Victoria police and border officials have intercepted a shipment of 1.45 kilograms of fentanyl bound for Victoria from China, but there are concerns the drug bust only accounts for a small amount of the deadly opioid on B.C. streets.
The Canada Border Services Agency intercepted the large shipment of fentanyl in mid-October, Victoria Police said.
The package was destined for a Victoria address, but the investigation then led to a home in nearby Saanich, B.C., where more drugs were found — including cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and 6,052 individual doses of a heroin/fentanyl mixture.
"I can say almost to a certainty that no two amounts of fentanyl will be the same in all 6,000 doses and that is of course what makes it incredibly dangerous," said Staff Sgt. Conor King with the Victoria Police.
Officers estimate the fentanyl shipment that was intercepted was worth about $400,000 on the street. But all of the drugs involved in the bust had a combined total value of $1.2 million.
'Far too common'
Investigators believe the entire cache of drugs was destined for distribution in Greater Victoria communities.
"There was enough fentanyl in this shipment to cause 725,000 possible overdoses," said acting Victoria Police Chief Del Manak.
But it's not clear how much the large drug bust will disrupt the supply of fentanyl in the capital.
"I can say in the City of Victoria, unfortunately, this kind of operation is far too common. This group of individuals was not on our radar necessarily," said King.
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Duc Khoung Pham, 27, from Montreal faces drug trafficking charges in connection with the seizure. More charges are expected as the investigation continues, police said.
Fentanyl has caused unprecedented numbers of overdose deaths on the streets in B.C. communities and has pushed the province to declare a public health emergency.
Mike Morris, B.C.'s minister for public safety, said the Victoria bust is an example of successful inter-jurisdictional policing, as the Canada Border Services Agency was also involved in the seizure.
"I'm hoping that we will see the amount of work they are dedicating to scanning all these parcels and all these packages coming into Canada is going to reduce the amount of fentanyl that we see."
He says the federal government continues to work with Chinese authorities to block the flow of illegal drugs into Canada.
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Vancouver Island has been hit hard by the opioid crisis gripping the province. Victoria and Nanaimo have some of the highest overdose death rates by population in B.C.
Last week, Island Health issued an urgent warning to people using illicit drugs, especially in their own homes, after seven overdose deaths in the span of a week.
The health authority is also seeking to offer supervised injection services at three locations in Victoria in response to overdose deaths, but it's not clear when, or if, the sites might receive federal approval.