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This article was published 28/6/2018 (573 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
AS Canada deals with a record number of opioid overdose deaths, the ease of ordering illicit drugs from overseas has led to more "lone wolf" drug dealers trying to make fast money, a former federal prosecutor says.
Bruce MacFarlane, a former deputy attorney general in Manitoba and an author of the legal textbook Drug Offences in Canada, said he found out first-hand how easy it is to order fentanyl and carfentanil from suppliers listed on the dark web, an encrypted and reportedly untraceable part of the internet.
"The environment is changing daily, but so far in Canada we appear not to be looking at organized crime or outlaw motorcycle gangs as we are individuals who are trying to make a lot of money," MacFarlane told the Free Press.
"Lone-wolf traffickers, those that aren’t aligned with a gang... can just pick up the phone and order fentanyl, have it delivered within a couple of days. Sometimes, they don’t have the street connections; they have to try and figure out what to do with it," he said.
"They don’t fall into the normal pattern that would allow law enforcement to see what they’re doing."
Last week, Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench imposed a precedent-setting 10-year sentence on a Winnipeg man who admitted to importing fentanyl from China and having it shipped to his North End rooming house.
In a pre-sentence report that hints at Ray Csincsa’s underlying mental-health issues, Csincsa initially told the probation officer interviewing him he was simply stocking up on the potent painkiller for personal use. In court, though, Csincsa acknowledged he planned to sell the fentanyl.
The Canada Border Services Agency intercepted three separate packages addressed to Csincsa or an alias he was using. They contained a total of 14.26 grams of fentanyl.
The CBSA seized more than 14,600 grams of fentanyl across the country during the past fiscal year ending in March. Most of the drug that ends up in the hands of Canadian border agents comes through the mail, the agency said in response to a Free Press inquiry.
Fentanyl accounts for only a small fraction of the drugs seized by CBSA nationally, but it is one of the most toxic opioids available, second in potency only to carfentanil. Those drugs have contributed to a record number of accidental overdose deaths in Canada.
In a statement, the Winnipeg Police Service said it’s aware such drugs are being ordered from the dark web and making their way into dealers’ hands. Police are warning the public users can never be sure of the concentrations of such drugs, and they can be lethal.
"Because of the generally low cost of opioids, we are seeing a lot of independent drug dealers attempting to import and sell opioids," WPS spokeswoman Const. Tammy Skrabek said in the statement, which notes the opioids the WPS examines have ranged in potency.
"As with past drugs, when new drugs appear which are manufactured elsewhere, along with them comes the new and inventive ways of importing them into the hand of drug dealers. We know that a lot of the drugs are being purchased off of the dark web. This is a constant that our dedicated drug enforcement officers are mindful of and routinely on the lookout for," the WPS statement said.
"We also work closely with Canadian Border Services to look for and closely monitor who and what enters the country as it relates to drugs as well as how drugs are entering the country."
While he was researching an updated edition of his book in 2016, MacFarlane was able to track down phone numbers of fentanyl suppliers who offered to sell it to him by the kilogram, courier it to his door, and send additional shipments for free if the initial packages were intercepted before delivery.
He shared his experiences and made undercover calls in a Global News investigation last year.
"It’s just like you’re ordering a book over the internet," he said.
MacFarlane said he expects more law enforcement agencies in Canada will consider laying manslaughter charges against drug dealers who have been tied to an overdose victim — a practice that has already begun in some jurisdictions.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.