Pubdate: Mon, 06 Aug 2007
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2007 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Steve Rennie, Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Counter-Narcotics Efforts Clearly Flawed, Says Report Researcher

The Mounties have warned at least two federal agencies that Afghan 
heroin is "increasingly" making its way to Canada and poses a direct 
threat to the public despite millions of dollars from Ottawa to fund 
the war-torn country' s counter-narcotics efforts, newly released 
documents reveal.

"The RCMP informs us that Afghan heroin is increasingly ending up on, 
or is destined for Canadian streets," say Foreign Affairs and Defence 
Department briefings, obtained separately by The Canadian Press under 
the Access to Information Act.

The Afghan-produced heroin "directly threatens" Canadians, say the 
identically worded briefings.

Paul Nadeau, the director of the RCMP's drug branch in Ottawa, said 
about 60 per cent of the heroin on Canadian streets comes from Afghanistan.

"Keep in mind, though, that when we seize it, it doesn't have a stamp 
on it that says where it came from," he said.

Rather, it's the investigative tracing of smuggling routes that 
reveals the drug's country of origin.

Until a few years ago, most heroin came from an opium-producing 
region in Southeast Asia called the "golden triangle," a mountainous 
area of around 350,000 square kilometres overlapping Myanmar, Laos, 
Vietnam and Thailand.

In recent years, organized crime groups from Southeast Asia have 
taken to trafficking synthetic drugs, such as ecstasy, which have 
more users - and more profitability - than heroin, Nadeau said.

New traffickers, who Nadeau said are often, but not always, of Indian 
origin, have stepped in, bringing with them new shipping methods.

The Southeast Asian traffickers were notorious for brazen heroin 
shipments, sometimes totalling up to 100 kilograms a haul. The new 
traffickers typically prefer smaller, but more frequent, shipments, 
Nadeau said. The strategy, it seems, is akin to throwing as much as 
possible against the wall to see what sticks.

"It seems to be involving the classic couriers, suitcases at the 
airport, smaller amounts, but no doubt, more shipments coming in," he said.

Roughly 92 per cent of the world's heroin comes from opium poppies 
grown in Afghanistan, according to the 2007 World Drug Report, 
released in June by the United Nations Office on Drugs.

Afghan heroin typically flows into Canada through two main 
trafficking arteries, Nadeau said: via the porous border between 
Afghanistan and Pakistan, and then onto India and, finally, Canada; 
and, from Afghanistan to western Africa, then through the United 
States into Canada.

The Foreign Affairs and Defence Department briefings differ on the 
windfall opium production and trafficking yields in Afghanistan, 
estimating it is equivalent to between 25 and 60 per cent of the 
Afghan economy.

Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Ambra Dickie says Ottawa has pledged 
about $57 million to fund Afghan counter-narcotics efforts, including 
an $18.5-million program to promote alternate livelihoods in the 
country's volatile Kandahar province, where Canadian troops are stationed.

The Afghan counter-narcotics programs are co-ordinated by that 
country's national drug control strategy. But the drug control 
strategy is badly flawed, said Thomas Pietschmann, a researcher who 
authored the UN drug report.

"It's clear: there is a disaster there. Nobody can say that it's 
working. It 's not working," Pietschmann said from his office in 
Vienna, Austria.

Afghanistan's counter-narcotics minister stepped down last month 
after the country's opium poppy crop ballooned under his watch. 
Habibullah Qaderi's resignation came as western embassies and the 
Afghan government hold closed door meetings about how to fight the 
country's growing drug problem.

Pietschmann said it's "extremely logical" that there's more Afghan 
heroin on Canadian streets because of a spike in the central Asian 
nation's opium poppy production.

"It would be the most logical thing to expect, on the Canadian 
market, that you would see far more Afghan heroin landing on the 
shores of Canada," he said.

Afghanistan's swelling opium crop might lower heroin's street value 
in Canada, Nadeau said, adding he doubts more people will start using 
heroin because it's cheaper and there's more of it.

"Heroin is not what it used to be. There's a certain stigma attached 
to it from the user population," he said. "But it's definitely a 
problem in certain major centres."

The Foreign Affairs briefing concedes there's no quick fix to 
Afghanistan's drug quandary: "There are no simple solutions to a 
problem that has taken decades to develop."

At first glance, Canada doesn't seem to have a heroin problem. Less 
than one per cent of Canadians have used the drug at some point in 
their lives, according to the latest report from Health Canada and 
the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

But it's difficult to gauge the real prevalence of heroin use in 
Canada, since most users don't partake in national surveys, said a 
Centre on Substance Abuse spokeswoman.

The RCMP says it seized 60 kilograms of heroin in Canada in 2003, 77 
kilograms in 2004, and 83 kilograms in 2005.

'It would be the most logical thing to expect, on the Canadian 
market, that you would see far more Afghan heroin landing on the 
shores of Canada.'
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