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N.S. RCMP superintendent weighs in on East Coast drug trade


More than 1.5 tonnes of suspected cocaine was seized last month at a container examination facility in Halifax. The Nova Scotia RCMP federal criminal operations officer says while it is unusual, it doesn’t happen infrequently.

The massive haul was destined for Europe, though Supt. Jason Popik says cocaine is the typical drug of choice on the East Coast.

“In Halifax itself, there’s a proclivity for crack cocaine, which is produced from cocaine. In Nova Scotia, we see cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl, and then the club drugs like MDMA or ecstasy,” he told CTV Atlantic’s Todd Battis during an interview.

A 2020 wastewater study showed Halifax had the highest cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy use per capita when compared to Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Popik says fentanyl is also used on the East Coast, though not as much as out west.

“When we start seeing fentanyl mixed into cocaine it becomes much more dangerous to people. We are seeing more of that,” he says. “Fortunately, in Nova Scotia, we’re not seeing a tremendous amount of fentanyl like they’re seeing on the west coast. They’re seeing a lot more of it in Ontario and Quebec than we’re seeing here.”

Popik says federal police are also trying to address the globalization of the drug trade.

“(We’re) looking at trans-national organized crime from source countries into Canada, we’re working within the Five Eyes, that would be New Zealand, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, where we try to put up a surveillance apparatus to detect those large shipments so that we can interdict them and hopefully go after the organized crime group.”

Air travel is also making the movement of drugs between countries even easier.

“Five, 10 years ago, if you wanted to purchase a load of cocaine, you had to be a preferred or respected purchaser. Nowadays, we have more and more people who are being successful at that mid-level. They’re going out and they’re outsourcing their own line, they’re bringing it in themselves, and being successful at it.”

While the geography of the East Coast makes the importation of drugs easy, Popik says they are often moved to more central provinces before being shipped back.

“More and more we’re seeing professional curriers, the professional companies unbeknownst to them though,” he says. “It’s being shipped through the mail, it’s being shipped through the commercial companies, because the companies don’t know it’s being shipped, other than the trafficker is declaring to them, so it’s really ground transportation that’s bringing it back into Nova Scotia.”

Popik says organized crime groups made the switch to using transport trucks and the internet for drug distribution after ports were closed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year, we did a file with homeland security where an individual from Halifax was exporting drugs into the United States from Halifax, so it’s that nimbleness that they can work within,” he says.

While the RCMP works closely with local police departments and the Canada Border Services Agency to combat organized crime, Popik says there is currently a need for a drug strategy at the provincial level in Nova Scotia.

“(There’s) someone that’s selling a kilo to 10-to-20 kilos, then we have to continue our operations at the street level,” he says. “It’s a spectrum of effort that we need to put forward and that’s what the chiefs of police are trying to accomplish right now.”

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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