Pubdate: Sat, 21 Jul 2007
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2007 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Chris Lambie
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


A Halifax-based warship has spent the past few weeks carrying out a
hush-hush drug surveillance operation in the Caribbean.

HMCS Fredericton's presence in the region only came to light when
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was photographed Thursday inspecting the
frigate's crew in Barbados.

"That really characterizes the Canadian approach to this type of
thing. We're pretty low-profile that way and as much as we'd like to
blow our own horn and stuff like that, it's pretty sensitive," said
Maj. Sue Gray, a military spokeswoman.

"Obviously, for operational security reasons, you don't want people
who would . . . want to bring drugs into the country, whether they're
Canadians or not, you certainly don't want to tip them off as to what
you're doing."

The frigate had been participating in surveillance operations with the
U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force South, which conducts counter-drug
operations, Maj. Gray said.

"Their whole aim is to conduct surveillance operations against drug
smuggling into their waters or in past their borders," Maj. Gray said
Friday. "Naturally, of course, we have the same concerns. We don't
want drugs coming into our country. So we contribute to that overall

The major couldn't say whether the frigate crew had helped track down
any drug smugglers.

"We don't normally talk about the specifics in that much detail in
that kind of operation," she said.

The Canadian military also provided a CP-140 Aurora aircraft for the
mission, dubbed Op Caribe.

"We usually fly it from here or sometimes I would think it would park
at Key West," Maj. Gray said.

The United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and Spain also play a role
in the drug surveillance missions, which take place several times a
year, she said.

The Fredericton played a role in a massive drug sting last year off
the west coast of Africa that netted 22.5 tonnes of hashish destined
for the Canadian market. It acted as the escort vessel for a ship
carrying undercover RCMP officers, who made the drug buy.

That operation was conducted under strict measures aimed at keeping
the drug sting secret.

Sailors who got to make telephone calls home from the ship for
compassionate reasons were supervised. The ship's 217 crew members
were allowed to write e-mails to their families, but they couldn't
send them from their own computer desktops; instead, the messages were
collected and presumably monitored before being sent out twice a day.
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