Pubdate: Tue, 20 Aug 2013
Source: Southern Gazette, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2013 Transcontinental Media
Author: Barbara Dean-Simmons


Earlier this month, the federal government said it would be stepping 
up security on the VIA rail system, in the wake of bomb plot earlier 
this year. Now, anyone who wants to travel on VIA Rail, will be 
subject to security checks equivalent to that at Canada's major airports.

Since we're on the subject of national security, it's time for the 
Canadian government to review other transportation systems where 
security is lacking, or non-existent; such as Marine Atlantic ferries.

Throughout the year, thousands of people, vehicles and baggage make 
the journey to and from Newfoundland and Canada, via the Gulf 
crossing from Port aux Basques to North Sydney.

While the feds may think it's just an inter-provincial transportation 
route, it is in fact more than that, as history has shown. It has 
been and quite likely could still be, the entry point to Canada for 
drug smugglers.

Some people may remember the events of 1987 but here's a refresh.

This province garnered national headlines that year after RCMP 
arrested several people and seized tons of hashish in this province. 
The drugs, smuggled from Asia and Europe, were offloaded into 
abandoned communities in Trinity Bay, such as Ireland's Eye.

 From there it was shipped by smaller boats to shore, loaded onto 
transport trucks and driven to the ferry terminals to get to mainland 
Canada and distribution throughout Canada and the U.S.

Montreal crime boss Vitto Rizzuto and several others were arrested. 
On an autumn day in 1987, after several months of undercover work, 
the RCMP seized $225 million (street value) worth of hashish. Most 
was found stored in Ireland's Eye, but a transport truck was also 
intercepted near Gander that same day, loaded with hashish, bound for 
the ferry in Port aux Basques.

While it might sound daring to try to drive a tractor-trailer loaded 
with drugs onto a federally operated ferry, it wasn't!

There were not - and still aren't - any customs-like spot checks in 
place for vehicles/people boarding the ferries in Port aux Basques or Argentia.

The driver of a vehicle is only required to show ID.

Walk-on passengers aren't required to show ID with only 
random/sporadic spot-checks of baggage carried on.

Passenger vehicles are hardly ever checked for contents. Transport 
trucks are hardly ever held up for a thorough inspection. There is no 
RCMP or sniffer dogs' presence.

The criminals, who masterminded this drug run, saw the ferry system 
as a non-existent risk - a smooth sail if you like - to get their 
illegal goods to market.

Unbelievably, in the wake of this drug bust and the evidence pointing 
to Newfoundland being a strategic point of entry for illegal drugs, 
Ottawa did absolutely nothing to beef up security/travel protocols on 
the ferry system.

And organized crime, despite the loss of millions of dollars worth of 
hashish, continued to do business from Newfoundland.

Two years later, the RCMP scored another coup against drug runners 
when they busted up another operation using Newfoundland's northeast 
coast as the landing points for drugs and the Gulf ferry run as the 
point of entry for drugs bound for Canadian and U.S. markets.

There haven't been many drugs seized from ferry travellers since. But 
that doesn't mean the ferries have ceased to be a smugglers' highway.

With only infrequent security checks, there is no way of knowing how 
much of what is entering Canada via North Sydney.

If the Canadian government considers it wise to beef up security for 
the VIA rail system to ensure passenger safety and national security, 
surely it will take the next logical step and apply the same security 
protocols for the Marine Atlantic system.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom