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This article was published 9/3/2020 (682 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — While Winnipeg was in the midst of its ongoing meth crisis in 2018, quantities of the drug were coming from an unexpected country, and through Canadians' most common mode of delivery.
According to documents obtained by the Free Press, there was an increase in "inbound seizures destined to Winnipeg addresses," of postal mail containing meth in 2018 from a year prior. "However, such shipments are likely for personal consumption," as they were under 35 grams.
And though Canadian officials have called out meth smugglers in China and Mexico, the mailed drugs came from Europe.
"The Netherlands is the top transit country by number of seizures (of meth), while Mexico is the main transit country by quantity," reads an internal Canada Border Services Agency report from mid-2018.
There were 179 postal seizures of meth in all of 2017, and 269 in the first six months of 2018, according to documents obtained through a freedom-of-information request.
"Methamphetamine quantities seized will likely rise by year-end, based on consistent supply and demand. The highest number of seizures will likely continue to arrive from the Netherlands via the postal mode," reads the mid-2018 analysis.
"The increased domestic availability of methamphetamine suggests that traffickers are smuggling the drug to Canada undetected, or that domestic production has increased."
A late-2017 report noted that European officials believed there was small-scale production of meth in the Netherlands, but not as much as other drugs.
"The average size of a meth import from the Netherlands is quite small (80g) likely indicating that it is for personal consumption," reads the report.
Brandon mother Kim Longstreet was shocked Monday to hear about the Netherlands' involvement, after following Manitoba's meth crisis for four years.
"If there’s not transparency when it comes to where the drugs are maybe coming from, then it’s very hard for us, the advocates and the service providers," said Longstreet, whose son has circled in and out of various treatment programs for more than a decade.
Longstreet said that knowledge of postal imports and source countries could have helped prevention efforts.
"We need to know these things," she said. "If you just sweep it under the carpet, it’s allowed to mushroom."
The documents also show a drop in the number and amount of meth seizures from 2016 to 2017, followed by a steep rise in the first six months of 2018.
At that time, meth and its precursor components appeared to come from China to Holland, from which small quantities of the drug were sent abroad. There was also evidence of large-scale quantities of meth crossing from the United States at three crossings in British Columbia and Alberta, most likely brought through Mexico.
A year ago, officials testified to the House health committee that ingredients for meth are entering Canada from Mexico and China, to be made into the drug, though they did not mention Holland.
MPs heard from local groups, as well as Health Canada, the RCMP and Public Safety Canada, though the committee didn’t invite the CBSA.
Longstreet said regardless, information from one agency ought to have been shared across government, and with the public.
"It’s keeping the public informed. I’m always disappointed when government doesn’t do that. And it’s hurtful because as we sit here, my son is still struggling — and he’s struggling because we’re not being honest."
"The average size of a meth import from the Netherlands is quite small (80g) likely indicating that it is for personal consumption." ‐ Canada Border Services Agency Drug Analysis Report from mid-2018
An early-2018 report shows that meth was most likely made in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver before being mailed and sent in air cargo to that country, the United States, Europe and Australia.
It’s unclear whether Holland is still a source country for meth. The CBSA said Friday that it couldn’t provide a response by Monday evening. The Dutch embassy similarly had no comment in that timeframe. Global Affairs Canada did not say whether it had raised the issue with Dutch officials.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s office said an interview wasn’t possible Monday, but wrote that Ottawa has invested in programs to treat meth use and is working with Winnipeg authorities to improve data collection.
"Our government is deeply concerned about the tragic effects that methamphetamine is having in communities across Manitoba, and we’re focused on getting individuals the help they need," wrote spokeswoman Mary-Liz Power.
In early 2018, federal authorities were concerned about the rise in drugs classified as new psychoactive substances arriving through the mail in Canada.
"The Netherlands is the top transit country by number of seizures," reads an internal report.
Winnipeg Police have declared meth a crisis, which they say has fuelled thefts and violent crime in the city since 2018. The Pallister government announced Monday it was beefing up rewards for tipsters reporting meth-related activity to Crime Stoppers.
In recent years, experts and police have said fentanyl arrives in Canada through the postal system. Until May 2017, federal laws generally prohibited the CBSA from inspecting letter-size mail items under 30 grams delivered by Canada Post, though they could inspect larger mail and private-courier envelopes.