Most suitcases are filled with the usual suspects — toothbrushes, sunscreen and souvenirs — but sometimes border agents get a surprise.
“A couple of weeks ago, we had a seizure here at the airport, on the cargo side, of almost 209 kilos of hash that were hidden in chocolate boxes,” said Philippe Plourde, a Canada Border Services Agency superintendent at Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau International Airport.
Last Halloween, agents found two kilograms of cocaine concealed in pumpkins.
Plourde says border agents have seen travellers use many creative ways used to sneak in illegal substances.
"Anything you can think of — from a bottle of shampoo to body packing to internal carriers."
Every year, there are about 200 drug seizures at Trudeau Airport, which are carried out using various tools.
"We have an ion scan, the x-ray, we have the dog handlers that give us a huge hand in detecting some of the contraband. But still the best way is for the officer to search,” Plourde said.
In 2013, the most smuggled substances by volume were:
- Khat, a natural stimulant (more than 250,000 grams)
- Cocaine (nearly 72,000 grams)
- Methamphetamines (12,500 grams)
Some intercepted substances are legal in their country of origin, such as khat. The natural stimulant is legal in some countries in Africa and the Middle East, but not in Canada.
Some travellers also bring in parts of the plant used to make cocaine.
CBSA officials say it’s important for travellers to educate themselves on what's allowed in the country.
"Most people don't know that coca leaves are prohibited of importation into Canada," said Plourde.
While khat, cocaine and methamphetamine were the top drugs seized by volume in 2013, the drugs intercepted most frequently were controlled drugs, such as Cialis and Viagra. Agents carried out 56 seizures last year of controlled substances.
“Sometimes they'll be counterfeit. Most of the time it's for personal use. People bring them in — they don't know they need a prescription...We’ll just take the drug away. We won't arrest the people. We won't press charges," said Plourde, adding it’s important agents be thorough in their checks.
“Anything we do seize, we keep off the street. It keeps our streets safer, our kids safer.”
Here is a list of the top 10 drugs seized, by volume, at Montreal's Trudeau airport in 2013: