News Canada

Traffickers choosing domestic cargo flights


TORONTO -- Canadian drug rings are using overnight courier services to fly dope and other contraband hassle-free because of a lack of checks, say some Pearson International Airport officers.

Domestic air delivery, which often comes with a 24-hour-or-it's-free guarantee, has become as popular as the commercial trucks used by traffickers to distribute "B.C. Bud" marijuana and other drugs because of lax screening, say border officers.

They cautioned a lack of screening for contraband in the domestic courier service can pose a threat to national security. More emphasis is paid to intercepting banned items arriving in packages from abroad, the officers said.

"Courier packages being sent inside Canada are rarely looked at," one veteran said. "Once in a while a drug dog is brought in but that's rare."

Inspectors of the Canada Border Services (CBSA) and Canada Food Inspection Agencies said by the time they get to packages that require examination, the items have been delivered and must be tracked down.

"There are goods coming and going from here 24 hours," another officer said. "Inter-Canada goods are a low priority for checks."

Officers said they are under pressure from courier giants to expedite parcels since goods must be delivered by strict deadlines or the service provided by some firms is free.

Most of the major courier companies operate from buildings at Pearson, with the largest being FedEx and UPS.

Workers take millions of packages, boxes and crates from courier company jets and send them to massive airport depots where they are cleared for delivery.

The RCMP said it is not their responsibility to examine goods being moved by couriers.

CBSA spokesperson Antonella DiGirolamo said her officers travel to courier warehouses on a daily basis to conduct examinations.

"Based on their experience and training ... CBSA officers risk-assess goods entering Canada to determine shipments that require extra scrutiny," DiGirolamo said by e-mail.

She said the agency receives information about shipments prior to arrival and uses an electronic tracking system to risk-assess and select goods for more in-depth examination.