Border cuts could be letting drugs slip through: union
Number of drug seizures on the decline in the last few years in Halifax
There's a drop in the number of drug seizures coming into the country through Halifax and some are worried that means financial cuts could be letting contraband slip through.
The CBC program Power & Politics has obtained six years of records that show overall, the number of drug seizures by the CBSA is going up across the country but the number of seizures in Halifax is going down.
According to the data provided to CBC by the agency, the number of drug busts have been dropping since 2010.
In 2010 there were 39 drug busts in Halifax, compared to 31 in 2011 and 28 busts in 2012.
Border seizures data
The Canada Border Services Agency keeps a database of all illegal goods it seizes at land-border crossings, ports, airports and mail centres. The commodities include guns, child pornography and drugs.
CBC News requested the CBSA database five years ago under Access to Information but received only partial information in a PDF format. Following a complaint to the federal Information Commissioner, CBC News successfully argued the agency had an obligation to release the information in database format, although a second complaint to receive more complete records was unsuccessful.
The CBSA said that's just part of the ebb and flow of drug investigations.
But the union representing CBSA officers worries the declining numbers could be the start of a trend, thanks to federal government cuts that began last year that included the loss of two sniffing dogs and 23 officers over three years.
Allison Rodrigues, with the Customs and Immigration Union, said cuts give agents fewer resources to find contraband being smuggled into Canada.
"We keep going as best as we can but I think it's hard not to believe that these cuts will affect our work," she said.
"I hope that's not the case. I hope that we still doing the best job that we can. I know the officers haven't waned in their diligence but less resources means less chances."
The cuts to the CBSA were part of a three year plan to save money by eliminating 1,026 border services jobs across the country.
The majority of drug busts in the Halifax region do not occur at the port, they happen at Halifax’s Stanfield International Airport.
But the biggest "hauls" in terms of volume by far come through the port. Close to $200 million worth of illegal drugs have been seized in the last six years — most of that hash, heroin, and cocaine primarily coming from Pakistan, Venezuala and Chile.
"It's very difficult to measure the percentage of drugs we are interdicting," said RCMP Sgt. Keith MacKinnon.
The RCMP says most of the drugs coming through the port are destined for Montreal and beyond.
But the airport is a different situation.
"Our information and intelligence reveal that cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy are the more common drugs of abuse across Nova Scotia and that would likely lend more parallel to the airport scenario than the port scenario," said MacKinnon.
The database has at least one glaring omission from its list of busts, a seizure of 188 kilograms of ketamine at the Halifax port last fall.