Stopping 220,000 hits of methamphetamine from hitting the streets of Winnipeg was cause for celebration Tuesday at the RCMP's Manitoba headquarters.
"I think we actually saved some lives here," assistant commissioner Jane MacLatchy, commanding officer of the Manitoba RCMP, said at a news conference on "Project Declass," a 16-month probe that led to the largest seizure of methamphetamine in Manitoba history.
"It's an enormous amount of product," MacLatchy said of the 22 kilograms of meth, along with 43 kg of cocaine (worth an estimated $6.5 million on the street). "The impact of these drugs is immense — it's tearing families apart and destroying communities... Suddenly, the supply chain has been disrupted.
"In the short term, what you're going to see is a very large impact on local drug availability," she said, acknowledging that void will eventually be filled by another drug dealer.
Project Declass was launched in August 2018, after two Winnipeg residents were arrested trying to import 40 kg of cocaine into Manitoba. The probe spanning five provinces and involving Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration targeted what RCMP Supt. Lisa Moreland called an "organized crime foodchain."
"We learned the current drug supply and distribution picture is not solely controlled by one crime group," but an "integrated network" of criminals belonging to different groups "working together in a resourceful fashion," Moreland said.
On Dec. 4 at 6 a.m., the Mounties executed search warrants in Winnipeg, St. Laurent and Calgary.
There have been 11 arrests and 66 charges announced, including a full-patch member of the Southland chapter of the Hells Angels.
A 2018 Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a Hells Angels Southland sticker on the front fender was on display at Tuesday's news conference, next to a table covered with bags of drugs and a Hells Angels vest and ballcap. MacLatchy linked the motorcycle gang to the scourge of meth in Manitoba.
"Despite what they want you to believe, outlaw gangs are criminal organizations that cause victimization and harm with the trafficking and importation of illicit drugs... that ruin lives and kill Canadians every day," she said. They also are involved in fraud, money laundering and the sex trade, MacLatchy said.
"We need every Manitoban to arm themselves with knowledge about these criminal organizations to keep ourselves and our youth away from outlaw motorcycle gangs to ensure safer communities," she said at the event also attended by Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen and Winnipeg deputy mayor Coun. Markus Chambers.
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Cullen thanked the RCMP and its partner agencies on behalf of the provincial government for protecting Manitobans.
"Seizing this volume of illicit drugs will have a net positive impact for families in Manitoba," said Cullen. The seizure affected the flow of drugs into the province and showed there are "consequences for criminal activity," he said.
"The money and goods recovered can be used as proceeds of crime to put back into front-line police operations so we can reinvest that money into fighting the bad guys."
Chambers added the impounded meth could have been broken down into some 220,000 doses, meaning there will potentially be 220,000 fewer discarded syringes posing a health hazard.
"Our community is safer as a result of not having those needles on the ground," he said.
Carol Sanders Reporter
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.