B. The Road Ahead. The U.S. and Canada will continue to cooperate
in joint operations combating U.S.-Canada drug trafficking. The
CBCF will continue to serve as a forum for senior law enforcement,
justice, and homeland security officials to enhance and encourage
intelligence sharing, investigative collaboration, and joint
training opportunities. CBCF working groups will meet throughout
the year to develop joint strategies and initiatives including
threat assessments and collaborative operations.
Canada's continued role as a source country for Ecstasy to U.S.
markets highlights the need for greater cooperation in tracking
precursor chemical activity. The U.S. urges Canada to take stronger
action to curb the rise of methamphetamine production. The upsurge
in Canadian methamphetamine production has raised the prospect of
increased smuggling from Canada to international markets. Both
Canada and the U.S. will seek improvements in their enforcement
capacity and regulatory frameworks to promote industry compliance
and avoid diversion of precursor chemicals and lab equipment for
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criminal use. A more effective and expansive inspection regime, in
conjunction with expedited investigations and prosecutions, would
also strengthen enforcement efforts. The government of Prime
Minister Stephen Harper has reiterated its commitment to increased
penalties for illicit drug production and trafficking, but not for
drug use.
Canada, or, as appropriate, municipalities such as Vancouver and
Ottawa, should implement the INCB's recommendations to eliminate
drug injection sites and drug paraphernalia distribution programs
because they violate international drug control treaties. The U.S.
and Canada will continue to work together to make operational the
Integrated Marine Security Operations program. The U.S. will
continue to seek reciprocal agreement for U.S. federal maritime law
enforcement officers to carry their weapons while transiting
through Canadian waters.
The U.S. and Canada share common objectives of reducing the supply
and consumption of illicit drugs and the serious consequences that
they pose to our communities, particularly vulnerable youth. The
U.S. and Canada plan to renew the joint U.S.-Canada border drug
threat assessment, which the two governments update every three
years, and to continue to strengthen bilateral cooperation in a
wide range of working groups and forums.
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