One of Canada's largest-ever cocaine seizures has raised concerns over the role the province of New Brunswick may play in the global drug trade.
On March 3, following roughly a year of dutiful tracking, Canadian law enforcement revealed that in January, more than 1.5 tons of cocaine was seized in a shipping container at the Port of Saint John in the eastern province of New Brunswick.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced that one man was charged on March 3 with importation and possession of a controlled substance.
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Valued at nearly $200 million, the January seizure represented the largest in three decades along Canada's Atlantic Coast, according to local news.
While authorities have not yet named the country of origin, the CBSA maintained that the container contained heavy machinery exported out of Central America.
While the Port of Saint John has seen a smattering of cocaine low-quantity seizures over the years, January's discovery is in a class of its own, pointing to a possible rise in Canada's importance as an importer of cocaine.
The port had never recorded a seizure greater than 300 kilograms, and the CBSA typically only just reaches one ton in cocaine product seizures in Canada as a whole.
Greater interest from traffickers could raise those numbers in the country as well as the New Brunswick Port.
Saint John is a key node for the country's maritime trade, being the largest of its kind on Canada's eastern seaboard.
Bordering the US state of Maine to the south and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north, New Brunswick acts as a nifty bridge for traffickers between large ports in New England and valuable urban drug markets like Montreal, Quebec, Toronto and Ottawa.
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InSight Crime spoke with Bob Van den Berghe, the regional coordinator of the UN’s Container Control Program (CCP), about efforts on behalf of Canadian law enforcement to maintain tight port security as a destination country for cocaine.
"Canada is a very important donor to our program so we work very closely together with the Canadian authorities." While the CCP focuses most of its efforts in the "source countries", it maintains contact with partners in the EU and North America. "We immediately report seizures to these destination countries such as Canada."
With total port seizures rising to 171 tons of cocaine in the last year and 30 tons just in the first two months of 2022, the CCPs work remains vital in stemming the flow to such destination countries. Canada however, may soon be seeing these shipments making their way into the nation's ports with greater frequency.
Mexican traffickers, in particular the Sinaloa Cartel, have worked to establish a more robust presence in the country.