Troops lured by drug trade, report warns
Military cites 'high probability' some Canadians will become drug traffickers while in Afghanistan
Jan 02, 2009 04:30 AM
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Ottawa bureau chief
OTTAWA–There's a "high probability" some Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan – one of the world's biggest sources of illegal drugs – will get involved in the drug trade, a military police report warns.
"Access to illicit drugs in Afghanistan is routine," reads the report obtained by the Star.
"Easy access to heroin, hashish, cannabis presents a temptation for (Canadian) troops in the form of personal use and in the form of importation for the purpose of trafficking," it reads.
It notes that using and trafficking drugs are illegal and "contrary to the ethos" of the Canadian Forces, but concedes some of the 2,500 troops serving in the war-torn nation might not be able to resist.
The findings are outlined in a series of military police documents obtained by the Star under Access to Information legislation. The documents, requested in November 2007, were released last month.
One report cites a July 2007 search by military police officers, aided by a drug sniffer dog, of a Canadian convoy returning from Spin Boldak, on the Pakistan border.
The report says the dog "indicated" on one of the armoured vehicles as well as a heavy logistics vehicle that had been loaded on a flatbed trailer. "The results of the search do not provide sufficient evidence to substantiate any charges. However, the results are indicative that (Canadian) personnel may be involved in the use and traffic of illicit substances," the report said.
"Based on a variety of indicators (pre-deployment urinalysis, easy access to illicit drugs and investigations of illicit drug use), there is high probability that some (Forces) personnel will involve themselves in the drug trade," it notes.
However, the report also notes that several random investigations of Canadian Forces personnel and their baggage at the Kandahar base using a drug sniffer dog in July 2007 found no illicit drugs.
Still, a separate report notes that Canadian Forces personnel at home and abroad are not immune to the risk of illegal drugs, warning that the drug of choice is marijuana, followed by cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine.
In 2006, the military police conducted 198 drug investigations – 28 for trafficking and 170 for possession – a "significant spike" for the year.
"Illicit drug use and trafficking is present at most, if not all, (Canadian Forces) establishments across Canada and abroad," the 2006 national criminal intelligence assessment reads.
"While most (Canadian Forces) members involved in illicit drug activity are trafficking drugs to support their habits, there is a small percentage that are associating themselves closer with organized criminal groups involved in the distribution of drugs," it says.
A military spokesperson said since the Canadian Forces is a "microcosm" of the larger population, "it is reasonable to expect that a small percentage of CF members will, at one time or another, use illegal drugs."
In an email, Melanie Villeneuve said that every military member is tested for illegal drug use prior to deployment and if the person fails the test, that person will remain in Canada. And she said that military police officers deployed in Afghanistan conduct random searches of personnel, baggage and vehicles.
"Military police take all allegations of criminal activity and drug offences by (Canadian Forces) personnel seriously and investigate to determine the facts, analyze the evidence and, if warranted, lay appropriate charges," she said.
A separate military police report also gives a window into crime trends among Canadian troops in Afghanistan. The report, covering February to August 2007, notes the most prevalent complaints are property losses (34), motor vehicle accidents or damage (24) and rules-of-engagement probes (11); 13 investigations including heroin importation; and there were two cases of "negligent" weapons discharges.
Other incidents during that period include:
17 thefts, most involving clothing and personal electronics, although one motorcycle was stolen.
Five lost weapons. Three were lost during operations, including two that fell off armoured vehicles.
10 security breaches, including the loss of a memory stick containing secret information. A separate memory stick containing secret documents – and nude pictures – was found plugged into an unclassified computer. And the report says that images of night operations were posted on YouTube for public viewing for five months.
Two incidents where defence department personnel operated a vehicle after consuming alcohol.