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N.B. senator raises prison alarm regarding drug-delivering drones

By: Adam Huras
Telegraph Journal

OTTAWA: A New Brunswick senator is sounding the alarm on drones being used to drop illicit drugs, potentially into New Brunswick's prisons.

After incidents in Quebec and British Columbia, Sen. Paul McIntyre has asked the Trudeau government whether there are efforts to block that from happening in his home province.

New Brunswick Public Safety spokeswoman Alexandra Davis said in an emailed statement that provincial correctional facilities "have not experienced security breaches involving drones."

"Steps to prevent contraband from entering correctional facilities through vigilant security practices and procedures is an ongoing priority," Davis added.

McIntyre, however, cited concerns by correctional officers at the Donnacona Institution, a federal penitentiary 30 kilometres west of Quebec City.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers says that 37 inmates overdosed on opioids at the Donnacona federal penitentiary in a three-month period in late 2018.

"Reportedly, drones are being used to deliver drugs to inmates at this penitentiary by dropping them into prison courtyards or into window sills," McIntyre said inside the Senate chamber recently.

He also cited similar incidents reported at Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba and Matsqui Institution in British Columbia. The questions were put to Peter Harder, the Trudeau government's representative in the Senate in April.

"It's getting to be a growing concern for correctional officers," McIntyre said in an interview.

The senator also said that he has raised concerns about the reporting of overdoses in the province's jails. New Brunswick's correctional system currently doesn't track those numbers, he said.

Regardless how the drugs are getting through to prisoners, McIntyre said, "I'm concerned with drugs in our correctional facilities."

Corrections Canada spokesperson Esther Mailhot acknowledged the concern, but provided few details.

"Detecting drugs and contraband is an ongoing and challenging task," Mailhot said in response to McIntyre's questions.

She declined to disclose whether the department is fighting drone drops in New Brunswick, only adding that "professionalism and attentiveness, in combination with detection equipment," prevent the entry of drugs and contraband.

"For safety and security reasons, Corrections Canada cannot disclose which technology and design features are used at any specific facility," she said.

Mailhot said Corrections Canada doesn't have "data specific to drones," declining to say whether its faced those concerns in New Brunswick.

Correctional Service Canada reported in April that more than $130,000 worth of contraband was seized at the Dorchester Penitentiary during an 18-day period ending April 6.

The seized items included heroin, cocaine-laced paper, hydromorphone beads, shatter (a THC bi-product) and marijuana between March 25 and April 6. The total institutional value of the seizures is estimated at $69,200.

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