Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health chief medical officer, speaks from the Victoria police headquarters on Nov. 5. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health chief medical officer, speaks from the Victoria police headquarters on Nov. 5. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Victoria police seize fentanyl potent enough to kill more than half of Vancouver Island

Extreme concentrations a troublesome development in the ongoing opioid crisis: health officer

A kilogram of high-potency fentanyl seized in a Dallas Road parking lot last month has Victoria police and health officials on high alert.

In July, VicPD’s Strike Force unit started an operation targeting organized crime. In the months that followed, they discovered a supply chain of high-concentration fentanyl being trafficked within the city.

On Oct. 21, police made an arrest in the 0-block of Dallas Road associated to organized drug trafficking. During that arrest they seized one kilogram of controlled substance. Later analysis by Health Canada determined it had a concentration of 90 per cent fentanyl.

This kilogram of high-potency fentanyl seized from a Dallas Road parking lot last month has Victoria police and health officials on high alert. (Courtesy VicPD)

That suspect – and two others from Vancouver – are facing recommended drug trafficking-related charges.

The drugs had a street value of $1 million, and the power to deliver roughly 495,000 lethal doses. VicPD says the drugs would typically be cut down and sold to other dealers, who may break it down further and put it in supplies of opioids, as well as cocaine and methamphetamine.

“In that form, it would have made for many thousands and thousands and thousands of doses of fentanyl across the Island,” said VicPD Acting Inspector Conor King. Most samples police seize are 10 to 20 per cent.

“With this starting at 90 per cent concentration – that’s where the downstream effect is going to be extremely high concentration street-level doses.”

READ ALSO: Addiction ‘cuts both ways’ says judge sentencing fentanyl dealer with long history of drug charges

The seizure of such powerful drugs is a sign that more work is needed to battle the ongoing opioid crisis, said VicPD Chief Del Manak at a press conference Nov.5. “This crisis affects people from all walks of life, across all socio-economic groups. It reaches into our high schools, it reaches into our homes. It is killing our families and our friends.”

Canada-wide, 2020 has seen seven samples of fentanyl test above a 75 per cent concentration – a spike from 2019, when only one sample met that threshold.

Manak said the Victoria department supports safe supply and addictions treatment, but targeting organized crime groups is an important step to combating unsafe drugs.

“I can tell you that our work is not done,” Manak said. “We continue to need a better, more coordinated approach.”

Richard Stanwick, Island Health chief medical officer, said extreme fentanyl concentrations are an emerging and troublesome development in the ongoing opioid crisis.

“This is not just something that’s abstract … it’s translating into people dying of this substance. So this is a very serious situation with a very toxic drug supply,” he said.

Victoria has had 102 overdose deaths this year, according to data from the BC Coroners Service, a 60.7 per cent increase from 2019, when 62 people were killed by illicit drugs in the city.

Overdose prevention sites are helping, Stanwick added, but they aren’t enough.

“To think that somehow we’re going to solve this overnight with a single maneuver, whether it’s political or public health or policing. I think it’s naive.”

As of Nov. 5, illicit drugs have killed at least 1,202 British Columbians in 2020, an increase of more than 560 per cent over a ten-year period.

READ ALSO: Victoria police seize fentanyl, more than $150,000-worth of cocaine


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