Lib­er­als re­ject let­ting police search do­mes­tic mail

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - NATIONAL NEWS - TOM BLACKWELL

Be­hind closed doors, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials saw it as an ef­fec­tive way to curb the flow of dan­ger­ous opi­oids and thwart other crime, sug­gest­ing there was a “press­ing ” need to act, but the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has de­cided not to let police open and search Cana­di­ans’ do­mes­tic mail.

A 2016 Pub­lic Safety Canada re­port ob­tained by the Na­tional Post in­di­cates that sev­eral agen­cies — in­clud­ing the RCMP and the Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency (CBSA) — agreed on the ben­e­fits of chang­ing the cur­rent law that bars police from ac­cess­ing mail mov­ing be­tween do­mes­tic ad­dresses.

Such a change could not only slow the spread of Fen­tanyl and other opi­oids, but plug a le­gal gap ex­ploited by or­ga­nized crime — and help stop cannabis get­ting into the hands of chil­dren once the drug is le­gal­ized, the doc­u­ment sug­gested.

Scott Bard­s­ley, a spokesman for Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale, ac­knowl­edged that a va­ri­ety of pol­icy op­tions were con­sid­ered as ways to com­bat the opi­oid epi­demic.

But the gov­ern­ment de­cided not to change the Canada Post Cor­po­ra­tion Act to al­low police with search war­rants to open the do­mes­tic mail, he said, and “no fur­ther changes are pro­posed at this time.”

Bard­s­ley said he couldn’t reveal why the de­ci­sion was made be­cause he’s un­able to dis­cuss cabi­net con­fi­dences.

He stressed, though, that “ro­bust” changes were made to the rules around in­ter­cept­ing mail com­ing into Canada from other coun­tries. Un­der Bill C-37, police can now search in­ter­na­tional mail weigh­ing 30 grams or less — enough to con­tain 15,000 fa­tal doses of Fen­tanyl — and are better able to in­ter­cept pill-mak­ing equip­ment.

But the Chiefs of Police As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada has long lob­bied against the law that pre­vents of­fi­cers from search­ing mail in tran­sit within the lo­cal Canada Post sys­tem. It cites a 2012 RCMP re­port that guns, grenades, a rocket launcher, stun guns, dan­ger­ous chem­i­cals and var­i­ous drugs have been shipped by mail.

The Pub­lic Safety doc­u­ment, re­leased through ac­cess-to-in­for­ma­tion leg­is­la­tion, sug­gests the change was be­ing ac­tively pur­sued by the gov­ern­ment, too.

The re­port de­tails a “four-cor­ners” meet­ing — typ­i­cally be­tween of­fi­cials of the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice, the privy coun­cil of­fice and a line de­part­ment, in this case Pub­lic Safety.

The topic was how to ad­dress the opi­oid cri­sis, but much of the five-page doc­u­ment dealt with the mail is­sue.

The re­port in­di­cates there had been sev­eral con­fer­ence calls on the topic in­volv­ing direc­tor gen­eral-level bu­reau­crats in Pub­lic Safety, the CBSA, the RCMP, Pub­lic Ser­vices and Pro­cure­ment Canada and the privy-coun­cil of­fice.

The is­sue ex­tends be­yond il­licit opi­oid ship­ments get­ting into the do­mes­tic mail, the re­port said.

“Or­ga­nized crime groups are and will con­tinue to ex­ploit the leg­isla­tive gaps in the do­mes­tic mail sys­tem.”

The doc­u­ment also notes that the im­mi­nent le­gal­iza­tion of recre­ational mar­i­juana added an­other rea­son to amend the law.

“These changes would sup­port ef­forts to re­strict ac­cess to chil­dren and youth, and oth­ers not legally per­mit­ted to pos­sess and con­sume the drug by send­ing cannabis through the mail,” it said. “There is also a press­ing time frame to re­solve this is­sue.”

If police ob­tain a tip about mail con­tain­ing con­tra­band now, they can only try to seize it at the re­ceiv­ing ad­dress.

The police chiefs’ group has passed res­o­lu­tions on the is­sue for each of the last few years, and wrote to Jus­tice Min­is­ter Judy Wil­son-Ray­bould in Oc­to­ber about it, said Tim Smith, a spokesman for the as­so­ci­a­tion.

A spokesman for the Cana­dian Civil Lib­er­ties As­so­ci­a­tion was not avail­able to com­ment, but the group has said in the past it would not have ma­jor qualms with the change, so long as police were re­quired to get a judge’s ap­proval be­fore open­ing mail.

POST­MEDIA NET­WORK FILES

A Canada Post truck drives through the streets of Toronto in 2013.

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