Pubdate: Fri, 02 Mar 2018
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2018 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Andrea Woo
Page: A8


The union representing Canada's border agents is hoping money
allocated to combatting the country's overdose crisis will go toward
hiring full-time chemists to screen for fentanyl and other deadly
drugs at major mailing centres and ports of entry.

Most fentanyl shipments coming into Canada originate in China and
first arrive at the Vancouver International Mail Centre. A pilot
project launched last fall at the facility sees chemists conduct
on-site testing and analysis of items suspected to contain fentanyl in
a safe examination area where ventilation is controlled.

Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of Customs and Immigration
Union, which represents employees of the Canada Border Services
Agency, said he is hopeful that any funds from Ottawa earmarked for
the CBSA will go toward making the pilot permanent. He would also like
to see similar initiatives at the major mailing centres in Montreal
and Toronto.

"[Border agents in Vancouver] are in a place where the ventilation is
controlled. All the measures are in place there to make sure that
these packages are being manipulated very safely," Mr. Fortin said.
"But obviously the two other places, there are still huge concerns
that are still arising. So they're waiting to be treated the same."

The federal budget unveiled this week allocates $231.4-million over
five years to the overdose crisis, including $150-million in emergency
funding to provinces and territories. An unspecified amount will go
toward "equipping border agents with detection and identification
tools to intercept fentanyl and other substances at ports of entry."

In the United States, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents use
X-rays, specially trained dogs and various handheld devices to detect
fentanyl. The agency is also looking at getting advanced electronic
data to flag potentially suspicious packages before they arrive, such
as those that come from an address linked to the fentanyl trade, said
Jason Givens, a CBP spokesman based in Seattle. The agency seized 952
pounds of fentanyl from mail facilities and ports of entry in the 2017
fiscal year, up from 440 pounds in fiscal 2016.

Neither the CBSA nor Public Safety Canada would make a representative
available for an interview on the subject.

The budget did not provide a breakdown of how the money would be
allocated. The Department of Finance said further details will be
announced in coming weeks. Other key measures outlined in the budget
include: launching a public education campaign; improving access to
public health data; and expanding the federal Substance Use and
Addictions Program (SUAP).

The SUAP is a federal contributions program delivered by Health Canada
that prioritizes innovative approaches to tackling the overdose
crisis. It is under this program that Mark Tyndall, executive director
of the BC Centre for Disease Control and deputy provincial health
officer, received approval for a pilot to distribute
pharmaceutical-grade opioids (hydromorphone pills) to drug users to
use as they please.
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