Record drug seizures in Iqaluit
RCMP find $250,000 worth of hash

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (NOV 25/96) - Dope dealers in Iqaluit are going bust.

RCMP seized more than eight kilograms of hash in a local hotel Wednesday. Police believe it to be the largest drug bust ever in the community of 3,500.

Officers found the suspected drugs -- estimated to be worth $250,000 on the street -- in a Iqaluit hotel room after they arrested a Quebec man suspected to be transporting drugs.

A 26-year-old Sherbrooke man is charged with possession of a narcotic for the purpose of trafficking.

Cpl. Glen Siegersma of the newly formed Nunavut Drug Enforcement Unit said the seizure will put a major dent in Iqaluit's hash market, and the region as a whole.

"The majority of the drugs were bound for Iqaluit, but some of it was likely bound for the Baffin region," he said.

Wednesday's bust comes just two weeks after a $96,000 seizure of suspected drugs that resulted in charges being laid against seven people from Iqaluit and Kimmirut.

Siegersma said the two busts aren't directly linked. But he speculated this latest seizure was a large shipment intended to make up for the lack of drugs in the area.

"This is a fairly major blow to drug dealers in the Iqaluit area," he said. "It won't stop it, but it will be a major inconvenience for the drug culture in Iqaluit," he said.

Yellowknife RCMP Sgt. Dave Grundy agreed.

Even in Yellowknife, with more than four times the population, Grundy said there's never been such a large seizure of hash.

"This is a good size seizure in any community," he said.

While the drug of choice in the territorial capital is cocaine, hash and marijuana are most popular in the Eastern Arctic, according to Grundy.

Tackling drugs head on

RCMP say they are tackling the drug trade head on and using old and new techniques to combat large amounts of hash and marijuana coming into the communities.

While dogs didn't assist RCMP in Wednesday's bust, police in Iqaluit are occasionally using police dogs from Montreal and Edmonton to help sniff out people suspected of transporting drugs. Currently there are no police dogs in the NWT.

While the dogs have been successful, Siegersma said they only use them when absolutely necessary.

"It's important that we maintain an element of surprise," he said. "We don't want them to be able to look for a pattern and be able to exploit this."

A German shepherd named Bud helped police track the seven who were charged after the bust two weeks ago. Bud was an integral part of the four-month investigation, assisting police in sniffing out drugs and identifying possible suspects at Iqaluit Airport.

Investigators obtained a court order to search anyone suspected of transporting drugs into the community via the airport.

"We made the drug dealers aware of our presence," said Siegersma. "I think drugs are temporarily slowed here."

"And we're going to keep at it," he added.