U.S. Views Canada as Ally in Drug War!

U.S. Views Canada as Ally in Drug War!
Posted by FoM on August 16, 1999 at 05:06:17 PT
By Adrienne Tanner
Source: National Post
Foreign Affairs officials are denying news reports that say the United States is considering adding Canada's name to a "blacklist" of major drug trafficking and producing countries. 
The idea of placing Canada on the list in order to shame it into taking a more active role in combatting the drug trade was floated earlier this summer, said Valerie Noftle, a Canadian foreign affairs spokeswoman. "It was dismissed out of hand and that's where it now sits," Ms. Noftle said. Gordon Giffin, U.S. ambassador to Canada, criticized an article in The Globe and Mail on Saturday, which said Canada might soon be added to the list of 28 countries deemed to be soft on drugs. "I don't know where that article came from," he said in an interview yesterday. "Canada has never been on that list and I have no reason to believe that it will be on the list in the future. We have a strong collaborative law enforcement effort in Canada and the United States, which recognizes that we have a joint problem to deal with in terms of drug trafficking. Our law enforcement agencies work quite closely together every day." Mr. Giffin telephoned Lloyd Axworthy, the Foreign Affairs Minister, to deliver that message and to reassure him that Canada was not about to be blacklisted. "At my level, I have no reason to believe that story's true, and I think I would have more reason to know that than whoever the person was that reporter was talking to," the ambassador said. Ms. Noftle said middle managers in the United States State Department suggested this spring that Canada's soft stance on drugs warranted it being added to the list, along with countries like Cambodia, Columbia, Pakistan and Thailand. "It was handled at senior levels, both in our embassy in Washington and in the department in Ottawa and it was, as far as we were concerned, settled in early June." The idea was dropped with no conditions attached. There was no mention whatsoever of Canada in a February memorandum signed by Bill Clinton, the United States president. The memorandum broke down the list of drug dealing and producing countries into those that do and don't co-operate with the 1988 United Nations convention against illicit drug trafficking. Of the 28 identified drug-infested countries, only Afghanistan and Burma were deemed unco-operative and unworthy of presidential certification as anti-narcotic crime fighters. Ms. Noftle said that Mr. Axworthy and David Kilgour, Canada's secretary of state, have both been very active in focusing international attention on the drug trafficking problems. "Canada has taken a lead in establishing a dialogue on drugs involving all 34 countries of the Western Hemisphere at the foreign minister's level." Indeed, a yearly drug war update published by the U.S. Department of State in February of 1999 praises Canada's efforts. "The Government of Canada actively participates in international anti-narcotics fora and continues to discourage the abuse of narcotics," Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs report states. It goes on: "Canadian law enforcement officials co-operate closely with their U.S. counterparts on narcotics investigations and interdiction efforts." And while past reports criticized Canada for its lax money-laundering laws, this year's update praises proposed legislation that will help to discourage organized crime operations. In May, the government introduced a bill requiring banks, lawyers and other institutions handling large sums of money to report suspicious transactions. Once passed, all financial institutions will be required to report transactions of $10,000 or more in which small denominations are changed to larger ones. The bill, which will likely become law this fall, will also contain measures to control the flow of large amounts of cash across the border. There are, however, hints that the United States is unhappy with some aspects of Canada's law enforcement performance. The state department report singles out two major problem areas, Canada's booming marijuana crop and weakly monitored ports, which allow Southeast Asian heroin to enter North America, predominantly by sea containers. Major ports of entry include Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax. Marijuana is grown throughout the country, especially in Quebec and B.C., the report states. "According to Canadian intelligence, marijuana cultivation in British Columbia is a sophisticated $1-billion-a-year growth industry, with about 60% of the harvest being smuggled into the U.S." The report also notes that B.C. marijuana is of such high strength and quality that it is sometimes traded pound-for-pound with cocaine from the United States.Pubdate: August 16, 1999Copyright © Southam Inc.Official Says Canada Not On Drug Blacklist - 8/15/99
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on August 16, 1999 at 11:41:42 PT:
Low Funding Caused U.S. Drug Action, B.C. Says
The Globe and Mail Andrew Mitrovica With a report from:Jeff Sallot in OttawaMonday, August 16, 1999Blacklist Considered, Ruled Out For NowToronto -- B.C. Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh says lack of federal funding to combat drug trafficking on Canada's West coast is to blame for a U.S. decision to consider placing Canada on its annual drug blacklist.Meanwhile, a veteran RCMP drug agent said yesterday that Canada deserves to join the likes of Colombia, Panama and Mexico on the U.S. "Majors" list of countries considered too soft on the war on illicit drugs."It's embarrassing and unfortunate that we have to get this wake-up call from the U.S. that we have a serious problem but yes, we definitely deserve to be on the list," Constable Scott Rintoul, a 19-year veteran of the RCMP, said in an interview from Vancouver.Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Valerie Noftle confirmed yesterday that the U.S. State Department took the unprecedented step of considering placing Canada on the narcotics blacklist, which now includes 28 countries, but said Washington has ruled that possibility out for now."They were considering putting us on the list. The idea was to consider putting Canada on the Majors list."She said that the United States should stop finger-pointing. She added that it should start working more closely with Canada through international bodies to fight the global war on drugs. "The drug problem is best dealt with in an international capacity, not unilaterally. It's best to tackle this issue together and not by pointing the finger at one another."Washington's move didn't surprise B.C.'s chief law officer. "British Columbia is a conduit now for heroin and cocaine from other parts of the world into the United States and other parts of Canada," Mr. Dosanjh said in an interview yesterday.Mr. Dosanjh blamed Ottawa for abandoning a commitment to provide more money to combat organized crime and for failing to put into place a comprehensive strategy to combat the drug trade. "The federal government did indicate two years ago that they were going to pour some money into [fighting] organized crime and the fact is that that money hasn't come."Apart from posting some additional police officers at Vancouver airport, he said, Ottawa hasn't "done very much" to assist B.C. in trying to curb the mushrooming drug-trafficking problem.Recently, the RCMP reported that more marijuana is grown in B.C. than parsley. The RCMP says 800 tonnes of marijuana was grown domestically last year.Constable Rintoul, who is the media relations officer for B.C.'s drug enforcement program, said organized crime groups now view Canada as the route of choice into the United States for heroin, cocaine and marijuana. He conceded that British Columbia has become a haven for drug traffickers doing business in B.C.'s $3-billion-a-year marijuana industry. "Organized crime groups laugh at us in Canada. We are an easy mark."An easy mark, he said, because of Canada's porous border with the United States and weak sentences for those convicted of drug offences. "We've known for several years that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI have been quite concerned about the flow of drugs from Canada into the United States."After reading a report in Saturday's Globe and Mail about the U.S. blacklist, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy told the paper he was "shocked," especially considering the close co-operation between the two countries.Ms. Noftle said diplomats first learned Canada could be placed on the drug blacklist in the spring, and that senior Canadian diplomats in Washington and Ottawa were quickly enlisted to resolve the matter."We were informed that the matter had been settled in early June and our embassy in Washington was given that assurance that's where it sits now," she said.A source has told The Globe that Washington's considerations prompted Foreign Affairs to prepare a briefing note for the cabinet in early June. However, it is unclear if the matter was raised at a Liberal cabinet meeting.Ms. Noftle dismissed American suggestions that Canada has not done enough to combat the war on illicit drugs. In May, U.S. officials fired off a litany of complaints over Canada's handling of the illicit drug trade from light sentences for drug offences to cutbacks in anti-drug RCMP forces. "We have been very involved in the war on drugs," she said. "In terms of Canada and the Western Hemisphere, we have taken the lead in establishing dialogue on drugs."For his part, U.S. ambassador Gordon Giffin says he, too, was surprised to read that the State Department had been considering placing Canada on the Majors list."I frankly don't have any earthly view of what the basis of the article was. I was quite surprised to see it," Mr. Giffin said in an interview. "Canada has never been on the list, and I have no reason to believe Canada will be on the list."On the contrary, Canada and the United States work closely together to deal with the international drug trade, he said.Mr. Axworthy said some low-level bureaucrats in the federal department of the Solicitor-General had picked up some casual speculation from U.S. counterparts earlier this year about Canada being targeted for the blacklist. Officials in his department checked it out at the official level and were told "there's nothing to it."Mr. Axworthy said the suggestion by anonymous U.S. sources that Canada might be blacklisted could be a reaction among low-level U.S. bureaucrats to Canada's opposition to the U.S. policy of publishing a list of countries believed to be a drug problem. "It [the list] has caused some serious reaction by a lot of states in the Americas and that's why we are taking a more co-operating, collegial approach."Mr. Axworthy said Canada is trying to promote a co-ordinated approach to enforcement among all the countries in the Western Hemisphere through the Organization of American States. A co-ordinated plan could be ready for signing next year when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien is host of a summit of the Americas, he said.
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