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Heroin in Montreal used to be white – a mark of the highly refined smack that used to dominate the streets. It came from Southeast Asia’s so-called Golden Triangle – Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Montreal’s heroin is now a less refined, beige-coloured product from Afghanistan.
The price has also fallen thanks to Afghanistan’s booming opium supply. A point of heroin (a tenth of gram, the most commonly purchased quantity for street users) has dropped from $35 to $30 in the past decade, said Méta d’Âme’s Lévesque.
André Michalski started shooting heroin at age 15 and eventually turned to smuggling it between Montreal and New York to support his habit. He lost promising jobs as a network cameraman and film location scout and was arrested for heroin trafficking in 2005. Now 45, he is on probation and getting treatment while he lives at Méta d’Âme.
He tallies the toll the drug took on his life: “No career, no job, a lot of broken relationships.”
He said heroin is now easier to find in the city and that the wholesale price of heroin in Montreal has fallen from $90,000 a kilo a decade ago to $70,000 today.
Heroin also appears to be more prevalent nationwide. Canadian police seized 92 kilos of heroin in 2008, up from 67 kilos in 2001 – a 38-per cent increase, according to Health Canada, which tests seized drugs for police forces. They also seized 67 per cent more raw opium.
Quebec and Ontario both saw fourfold increases in the total amounts of heroin and opium seized in each province between 2001 and 2008.
In Alberta, the seizure data has gone through the roof. Police in the province seized 42 times more heroin and opium each year on average between 2002 and 2008 than in the 1995-2001 period.
Heroin and opium are also now popping up in parts of Canada where they were unheard of before, like Nova Scotia, despite the fact that RCMP reports say the main heroin entry points are Toronto, Vancouver and to a lesser extent Montreal. It comes in concealed on passengers and in courier parcels, by air cargo, regular mail and ship cargo.
Nova Scotia didn’t have any heroin or opium seizures in the seven years up to and including 2001. Then, in 2002, the province saw a whopping 21 kilos of heroin seized, nearly half of the total in the entire country that year, along with another 52 kilos of opium in 2004.