If helping China hunt fugitives is the price of stemming deadly fentanyl flow, should Canada pay? – National


China is a major source of the fentanyl killing thousands of Canadians every year.

But getting officials there to help staunch the flow will require Canadian leaders to offer something many may find unpalatable in return: help with hunting their targeted list of fugitives accused of corruption.

READ MORE: An introduction to the Global News series on fentanyl

“It’s a two-way street and it means also that we have to be more forthcoming probably with their own investigations related to fugitives,” said Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as Canadian ambassador to China from 2012 until 2016.

“The trump card there is really fugitives.”

WATCH BELOW: Trudeau says China is working with Canada on Fentanyl problem

For the past week, the Global News investigative series Fentanyl: Making a Killing has untangled the web of how fentanyl is flooding into Canada from China through the use of money laundering by Chinese gangs like the Big Circle Boys, a notorious Chinese crime group who are the kingpins of the fentanyl trade in Canada.

Fentanyl and its chemical precursors are largely produced in factories in southern China.

It then gets imported illegally into Canada via shipping containers and in the mail.

READ MORE: China won’t stop flood of fentanyl into Canada, sources say

While Canadian officials say publicly that China is cooperating with efforts to crack down on the deadly flood, sources privately say the country is largely inactive and causing growing frustration among law enforcement agencies in Canada.

“It’s a huge fight with China right now, and if you anger the Chinese they won’t work with you,” said a source, who could not be identified. “The fentanyl coming into Canada is going to get worse. Nothing will happen because we have to satisfy what they (the Chinese government) want.”

READ MORE: Chinese corruption fugitives may have fled to Canada or U.S.

Global News asked Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Monday whether he is satisfied with the level of cooperation being offered by China on the issue of fentanyl trafficking and whether more resources need to be put in place to crack down.

“It’s got to be a constant, constant diplomatic effort and we’ve started that,” said Goodale, but didn’t say whether there had been discussion about offering further help to Chinese officials who want to hunt fugitives in Canada.

“We have to keep — with all of our allies, including the United States and Mexico — raising it and raising it and raising it again,” Goodale added.

WATCH BELOW: Goodale said the government expects international cooperation on fentanyl crisis

Goodale said that what has been seen so far from Chinese authorities is “a beginning and a small beginning.”

He added that more needs to be done but did not indicate what specific actions Canada is taking to push the issue with the Chinese.

“There is a lot more that needs to be done to demonstrate that this is a deadly problem and we expect international cooperation and we will push very hard to get that cooperation from all the sources where the supply is coming from,” he said.

But Goodale stopped short of promising more funding for RCMP investigations in Canada and especially B.C., the epi-centre of the opioid crisis.

WATCH BELOW: Goodale comments on need for RCMP resources on money laundering

As the Global News investigation series revealed, fentanyl trafficking gangs with links to Mainland China are believed to be laundering billions of dollars in B.C. real estate, and also sending drug-trafficking proceeds back to China, in order to increase opioid imports.

Meanwhile, the death toll from opioid overdoses is spreading from B.C. eastward and mounting, with about 4,000 deaths per year across Canada.

READ MORE: Secret police study finds crime networks could have laundered over $1B through Vancouver homes in 2016

Sources told Global News that the RCMP doesn’t have the training, resources, or strategic focus to tackle the drug money laundering that they have found is prevalent in Metro Vancouver in particular.

The complaints of law enforcement sources were underlined last week, when Global News learned a major B.C. casino money laundering and underground banking investigation with links to China, had abruptly collapsed.

According to police, targets of the so-called E-Pirate investigation in B.C. are top echelon fentanyl traffickers, and they use B.C. casinos and real estate to wash multiply their drug profits.

WATCH BELOW: The B.C. compound police believe may be connected to “transnational drug trafficking” and the fentanyl trade

It is not known why federal prosecutors stayed charges against suspects in the case.

Goodale did not commit to increasing funding to the RCMP, when asked about the collapse of E-Pirate.

“This is an extremely important part of what we call on the RCMP to do, in dealing with money laundering and organized crime,” he said. “We’ve been working with the RCMP now for the last two years to find the appropriate ways to fill in the gaps in their funding.”

READ MORE: Fentanyl kings in Canada allegedly linked to powerful Chinese gang, the Big Circle Boys

Goodale was also asked if he would support a public inquiry in B.C. looking into the fentanyl crisis and organized crime money laundering in B.C.

B.C.’s government has so far not committed to such an inquiry, but pressure is mounting.

Goodale said he has talked with B.C. Attorney General David Eby about the issue, but he did not commit to an inquiry.

WATCH BELOW: Growing calls for public inquiry into deadly fentanyl

So far, Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West is the only B.C. politician strongly advocating for a public inquiry.

“We’ve had this situation where fentanyl is pouring into our country, pouring into British Columbia from China, killing thousands of our people,” West said.

“There is organized crime from China that’s making millions and millions — maybe billions — of dollars in profit from off of that drug trade… and then they’re washing that money clean in our casinos and in our real estate, which also has devastating consequences for our community.

“What we need to do is take our province back. We need a government that is going to stand up for our own people and say, ‘This is going to stop.’”

B.C. Premier John Horgan acknowledged that Global News’ series has uncovered serious concerns, but maintained a public inquiry would be too costly.

David Eby won’t rule out public inquiry after collapse of casino money-laundering case

However, after the collapse of the E-Pirate investigation, Horgan appeared to soften his stance.

“I have to say one of the major reasons for not taking that step (mounting a public inquiry) disappeared today,” Horgan said last week.

“And I don’t think that B.C.’s interests in getting to the bottom  of this has disappeared in any way. In fact if anything, it’s been amplified.”

But driving home the critical nature of the matter to the Chinese may be another matter entirely.

Saint-Jacques said there’s really only been a “lukewarm effort” from Chinese police to deal with the trafficking, and added the matter “was not seen really as a top priority.”

He added that the National Security and Rule of Law Dialogue, a forum set up between Canada and China to discuss security concerns annually, is supposed to be coming up shortly and would be an ideal venue to discuss how to get urgent action on the fentanyl crisis.

No date has yet been set for that forum.


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‘I didn’t come here to live this kind of life’: Skilled immigrants on their desperate hunt for jobs in Quebec


Instead of sparring over how many immigrants Quebec should accept, Abdul Waheed wishes provincial politicians were talking about how to help skilled workers like him get jobs in their field so they could integrate into Quebec society.

Trained as a chemist and armed with two master’s degrees, Waheed abandoned the chance to pursue his PhD studies in Hong Kong to immigrate to Quebec with his wife and three children five years ago.

Originally from Pakistan, Waheed was confident he’d eventually find a job in his field in Quebec — possibly in the pharmaceutical, food or petrochemical industries.

The only job he has found is at a call centre.

Abdul Waheed holds up a certificate he received after completing a seven-week course on how to improve his CV and write a cover letter. The trained chemist has two master’s degrees in science but has gone back to college in the hope of finding a job in his field. (CBC)

He’s scoured countless employment sites and sent out hundreds of CVs, taking almost every job-finding program offered by Emploi Québec and studying French. Nothing has led to a better job.

« I can’t express the feeling of dismay and despair I have because of this, » said Waheed, 39, who lives with his family in a cramped one-bedroom apartment in Montreal’s Parc-Extension neighbourhood.

He says his 11-year-old daughter asks him what’s the point of all his education.

« I feel like a big failure, » said Waheed. « I didn’t come here to live this kind of life. »

Duelling immigration visions

Quebec has an estimated 90,000 unfilled jobs, and municipal leaders, business and employers groups have called on the province to accept more immigrants to fill them.

But immigration has become a political hot potato in this provincial campaign, with Coalition Avenir Québec making cuts to immigration a key plank in its platform.

Both the Liberals and Québec Solidaire say they’d maintain the current quota of immigrants — about 53,000 a year.

The Parti Québécois says it would let the auditor general set the number.

The CAQ wants to slash the number of immigrants by 20 per cent, until Quebec assesses the effectiveness of its programs at retaining and integrating newcomers.

If elected Oct. 1, CAQ Leader François Legault says his party would reduce Quebec’s annual quota of immigrants by 20 per cent. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

CAQ Leader François Legault says far too many immigrants don’t stay in Quebec, citing Immigration Ministry statistics that show 10 years after their arrival, more than a quarter of all immigrants have left.

A more recent Institut du Québec study, released last week, puts the immigration retention rate at 18 per cent, behind Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta but ahead of the Atlantic provinces, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The same study shows that 58 per cent of immigrants arrive without a working knowledge of French, making it difficult for them to integrate into the workforce.

Legault has seized on that point, vowing to compel recent arrivals to take a French exam and a values test within three years of arriving in Quebec — and to refuse to issue those who fail with a Quebec selection certificate, which immigrants need to apply for permanent residency.

The PQ says immigrants should have a sufficient knowledge of French and Quebec values before arriving in the province.

Language, identity politics ‘unsettling’

The political debate is unsettling for many newcomers.

« All of them are fully aware of the importance of French, » says Luis Miguel Cristancho, the director of Bienvenue à Quebec, a welcome centre for new immigrants and refugees in Montreal’s west end.

Bienvenue à NDG helps immigrants integrate with a range of services, including providing French and English courses. (CBC)

As he speaks, two French classes are underway: one for Chinese-speaking seniors, the other for refugees, foreign students and temporary workers who hope to stay in Quebec.

Unfortunately, Cristancho says, some are forced to quit French classes because they have to get jobs to support their families.

He believes the government has to find more ways to offer French-language training beyond the classroom.

« You need to make French accessible in every single corner, » said Cristancho.

« Learning a language is about living a language. It’s about learning French in your workplace, at school, everywhere. »

Programs ‘fragmented,’ ‘underfunded’

Prof. Marie-Thérèse Chicha agrees. An economist at Université de Montréal’s school of industrial relations, Chicha describes Quebec’s efforts as « fragmented » and « underfunded. »

This year alone, Chicha says, Quebec received nearly half a billion dollars in transfer payments for programs such as PRIIME, a provincial subsidy for employers who hire new immigrants, to offset training and integration costs.

Marie-Thérèse Chicha, a professor of industrial relations at Université de Montréal, describes the province’s integration efforts as ‘fragmented.’ (CBC)

Last year, that program helped fewer than 1,500 immigrants.

« That’s small compared to the number of immigrants who arrive in Quebec and are highly skilled, » said Chicha.

French no job guarantee

The CAQ has pointed out that the unemployment rate is 15.8 per cent among immigrants who have been here for five years or less — nearly 10 points higher than the general population.

However, Chicha points out one of the highest levels of unemployment is among North African immigrants from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, who all speak French fluently.

« There are other obstacles, » she said — namely, discrimination.

Sherbrooke resident Aida Chebbi fears that is what is behind her husband’s struggle to find a job.

Chebbi and her husband, Reffaat Bouzid, immigrated to Quebec from Tunisia with their two young children in 2013.

« Our whole project to come here was based on my husband being able to work as an architect, » said Chebbi.

It took Reffaat Bouzid three years to have his credentials recognized by Quebec’s Order of Architects. Bouzid, seen here with his family, received his permit to practice in June 2017 but still can’t find work as an architect.

Bouzid earned his degree in France and has more than 30 years’ international experience, designing everything from houses to hotels.

But once here, it took three years to have his credentials recognized. 

He finally got his permit to practice in June 2017 but still can’t land a job. 

He’s only had one job interview — where he was told, at 56, he was too old.

« Without a doubt, our origins are behind this refusal, » said Chebbi.

The family has had to borrow money to make ends meet, and Bouzid has taken small jobs as a cleaner. Recently, he’s had health problems which Chebbi blames on stress.

Chebbi is wrapping up a master’s degree in biomechanical engineering and will soon be looking for a job herself, but she’s bracing herself for disappointment.

« I’m prepared to leave Quebec if I’m offered an opportunity elsewhere, » said Chebbi.

« We moved here to have a better life, and that starts with jobs. »

Discrimination an obstacle

Chicha says Quebec’s labour shortage means the province can’t afford to reduce the number of immigrants, and those who frame immigration as a threat are using it as « an excuse not to act. »

She says if the next government wants to avoid more immigrants giving up on Quebec, it has to admit systemic discrimination exists.

One tangible way of tackling it, she said, is by expanding employment equity programs.

All employers should be required, by law, to hire a certain percentage of skilled visible minorities, Chicha said.

Bienvenue à NDG’s director, Luis Miguel Cristancho, says the government needs to do more to promote the benefits of hiring immigrants. (CBC)

That would strengthen their social and professional networks and help them integrate, said Chicha.

Right now, Chicha says, the blame too often falls on immigrants if they have trouble learning French or finding a job in their field.

« In fact, it’s other actors who have a large responsibility — employers and the government, » said Chicha.

Bienvenue à Quebec’s Cristancho agrees.

« It’s this society that really needs to open up to these newcomers, » he said. He’d like to see more awareness programs about the benefits of hiring immigrants.

‘I want them to be proud of me’

Abdul Waheed just wants the chance to prove what he can do as a chemist.

In 2016, seeing no other option, he headed back to school.

He’ll soon graduate with a diploma in laboratory technology and analytical chemistry from Dawson College.

Waheed hopes a CEGEP certificate plus the connections he’s made there are enough to finally get him a job in his field.

« If not, I’ll be left with no other option but to relocate, » said Waheed, although he fervently hopes to stay in Quebec, where his family is now settled.

His daughter and son chatter away in French effortlessly now. Arriving home from school, his daughter shows off an award she got that day.

« Of course, I am proud of my kids, » said Waheed.

« I want them to be proud of me. »

The Pakistani chemist came to Montreal with his wife and three children five years ago, but despite having two master’s degrees, he can only find work in a call centre. 1:58

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