4. Fentanyl crisis deepens

The opioid crisis continued to ravage Canada in 2017, with fentanyl hitting B.C. hardest.

The province declared a state of emergency in April 2016 after drug overdoses killed more than 200 people in the first three months of that year, largely fuelled by the introduction of the powerful drug.

Twenty months later, the crisis has only grown worse, with 1,103 overdose deaths in 2017, up to Oct. 31. In the same period in 2016, 607 people died of overdoses.

Of the deaths this year, fentanyl was detected in 999 cases, more than double the 423 fentanyl-detected OD deaths in that period of 2016.

While Vancouver and the Fraser Valley have seen the most fentanyl deaths this year, 109 happened in the Okanagan, 58 of which were in Kelowna.

Nationally, the Public Health Agency of Canada expects opioid overdoses to kill 4,000 people by the end of the year, surpassing the 2,861 deaths in 2016.

Local police have been kept busy battling dealers and producers of the deadly drugs.

On Aug. 10, Kelowna police raided a downtown business and a Black Mountain home, following an 11-month investigation into the importation of fentanyl and the even-stronger carfentanil, and subsequent exportation around the world.

Police seized 120 grams of bulk fentanyl and carfentanil along with three kilograms of an unknown powder. A 35-year-old Kelowna man and a 28-year-old Kelowna woman were arrested in what police described as “one of the most significant and perhaps the most sophisticated fentanyl/carfentanil trafficking and exportation enterprises that has been uncovered in Canada.”

Another fentanyl bust in March 2016 moved slowly through the courts in 2017, as Leslie McCulloch first pleaded guilty, but has since changed his mind, following new developments.

McCulloch's West Kelowna auto restoration business was raided and police seized eight kilograms of suspected fentanyl powder.

After pleading guilty to possession and production of acetylfentanyl, a fentanyl analogue, McCulloch retained new counsel, and had a quantitative analysis of the seized powder conducted. The analysis determined there was only a small percentage of the illegal drug in the sample. When the Crown refused to agree to a time-served sentence following this development, McCulloch applied to revoke his guilty plea, an application that will be heard in the new year.

In February, a 53-year-old Metro Vancouver fentanyl dealer was sentenced to 14 years in jail after he was busted with 27,000 fentanyl pills.  

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