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Canada Post the shipping method of choice for fentanyl importers: Maclean's

Last Updated Mar 7, 2019 at 6:26 pm EST

Fentanyl pills are shown in an undated police handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS

An antiquated legal quirk that bars police from searching packages sent through the mail has made Canada Post the shipping method of choice for criminals importing fentanyl and other drugs into the country, a Maclean’s investigation has found.

U.S and Canadian law enforcement agree most fentanyl is coming into Canada from Chinese laboratories through the mail, fuelling an overdose crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 9,000 Canadians. Maclean’s observed and contacted several vendors on the dark web, a corner of the internet that can only be accessed with a special browser and whose sites can’t be found through a Google search, and confirmed they would not ship through a courier service, suggesting they’re well aware of the reduced investigative powers for police for packages sent by regular mail.

Drug markets on the dark web offer customers the chance to have drugs shipped to their doorsteps in a similar manner to buying a book from Amazon, complete with star ratings and comments on the quality and purity of products.

Police say criminals exploit an antiquated legal quirk that bars officers from searching packages sent through Canada Post, a limitation that doesn’t exist for private courier services such as FedEx and UPS. Even with reasonable grounds to suspect criminal activity, police can’t get a warrant to intercept mail before it’s been delivered and taken inside and must instead ask a postal inspector to review packages on a case-by-case basis.

“The word is out there [among criminals] that you don’t use the courier service, you use Canada Post because of the limitations to law enforcement,” said Mike Serr, chief of the Abbotsford Police Department and co-chair of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Drug Advisory Committee. “We have not yet understood why Canada Post has a resistance with us getting new authorities that are similar to other companies.”

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution calling on the government to close the loophole four years ago, a proposal supported by the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and even the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, as long as privacy protections for letter mail are preserved. In 2017, the Liberal government opted not to act on the recommendation.

Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton described the chance of dangerous goods being shipped through the mail as “small.” Both Hamilton and Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux, a spokesperson for the minister of border security and organized crime reduction, Bill Blair, said the existing system where postal inspectors team up with police is functioning well.

READ THE FULL STORY AT: www.macleans.ca/fentanyl

WATCH: Maclean’s associate editor Claire Brownell explains why Canada Post has become the method of choice for criminals importing drugs into Canada.