WINNIPEG
- One of Canada’s top Mounties says more drug traffickers from across
Canada are setting up elaborate and sophisticated grow-ops in rural
Manitoba bankrolled by organized crime.

RCMP Assistant
Commissioner Bill Robinson says the province’s Mounties took 15,000
marijuana plants last year in just over 1,000 seizures. That’s double
from the year before.

He says much of the pot was grown in
sophisticated greenhouses in rural locations and was destined for
streets across Canada. Some of it was genetically modified to produce
“super-trees” rather than regular marijuana plants.

The
increasing number of non-residents arrested suggests a crackdown on
drugs in other provinces is driving criminals to set up shop in rural
Manitoba, Robinson said in a briefing Friday.

“We’re seeing the
end product of a lot of enforcement that’s taking place in other parts
of the country,” he said. “In Manitoba, of course, we’re a rural
province. We’ve got lots of land. We’ve got some very isolated locations
with old farmyards where people can set up.

“If you can grow 3,500 marijuana super-trees in greenhouses in a rural location versus a small basement in the north end (of Winnipeg), where are you going to go? You are going to go into a location where you are making the biggest bang for your buck.”

Drugs
are not only grown in Manitoba but they are also regularly trafficked
across the province’s east-west highways, Robinson added.

“Manitoba remains an important chokepoint for movement across Canada of drugs.”

This
drug trade is backed by organized crime which, in turn, fuels violent
home invasions, car thefts and murders, he suggested, so police are
doing what they can to attack the organized criminals behind the drug
trade, as well as growers and traffickers.

Manitoba Mounties
have undertaken several large, high-profile drug raids in the last few
years which have put a dent in operations, Robinson said. Police are
also working with young people to educate them about the dangers of
doing and dealing drugs.

“The sooner we get into the schools, the
sooner we start talking about the issue with kids, the better chance
we’re going to have of stopping this activity.”

Lori Davis knows
first-hand the dangers of the Manitoba drug trade. Her teenage son Chad
started selling drugs and, although she and her husband did everything
they could to get him to stop, he was addicted to the lifestyle and the
money, Davis said.

Chad disappeared in February 2008 when he was
22. His body was found wrapped in plastic and stuffed inside a barrel
floating in a river about 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg five months later.

“Selling
cocaine for Chad was an easy way to make big money,” she tearfully
said, an urn containing her son’s ashes sitting on a table nearby. “Life
as we knew it will never be the same…Drugs have taken away our
beloved youngest son and left us with a heartache that will never go
away.”

Federal and provincial politicians say they are doing
what they can to stop the increasingly sophisticated drug trade. Public
Safety Minister Vic Toews said many of the issues raised by Robinson
will be addressed when the government’s controversial omnibus crime bill
becomes law.

The bill, which is now before the Senate, rolls
nine separate bills into one that would see mandatory sentences for some
drug crimes, a new act to deal with violent young offenders and
restrictions on house arrest.

“We’re targeting those who traffic
in drugs so that there are mandatory minimum prison sentences for those
who feel that’s an appropriate way to make a living,” Toews said.

Manitoba
Attorney General Andrew Swan said the province is doing its part by
cracking down on gangs and organized crime. The province has passed
legislation allowing it to seize property used in crime, brought in new
measures to protect witnesses testifying in trials involving organized
crime and made it easier for Crown attorneys to prosecute gang members.

“We
all know the damage that illegal drugs can do to our communities. They
are instruments of damage, of destruction, of exploitation and death,”
Swan said.

“We’re working to get at the root of these problems.”

Mediaviewer Wire Source: DF
17:36ET 27-01-12

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