What to do about the Fentanyl crisis

The rise of Fentanyl across Canada over the past year has been identified as a health crisis, not because of its legitimate use among physicians and their patients, but rather because it is being used to feed addictions across the country and killing users weekly. A strong opioid -- like its relatives, heroin and morphine -- fentanyl is attacking its users with a vengeance.When legally prescribed, the drug has positive and appropriate uses, but the recent spate of fentanyl abuse and drug overdoses is primarily not of the pharmacological variety.  Rather, victims are those that have accessed Fentanyl produced in illegal and illicit laboratories and being sold across the country on street corners by dealers looking to add to their sales by hooking more and more addicts.The challenge we face in combatting Fentanyl is not one that can be easily fixed and, while we try, there will be more overdoses and deaths. The Alberta and Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have identified one tool they need in their fight against street level Fentanyl.  The Chiefs are not asking for more staff to tackle dealers; they are asking for legislators to add the precursors (or ingredients of Fentanyl) to the restricted list so that access can be limited to appropriate organizations.The Fentanyl we are seeing in Canada presently is primarily being shipped in powder form, principally from outside Canada.  Police believe that China is a major source of fentanyl imported into Canada, either in complete form or as precursors.  Canadian authorities are currently working with the UN and China to combat that importation.We have drug legislation in Canada that includes a list of drug precursors that allow law enforcement and other officials to attack those manufacturing illegal drugs at the source. Stemming the importation of the precursors of Fentanyl is key to reducing the amount that can be produced by the criminal organizations feeding off addicts. Stopping the steady legal flow of these ingredients, which can now be imported by illicit manufacturers, is one tool that will assist those working within the justice and health care systems.Police agencies are hopeful that this could change under China's proposals to control and regulate Fentanyl and its derivatives. However, since there is always a possibility that others will fill the gap when the supply from China ceases, it makes the addition of fentanyl precursors to the list under Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act essential to the battle against illegal production.Last week, I introduced in the Senate, Bill S-225 An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (substances used in the production of fentanyl).  In order to combat the growing problem of illegally manufactured Fentanyl, this Bill will add to the list of precursors those ingredients used in its manufacture. The Minister of Justice of Alberta recently raised this with her federal counterparts and it is hoped that the legislative changes proposed in Bill S-225 will assist the federal government in moving quickly to close this gap.The illegal manufacture of fentanyl is killing Canadians and removing the illegitimate access of precursors will help us combat this tragic situation.Vernon "Vern" White is a Canadian senator, and former chief of the Ottawa Police Service.