Tuesday, May 31, 2016

John Robson: China’s government is not Canada’s friend

John Robson: China’s government IS NOT Canada’s friend

More from John Robson

Much of China's snooping is aimed at gaining industrial or technological advantage
KevImages)Much of China's snooping is aimed at gaining industrial or technological advantage
The Chinese government is not Canada’s friend. It is a hostile, aggressive ill-mannered power and should be treated as such, as politely as possible but as firmly as necessary.
A recent report indicated that Ottawa would reject permanent resident applications from a number of employees of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, apparently due to fear they would operate as spies for Beijing. It is impossible to judge the report without additional knowledge of the details, which are not available: Immigration Minister John McCallum professed himself unaware of the matter ; Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale refused to comment on operational questions of national security. But there is no question that China engages in espionage on a massive scale in Canada and elsewhere.
Chinese cyber-espionage is infamous, massive and state-sponsored, including the “61398” military outfit indicted in the U.S. last year. While some Chinese activities are aimed at stealing military secrets or finding infrastructure vulnerabilities to exploit in time of conflict, much of it is used to prop up a faltering, centrally planned system incapable of innovation. And it’s not just cyber-espionage.
The regime sends students and workers abroad to target specific industries, technologies and products and rip them off. And while Huawei is nominally employee-owned, in China everything belongs to the state and is bent to its purposes.
If the report is accurate, it’s commendable that Ottawa seems willing to act in this matter, because we have all become so used to belligerent dishonesty from Beijing that we often treat it as normal. Indeed, the conventional wisdom is that the West must learn to kowtow to the rising power in the East. That is definitely what the Chinese politburo and increasingly assertive Xi Jinping — China’s president and maximum leader — are trying to make us do.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean KilpatrickThe Naive  Justin Trudeau meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey on Nov. 16, 2015.
This is a matter where Foreign Minister Stephane Dion’s policy of “responsible conviction” must place its emphasis on “conviction.” China’s belligerent disregard of international law extends into environmental matters of profound concern to Canadians, from illegal overfishing that is devastating ocean ecosystems off Africa to illegal trade in ivory, rhino horns and other products from endangered species.
The Chinese government maintains sufficient distance from most of this nefarious conduct to claim to be uninvolved and unaware. But it’s a flimsy pretence. And indeed, the point is not to deceive but to humiliate —to make us complicit in the deception, to mouth lies knowing they are lies, to play along with the dishonesty.
Sometimes the veil is forced aside, as with Beijing’s clumsily aggressive efforts to claim much of the South China Sea for itself by sending its expanding navy as well as fishing boats into contested waters and daring anyone to object, even when military or “civilian” vessels intentionally come into excessively close contact with Western military ships and planes.
Well, we should object. Why should Russia or Syria be sanctioned, and China be appeased, feted and even, as the Ontario government did with Huawei, given subsidies to extend its tentacles further into our economy?
We know it. And they know we know it. So if we pretend otherwise, to “facilitate business” or “to get along,” that is, from greed or fear, they have induced us to become complicit in our own defeat and degradation. It won’t make us rich, it won’t make us safe, and it’s disgraceful.
The federal government should stick to its stand on spies, and take a firmer position on much else besides with this aggressive, duplicitous regime.
National Post

China’s State-Sponsored Cyber Attacks Must Stop

China’s State-Sponsored Cyber Attacks Must Stop

Washington’s politicians must take cybersecurity as seriously as experts and U.S. business do.
For all the talk about terrorism on the campaign trail, cyber security issues in one form or another are likely to be prominent in the 2016 presidential election.
State-sponsored cyber espionage inflicts significant damage on the American economy. And just which nation is most actively engaged against the United States?
According to the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, America’s largest trading partner – China – accounts for as much as 70% of the losses the United States incurs.
What American citizens should find most disturbing about China’s role in what amounts to a global IP theft ring is the outsized role its government plays.
watershed report by Mandiant reveals a military force of more than 100,000 cyber spies under the firm control of the People’s Liberation Army and under the clear direction of the Chinese Communist Party.
This state-sponsored cyber theft bureaucracy exists despite repeated denials by top government officials that China is even involved in such activities.

Stealing blueprints of American businesses

While the military may run China’s cyber espionage programs, the People’s Liberation Army nonetheless works hand-in-glove with civilian bureaucrats in charge of advancing China’s industrial policy goals.
On any given day, China’s military and civilian hackers seek to steal the obligatory blueprints and proprietary manufacturing processes of American businesses large and small.
China’s cyber spies will also vacuum up everything from emails, contact lists, and test results to pricing information and partnership agreements.
Sometimes such acts of IP theft can destroy most or all of the value of individual companies. A case in point noted by the IP Commission is American Superconductor: When it “had its wind-energy software code stolen by a major customer in China, it lost not only that customer, but also 90% of its stock value.”

The military front

Of course, it’s not just the American economy under relentless cyber attack. On the military front, defense agencies like the Pentagon and National Nuclear Security Administration (which is in charge of America’s nuclear weapons stockpile) each report up to 10 million probes a day. 10 million a day!
Here again, China is at the epicenter of the attacks. As documented in Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World,” the People’s Liberation Army has stolen the designs for virtually every major US weapons system.
This list includes the F-22 and F-35 fifth-generation fighters America relies on to establish air dominance in theater; critical missile defense systems like the Navy’s Aegis and the Army’s THAAD; vital combat aircraft like the F/A-18 fighter, the V-22 Osprey, and Black Hawk helicopter; and virtually the entire family of American drones.
Many U.S. weapons systems have also been severely compromised by what the U.S. Armed Services Committee has described as a “flood” of counterfeit parts. Here, again – and like a very broken record and relationship – the main culprit is China.
In tracking “over 100 cases of suspect counterfeit parts back through the supply chain,” this Committee found China responsible for over 70% of the problem.
Still a third major form of cyber threat now being refined by China, along with other nations like Russia, Iran, and North Korea, involves attacking the “industrial control systems” of critical infrastructure such as electricity grids, water purification plants, air traffic control, subways, and telecommunications.
The twin goals here are to paralyze the American economy by crippling our infrastructure and to sow chaos among our population – and thereby weaken our will to fight.

Cybersecurity: Clinton vs.Trump

So how do Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – the presumed Democratic and Republican presidential nominees – stack up on this critical issue? Of the two, Clinton gets the lower marks to date.
As Secretary of State, she did virtually nothing to advance a strong US policy on state-sponsored cyber attacks.
There is also her embarrassingly na├»ve approach to her own cyber security – she routinely used a private email server vulnerable to hacking and sent dozens of emails during various trips to two of the biggest state-sponsored hackers in the world, China and Russia.
As for Trump, he has vowed to adopt a zero tolerance policy for Chinese hackers in particular: Says Trump: “If China wants to trade with America, they must agree to stop stealing and to play by the rules.”
Given Trump’s rhetorical track record, his zero tolerance enforcement actions might include stiff trade sanctions for hacker countries, the banning of any foreign enterprise that engages in any form of espionage (cyber or otherwise), and the abrogation of any trade deal that fails to provide for adequate IP protection.

More power to FBI

Other Oval Office options include “deputizing” cabinet secretaries – from Treasury and State to Commerce, Labor and beyond – to use all means at their disposal to identify and punish cyber intruders and giving both, the FBI specifically and the Justice Department in general, free rein to prosecute cyber crimes to the fullest extent of the law.
Regardless of who wins in November, it’s long past time that politicians inside the Beltway take this issue as seriously as the American public, American businesses, and American universities. Let the 2016 general election debate begin!

China set for court ruling as US sends confusing signals on South China Sea takeover: Gertz

China set for court ruling as US sends 

confusing signals on South China Sea 

takeover: Gertz

China’s takeover of the South China Sea is nearly complete and Beijing is now stepping up its sophisticated information warfare campaign in preparation for an expected unfavorable ruling from an international tribunal affecting its island claims.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is expected to rule within the next few weeks on an appeal from the Philippines challenging the legality of China’s claim to maritime sovereignty over most of the South China Sea under its ill-defined “Nine-Dash Line” over 90% of the sea.
The Philippines, in early 2013, brought its case to the court, asserting that the Chinese maritime zone is illegal because it violates the 2006 UN Convention on the Law of Sea that sets out exclusive economic zones and territorial waters.
China’s response was to refuse to take part, based on asserting Beijing’s questionable historical claims over the sea stretching back to the Ming dynasty that ended in 1624.
An indicator of the Chinese reaction to the court was on display in The Hague on Saturday. China’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Wu Ken, used the official Xinhua news agency to denounce the pending decision – even before it was announced.
“China will not accept an invalid arbitral award. Abuses of international law and a hegemonic mentality have no place in any [South China Sea] dispute,” Wu said. “Such an arbitration should not be recognized or supported in any manner.”
Wu went further and accused the United States of influencing the court to rule in Manila’s favor.
The Chinese propaganda themes on the sea dispute include the false narratives that all the islands are and were Chinese territory; that the court is an abuse of the legal process; and that the court lacks jurisdiction because China refused to take part in the arbitration.
The Hague
The Hague
The ‘Three Warfares’
The legal abuse claim is especially noteworthy since it has been a tool in China’s information warfare repertoire for decades. China has used legal warfare to achieve strategic objectives, along with psychological warfare and media warfare – dubbed China’s soft power “Three Warfares.”
The strategic goal of China in the South China Sea are to solidify control over the waters without firing a shot, in much the same way as Russia was able to do with its military annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in March 2014. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) refers to this as the use of “military soft power.”
“Military soft power is not only a major factor in ‘fighting and defeating the enemy,’ but even more so it is a factor in ‘defeating the enemy without fighting,’” states the 2010 PLA book “Research on Military Soft Power.”
Since China began in earnest to build up disputed islands and reefs in the strategic waterway several years ago, Beijing also has carried out an international propaganda and influence campaign designed to sway world public opinion that its actions are not aggressive or destabilizing.
Nations within the region, a strategic bridge between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and a major trading route, have turned to the United States for support in the sea dispute.
Little US push back
President Obama and his administration for the most part have done little to push back – both from a counter- information warfare standpoint as well as through shows of military support – against China’s gradual hegemony.
Obama in Hanoi
Obama in Hanoi
The administration at first seemed to ignore the Chinese buildup that is focused on a triangle of strategic bases starting in the Paracels, in the northern part of the sea where China’s claims clash with those of Vietnam, and two sets of islands in the southern Spratlys, located close to US defense treaty ally Philippines and claimed by Manila.
In recent months, after the PLA gradually began adding missiles and warplanes on some of the new islands, the US government response has suffered from a series of confusing and mixed signals sent to the Chinese.
American naval freedom of navigation operations have been relatively few – three since October – and surveillance flights have been sporadic as well, often resulting in unsafe Chinese aerial intercepts that resulted in no public protests, and little comment from the Pentagon.
American strategic messaging has been more problematic, hampered by apparent White House fears of offending or upsetting China and disrupting US-China trade and business ties.
The furthest any senior US official has gone in criticizing China are Defense Secretary Ash Carter comments in recent weeks that the United States is fine with China’s modernization but not its bad behavior in the South China Sea, behavior he and other senior officials have failed to clearly spell out.
Also indicative of the mixed signals were the recent comments by President Barack Obama in Hanoi when he failed to even mention China in telling an audience that big nations should not bully smaller ones. He later undercut his own remarks by asserting that closer US-Vietnam ties were not aimed at China.
Meanwhile, China’s state-run media has gone into full anti-American mode in recent days accusing America of building closer ties with Vietnam as part of a Cold War-style effort to “contain” China’s rise — as the White House and State Department seem to back even further down from criticizing China, claiming falsely that the US military pivot to Asia and bolstering alliances across the region had nothing to do with Chinese aggression and coercion.
Asked Tuesday about China warning that United States not to trigger a regional war, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters, “first of all, this is not about China. Nothing that we did here or are doing here is focused on China.”
Kerry then claimed the Obama administration consistently urged China to respect the rule of law and engage diplomatically without taking unilateral steps, something China appears to be ignoring.
Will China step up actions?
Philippine frigates with US destroyer in joint exercise
Philippine frigates with US destroyer in joint South China Sea exercise
Commenting on China’s state-run media asserting that the South China Sea dispute could escalate into a conflict, Kerry cautioned China not to “unilaterally move to engage in reclamation activities and militarization of islands and areas that are part of the claims that are in contest today.”
But in the next sentence the secretary asserted that the United States has no position on the Chinese hegemony. “China should note that. We’re not saying China is wrong in its claims; we’re simply saying, resolve it peacefully, resolve it through a rules-based structure,” he said.
With no clear indication from senior US leaders that China is wrong in its South China Sea claims, the message to Beijing is loud and clear: China has no worry from a weak US administration in taking over the sea.
In fact the perceived weakness could spur China to step up its South China Sea activities in anticipation that its free ride will end with the inauguration of a new US president in January.
Bill Gertz is a journalist and author who has spent decades covering defense and national security affairs. He is the author of six national security books. Contact him on Twitter at @BillGertz

Michael Smyth: How did notorious tycoon so easily end up getting red-carpet treatment?

Michael Smyth: How did notorious tycoon so easily end up getting red-carpet treatment?

Michael Smyth: How did notorious tycoon so easily end up getting red-carpet treatment?

A B.C. government photo shows B.C. Minister of International Trade Teresa Wat, left, and Premier Christy Clark meeting with an Asian trade delegation this month.

Canada’s immigration system failed to uphold the law when it allowed a notorious tycoon linked to drugs and dictators into the country to be wined and dined by our politicians.

That’s what the federal government is admitting now after last week’s column on Steven Law, a controversial Burmese businessman officially blacklisted by the United States but welcomed warmly to Canada this month.
Law was part of an Asian trade delegation hosted by Abbotsford MP Ed Fast, the federal minister of international trade. The trade mission travelled to Toronto and Vancouver, where delegates met with Premier Christy Clark and B.C. cabinet minister Teresa Wat.
Law is a “Specially Designated National” in the United States, meaning his U.S. assets are frozen by the federal government and American citizens are banned from doing business with him.
The reason: The U.S. Treasury Department says he was part of a criminal narcotics empire once controlled by his late father and he was a key supporter of Burma’s former military dictators, condemned around the world for appalling human-rights infractions.
Law does not face similar economic sanctions in Canada, but the government still admits it was a mistake to roll out the red carpet for him.
“Canadian immigration officials failed to do their job properly screening this individual under our immigration laws,” said Adam Hodge, press secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
Fast’s office is also upset Law was let in.
“The fact that this individual entered Canada concerns us,” said Shannon Gutoskie, Fast’s press secretary.
Steven Law’s late father, Lo Hsing Han, was one of the most powerful heroin dealers in the world. According to The Economist magazine, he specialized in peddling ultra-pure “China White” heroin, all with the approval of the former military junta that ruthlessly ruled Burma.
“Lo Hsing Han, known as the ‘Godfather of Heroin,’ has been one of the world’s key heroin traffickers dating back to the early 1970s,” the U.S. Treasury Department said in 2010 statement.
“Steven Law joined his father’s drug empire in the 1990s and has since become one of the wealthiest individuals in Burma.”
Law arrived in Canada on June 1, travelling with the official Burmese delegation. He attended official events in Toronto and a luncheon in Vancouver hosted by Teresa Wat, B.C.’s minister of international trade.
The B.C. government said Law did not sit with Wat at lunch, but she may have met him at the event, which included representatives of 10 Asian countries. The government says Premier Christy Clark did not meet Law, though Clark did attend a trade-mission event.
“The province takes care to ensure it is meeting with appropriate government or business representatives,” the B.C. government said in a statement.
“In this particular case, the responsibility for identification, recruitment and vetting of the business delegation for a pan-Canadian visit that included a stop in B.C., resided with the federal government.”
Officials said Law came to Canada using his Chinese name, Lo Ping Zhong. He identified himself as representing a small mining company, and not Asia World, the giant and powerful business conglomerate he controls.

Christy Clark downplays real estate ties to her latest Asia trade junket

Christy Clark downplays real

 estate ties to her latest Asia 

trade junket

Real estate company representatives on trip, but premier says trade mission not promoting B.C.’s residential real estate

Christy Clark at a Jollibee fast food restaurant in Manila | Photo: Government of British Columbia
Premier Christy Clark is on the defensive after public criticism over leading a trade mission to Asia that included executives from Vancouver’s red-hot real estate industry.
A list obtained by Business in Vancouver from the International Trade ministry (see below for documents) shows Nu Stream Realty’s commercial division president Mercedes Wong and Sutton WestCoast Realty’s real estate team leader Tennyson Wong were part of the May 23-30 junket to Seoul, Tokyo and Manila.
On Monday, Clark tweeted that “we are focused on growing B.C.’s economy and creating jobs. There is no promotion of B.C. residential real estate. Full stop.”
Clark’s delegation also included AyalaLand Development (Canada) Inc. director Josh Ferrer. AyalaLand partnered with Rize Alliance to develop a controversial Mount Pleasant condo tower called The Independent.
Clark posed for a photo opportunity with executives of Manila-based parent Ayala and University of British Columbia (UBC) Prof. James Tansey of Sauder S3i, the Centre for Social Innovation and Impact Investing.
Tansey told BIV that Ayala intends to fund sustainable building research by UBC faculty and students. While in the Philippine capital, Clark lobbied Ayala to open its North American head office in Vancouver and for the Jollibee fast-food chain to expand to B.C.
Last fall’s Clark-led mission to China included representatives of Royal LePage, Macdonald Real Estate Group, Viceroy Homes Ltd., Big Grizzly Construction, SSC Properties and Shanghailandmark Investment (Canada) Ltd.
Courtney Carne, spokeswoman for B.C.’s International Trade ministry, refused to name the individuals on the China junket, because she claimed they did not give permission.
The South Korea, Japan and Philippines trip included Port of Vancouver vice-president Peter Xotta and government relations strategist Terry Lalari, BC LNG Alliance CEO David Keane, Chevron Canada Kitimat LNG general manager Alan Dunlop and project director Neil Henry, Aquilini Mactan Renewable Energy president Jayme Jesus, Pacific Western Brewery CEO Kazuko Komatsu and BC Liberal provincial council chairman and Boilingpoint Group president Steve Kim.
On the last day, Clark posed for a photo opportunity with Keisuke Kuroki, president of Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, which has investments in natural gas proponents Cordova Embayment, Cutbank Ridge Partnership, Pacific NorthWest LNG and Aurora LNG.
JOGMEC issued a news release that said it signed a memorandum of understanding with intent to exchange information, examine market opportunities and technological collaboration “in the field of LNG and coal business.”
The B.C. government news release made no mention of coal.
The trade mission, however, came three weeks after South Korea president Park Geun-hye visited Iran to witness the Korean Gas Corp. (Kogas) take a major step toward a deal to buy natural gas from the National Iranian Gas Exports Company.
During Clark’s trade mission, the Jera joint venture of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Chubu Electric Power Co. announced it was selling its natural gas sales unit to Electricite de France.
Clark’s entourage included two deputy ministers, Clark Roberts (International Trade) and Dave Nikolejsin (Natural Gas Development), three Asia trade agents, communications director Ben Chin, events manager Anish Dwivedi, aide Andrew Ives and videographer Kyle Surovy.
The government did not release the trip’s budget. It spent $961,175 on 17 missions and investor trips in 2015.
Clark’s trip to China last fall was the most expensive at $289,191. It included $60,056 for the premier’s entourage travel costs. The biggest item was $176,101 for meetings and functions. Unspecified sponsors kicked in another $132,838 for those events.
A 2009 study by Sauder School of Business economists Keith Head and John Ries cast doubt on the effectiveness of trade junkets. Their “Do Trade Missions Increase Trade?” found Canada exports and imports above normal amounts to the countries to which it sent trade missions.
“However, the missions do not seem to have caused an increase in trade,” wrote Head and Ries. “In the preferred specification, incorporating country-pair fixed effects, trade missions have small, negative, and mainly insignificant effects.”

Monday, May 30, 2016

‘It feels like murder': The devastating impact of fentanyl in B.C.

‘It feels like murder': The devastating impact of fentanyl in B.C.

Sandra Tully with a photo of her son, Ryan Pinneo, who died after taking pills laced with fentanyl.
Sandra Tully with a photo of her son, Ryan Pinneo, who died after taking pills laced with fentanyl. PETER OLSEN / SPECIAL TO PNG

Pinneo had enrolled in a detox program and several times tried to quit opioids cold-turkey. With his family by his side, he tried desperately to “get the demons away,” Tully said.
“Part of me is so mad at myself, too, because we were so involved in the addiction part of it, I never thought I’d lose him to an overdose,” she said.
A toxicology report concluded that her son had overdosed on fentanyl – a toxic, synthetic opioid that’s increasingly being cut into illicit street drugs to bolster or mimic their effects.
“He had written down drugs that he had experimented with and fentanyl was not on that list,” Tully said.
“So, to me, he was really sold something he didn’t know was fentanyl. To me, it feels like murder.”

Up to 800 could die of illicit-drug overdoses in B.C. in 2016

A North American drug crisis has planted deep roots in B.C.
The B.C. Coroners Service has ample data on this: Last year, at least 480 people died of an illicit-drug overdose, up from 274 in 2012. But in just the first four months of 2016, such overdoses have already killed at least 256 in the province.
Of the 480 deaths last year, fentanyl was detected in 32 per cent of cases, up from five per cent in 2012. In the first three months of 2016, fentanyl turned up in 49 per cent of overdoses.
If the death toll continues at its current rate, 800 people could die from illicit drug overdose in B.C. this year, up 67 per cent from last year.
Confronted by the surging death count, B.C. health authorities, police and drug policy experts are desperately trying to find ways to curb the opioid’s devastating impact.
“I’ve not seen anything like this,” said Dr. Jane Buxton, harm reduction lead at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. “The numbers are so worrisome.”
fentanyl chartIllicit drug dealers have been shifting away from pure heroin since finding a lucrative business model in importing relatively inexpensive powdered fentanyl, mostly from labs in China .

They use the fentanyl to boost the effects of street drugs such as heroin, crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine or use pill presses in clandestine labs to mix it into counterfeit prescription pills – typically fake Oxycontin 80s, known as “green meanies” or “beans” on the street.
With a kilogram of powdered fentanyl, which can cost as little as $3,300 US to produce, a dealer can press about $1 million US worth of pills at street value, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration. 
Drug users who ingest a pill containing a salt-grain-sized amount of fentanyl might get a familiar opioid high. But if they take a pill containing about two grains worth – what police call “hot spots” – they overdose. A dose as small as two milligrams can be fatal.
Whether a drug user gets back up again after an overdose depends on many factors, including the dose, the user’s tolerance and the availability of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.
The fallout from this trend is staggering.

VANCOUVER, BC - MAY 5, 2016, - VANDU board member Hugh Lampkin holds $10 worth of heroin in Vancouver, BC. May 5, 2016. Story on fentanyl-overdose users and survivors. (Arlen Redekop / PNG photo) (story by Nick Eagland) [PNG Merlin Archive]
VANDU board member Hugh Lampkin holds $10 worth of heroin in Vancouver, B.C. He says the powdered substance contains Fentanyl.  ARLEN REDEKOP / PNG
Opioids are addictive substances that act on the body’s opioid receptors to reduce the perception of pain. On the street, opioid users might seek white, black tar or brown heroin. But opioids also include common medications such as morphine, OxyContin and codeine cough syrup.Fentanyl is a potent, synthetic opioid, 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and typically used to provide comfort to patients with moderate to severe pain, such as pain caused by cancer. Most often, fentanyl is administered as a skin patch, lozenge, pills, oral film, nasal spray or intravenously.Victims of a opioid overdose demonstrate the “opioid triad” of symptoms – pinpoint pupils, unconsciousness and respiratory depression. If not treated with the opioid-overdose reversing drug naloxone, they can die.

Overdose fallout leads to ‘public health emergency’ in B.C.

On April 14, provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall took the rare step of declaring a public health emergency in response to the surge in drug-related overdoses and deaths.
“At some point, you have to say, ‘OK, we can’t just watch this, we need to take a step,” Kendall told Postmedia News.
With Kendall’s announcement came an order bolstering medical health officers’ ability to collect detailed data from health authorities and first responders.
Kendall said his office plans to record the ages and identities of those who overdose, where and when the overdoses occur, and whether the person has previously connected with health services, so that health authorities can focus their outreach and prevention efforts.
In B.C., the first police alert regarding fentanyl came in May 2013 when Prince George RCMP warned drug users to be wary of a powerful drug resembling heroin being sold on the streets.
In October 2014, concerns over an emerging crisis grew following a cluster of 31 overdoses at the Insite supervised injection site in Vancouver over the Thanksgiving long weekend. The cluster prompted Vancouver Coastal Health and Vancouver police to put out public warnings.
Last year, public attention was drawn to the overdose deaths of British Columbians who didn’t fit the profile of the entrenched Downtown Eastside drug user.
On July 20, Hardy and Amelia Leighton, both in their early 30s, were found dead after ingesting toxic amounts of fentanyl in their North Vancouver home. They left behind a two-year-old son.
On Aug. 1, 17-year-old Jack Bodie died when he and a 16-year-old friend overdosed in a Vancouver park after consuming fake Oxycontin 80 pills laced with fentanyl.
Of the 98 dead whose blood showed traces of fentanyl this year, 24 were in the Fraser Valley, 23 on Vancouver Island, 20 in the Interior and 27 in Metro Vancouver.
fentanyl chart2
“It’s really across the province,” said B.C.’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe.
“For the most part, it’s entrenched drug users, so people who have been using illicit drugs for a long time. We’ve had the occasional death where it’s somebody who’s using it recreationally.”
It appears to be a viable option still to cut heroin with fentanyl to make a profit, and people are taking advantage of that to make money. But they are directly killing people as a result of that. – Sgt. Randy Fincham
Lapointe said victims of overdose tend to be 80 per cent male and 20 per cent female. Most are between 20 and 50 years old.
Sgt. Randy Fincham, spokesman for the Vancouver Police Department, said in the last three to four years police have seen “a huge increase” in fentanyl.
“A lot of it comes down to organized crime,” he said.
Fincham said police were optimistic things would change last year after they launched “Know Your Source,” a campaign alerting drug users to fentanyl’s dangers.
“Unfortunately, we’re still seeing the numbers climb,” he said. “It appears to be a viable option still to cut heroin with fentanyl to make a profit, and people are taking advantage of that to make money. But they are directly killing people as a result of that.”

Overdoses surge on the streets of Surrey

It’s mid-May and “The Strip ” — a two-block stretch of commercial property in Surrey’s Whalley neighbourhood — resembles a battleground.
There, support workers from the Lookout Emergency Aid Society and drug users trained to reverse overdoses constantly rush up and down the street to cries of “Narcan! Narcan!” – the U.S. trade name for naloxone – as they work to save as many as a dozen people from overdoses each day.
Drug users and homeless residents of The Strip’s tent city said overdoses surge when welfare cheques are distributed. Many users have overdosed multiple times this year.
“I’ve had 26 overdoses in the last six months,” said James Pollock, 40, a heroin user who lives on The Strip.
“With fentanyl, you just hit the ground … lights out, you don’t even know. You just wake up every time to the paramedics above you.”
Pollock described fentanyl as “dramatically different” to heroin and far more addictive. He said heroin users are actively seeking fentanyl because of its strength. They ignore its potentially lethal effects.
Indeed, several heroin users on The Strip said they covet fentanyl despite round-the-clock overdoses and the deaths of many of their neighbours and friends.

Tamara Ashley
Tamara Ashley prepares to receive an injection on the Surrey strip. MARK VAN MANEN / PNG

Tamara Ashley, 29, a Strip resident who has used heroin since she was 16, said once a user tries fentanyl, they have a hard time going back to heroin.
“When you do fentanyl once or twice, you get to where you need the fentanyl,” she said. “It’s stronger, you go on the nod from it – which is what you want from heroin.”
Another heroin user said she’d rather spend $20 on pure fentanyl — enough for her and a friend to get high — than $40 on heroin that’s likely laced with an unknown quantity of fentanyl anyway.
Ron Moloughney, president of the Surrey Area Network of Drug Users and a former alcohol and drug user who has been clean for five years, visits The Strip to provide information and assistance.
He said many longtime users still don’t realize that the drugs they’re buying are likely to contain fentanyl or other adulterants.
“They don’t know there’s fentanyl in there until it’s too late,” Moloughney said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s out of control, absolutely out of control.”

Crime concerns in Kamloops

In Kamloops, where fentanyl has been linked to five deaths this year, the drug’s effects have been felt acutely, said Bob Hughes, executive director of ASK Wellness Society.
Hughes said ASK outreach workers are hearing from drug users that fentanyl is being brought into the community by a crew of dealers from Surrey.
“They come up around income-assistance week and blow their stock out on the town, and then bail when they’ve spread it around,” he said.
In 2009, when two of the notorious Bacon Brothers were arrested and their stronghold on the drug trade in B.C. ended, the region became stable again, Hughes said.
But with fentanyl on the streets, Hughes fears more dark days are ahead.
“I would argue that over the past year, we’ve definitely seen a return to levels of street violence and chaos reminiscent of back in 2005 to 2008,” Hughes said. 

Downtown Eastside drug users wake up to dangers

Samantha Boss, a former drug user who lives in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, said a fentanyl overdose is what prompted her to quit one year ago.
“My partner had OD’d last summer on heroin,” Boss said.
“Little did he know, it was laced with fentanyl. Myself being a drug addict, I was into the crack cocaine and I did a small little toke and all of a sudden, my head, it felt as if it had hit a brick wall and I thought, ‘OK, what’s going on?’
“And that’s when I knew it was laced with fentanyl, and I tossed it.”
Hugh Lampkin of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) said despite the surge in overdose deaths, “a lot of people don’t know” that fentanyl is on the street.
For drug users there, sharing information has become vital. 
“News gets passed really quickly down here,” Lampkin said. “Here in the Downtown Eastside, it’s kind of fortunate because we have some pretty knowledgeable drug users as to what’s going on.”

When a family’s “worst nightmare” occurs

Lapointe said that when the B.C. Coroners Service is called to a scene, investigators will speak with the victim’s family.
They regularly see the devastating impact of the overdose crisis firsthand.
“In many families, they want us to know that their loved one was a good person,” Lapointe said.
“They think that we are going to think, ‘Well, because they used drugs, they weren’t a good person.’ We don’t think that. We know how many wonderful people have become addicted to drugs.
“And so families will show us pictures and tell us about their school and their career and their successes, and just how tragic it was that this addiction took over their life, and that now their worst nightmare has happened – their loved one is dead.”
Tully said the addiction that took over her son’s life put the family through six months of “absolute hell.”
But after his death, she was embraced by other families who went through similar experiences, and wanted to share their stories with her. She was shocked to learn they “were all living with this struggle and nobody was talking about it.”
Tully offers advice for families struggling to help a loved one with a drug addiction: “Every resource that you can find, you’ve got to throw at it. Because it doesn’t go away on its own, it’s not just a phase. And when you change your brain chemicals and that need that is always there … there’s very few people who can kick addiction on their own.”
Still, not a day goes by that Tully doesn’t feel some anger toward her son, she said.
“I go into his room and yell at him. Because it just is so stupid for a high, but it’s something he couldn’t control, either.”