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At least 5 organized crime networks running Yukon’s illicit drug market: report

Law enforcement report measures harms linked to illicit drugs and role of organized crime in Yukon
RCMP cruiser passes by police station in Whitehorse on May 17. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News file)

A recently released law enforcement report points to at least five organized crime networks with more than 250 individuals located within and outside the territory operating as part of a growing synthetic opioid market.

According to the report, the harm to communities caused by organized crime and drug-related deaths can’t be overstated.

The report was prepared January 2022 for the Yukon RCMP by the Criminal Intelligence Service of British Columbia/Yukon Territory, which is a law enforcement agency that conducts threat assessments specific to organized crime.

Police released details about the report in a news release on July 26 and provided the full report to the News on July 27.

The report does not identify the networks by name or affiliation. The report is an attempted measurement of the harms associated with illicit drugs and the role of organized crime in the territory.

Information in the report dates back to May 2021 with respect to organized crime networks and December 2021 with respect to harm, cost and impact.

In the report, illicit drugs almost always come from an illicit source related to organized crime.

The report estimates the cost across health, lost productivity, criminal justice and other categories tied to illicit drugs in the Yukon was $113 million in 2021.

The report conservatively estimates the territory has anywhere from 161 to 430 people who depend on illicit drugs.

The report also estimates that organized crime made $12.5 million in 2021 from trafficking crack cocaine, powder cocaine and opioids, with an estimated $1.5 million of those proceeds going toward other criminal activity such as violence, weapons trafficking, money laundering and human trafficking.

The report highlights that organized crime actors have persisted and are becoming entrenched, allowing for the growth of the opioid-dependent user base and reaching additional communities.

Key facilitators and others with roles located outside of but affecting the Yukon are primarily linked to B.C.’s Lower Mainland area.

The vastness of the territory, along with its shared international border with Alaska, makes the Yukon unique when it comes to assessing the impact of drugs on the community.

The U.S. border increases the potential for international drug trafficking. The territory’s remoteness factors into the size and scope of criminal markets and the availability and use rates for certain substances.

With 23 deaths last year, including 22 attributed to opioids, the report cites November 2021 numbers from the Yukon Coroner’s Service that show the Yukon was experiencing a rate of 48.4 deaths per 100,000 people due to drug toxicity — the highest rate in the country — surpassing the previous high of 42.8 held by B.C. These deaths made up 20 per cent of all deaths investigated by the Yukon’s coroner.

The report states that “while alcohol and tobacco are the largest contributors simply by volume (more individuals drink and smoke than people who use harder substances) the illicit products driven by organized crime account for more harm.”

The report notes that while it is not easy to estimate the direct contribution that organized crime has on all costs associated to substance use and related harms, an examination of illicit drugs and drug toxicity can provide some tangible insights.

“Whether intentionally malicious or not, organized crime’s indifference to the death toll and havoc that it is reeking upon Canadian communities is significant and cannot be ignored,” reads the report.

Beyond importation, trafficking, production and distribution, organized crime has a secondary effect: the use of criminal proceeds being reinvested in crime, which can be seen in the form of fictitious businesses or store fronts, purchasing real estate or through gaming.

According to the report, assaults or intimidation to recover debts often do not count towards substance use-related criminal justice statistics.

Estimating total revenues in the report relies on looking at the use or prevalence rate of drugs within the Yukon and the street prices of crack, powdered cocaine and synthetic opioids. Those prices are consistent with Canada-wide averages; however, the cost organized crime pays for illicit drugs to be trafficked in the Yukon is higher by volume and drug potency than in other provinces.

These costs are passed on to consumers via “shrinkflation” in which the user may have at one time received a certain volume of contraband but over time receives less than advertised.

A chart in the report shows the estimated revenues made by organized crime from both dependent and casual users is around $8.2 million from crack cocaine and $4.4 million from synthetic opioids.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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