While US authorities say there is little indication that Canadian-made fentanyl is making its way into the United States in significant quantities, with a record number of Americans dying from opioid overdoses, the increase in secret fentanyl labs in Canada could potentially undermine the US’s enforcement efforts and worsen the fentanyl epidemic both at home and in Canada, The Washington Post reported.
Canadian law enforcement reports that the country’s clandestine fentanyl labs are making the product both for domestic users and for export to Australia, New Zealand, and possibly the United States.
Vancouver police commander Philip Heard, who heads up the organized crime unit in the city, said most police officials he has spoken to suspect that Canada’s fentanyl production “outstrips” domestic demand.
The rise in Canadian fentanyl labs poses a complication for US law enforcement whose focus has been on combatting fentanyl crossing the US southern border. Customs and Border Protection since 2019 has spent around $800 million to install powerful detection and scanning equipment at land crossings, almost all of it along the border with Mexico where Customs and Border Protection confiscated nearly 27,000 pounds of fentanyl in FY2023.
The growing fentanyl production in Canada could indicate that Canadian traffickers are prepared to pick up the slack if the US succeeds in squeezing Mexican suppliers.
The over 5,500-mile border between the US and Canada is only lightly patrolled and has few physical barriers to prevent clandestine crossings.
However, the emergence of Canadian fentanyl labs has not gotten much attention in Washington, where the focus of the fentanyl crisis remains on the southern border.
Synthetic opioids like fentanyl claim over 70,000 lives each year in the United States. In Canada, the number of overdose deaths is around 7,000 a year, which, by population, is proportional to the deaths in the US. So far, the US and Canada are the only nations in the world where fentanyl is such a deadly threat.
According to Customs and Border Protection statistics, during FY2023, the CBP seized only two pounds of fentanyl on the northern border.
DHS Investigations agent Robert Hammer told the Washington Post that the agency is not seeing a “southbound flow of fentanyl” from Canada into the United States. And while he said it currently isn’t happening, Hammer conceded that this might change in the future.