Canadian warship aids war on drugs

By Gerald V. Paul

Commander Matt Plaschka
Commander Matt Plaschka

The arrival of the latest Canadian warship in the Caribbean to continue the successful fight against illicit drugs won praise from the prime minister of Barbados who stressed that the problem of gangs and drugs can’t be won until the region ensures that “young people are gainfully employed and occupied.”

“We have just arrived in the Caribbean to support the multi-national campaign in support of Operation Caribbe, Canada’s contribution to the multinational campaign against illicit trafficking and organized crime in the Caribbean and the Pacific coast of Central America,” Commander Matt Plaschka told The Camera in a telephone link from aboard HMCS Athabaskan last Monday.

This is the sixth Royal Canadian Navy ship to deploy on Operation Caribbe in 2014, and the fourth ship to deploy from Canadian Fleet Atlantic. They act in a support role by locating and tracking vessels of interest.

“This is part of Canada’s commitment to working with our allies to address security challenges in the Americas and the Caribbean,” Plaschka said.

Barbados PM Freundel Stuart
Barbados PM Freundel Stuart

Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who praised Canada for the role being played in the Caribbean in the war on gangs and drugs, told the Errol Barrow Memorial Dinner – DLP Barbados (Canada) recently that “This drug and gang problem is affecting all of us in the Caribbean, especially the youth. When you dismantle the gangs and drugs, we need to have the young people gainfully employed and occupied.”

Stuart noted the drug trade will have to be considered through the eyes of the policy makers and beyond to the young people being directly impacted.

He said that the economic downturn internationally did not help. “Too many of our young people are involved in the gangs and guns and once they are ensnared it’s very difficult to get out.”

He called for the community to look at the root causes and return to values that worked for them in the past. Barbados has been and continues to be a significant cog in the machinery of Canada’s global business interactions.

He stressed the war on drugs has to be put in context. “Most of the cocaine consumed in the world is produced in South America and is consumed in North America with the Caribbean as the transshipment point.”

Operation Caribbe 2013, was successful in combating transnational organized crime off the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Central America, directly contributing to seizure of 5080 kilograms of cocaine and disruption of the international drug trafficking over 11 months.

Also, the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) partner nations intercepted and seized millions of dollars worth of illicit drugs, and plays a major role in stemming illicit trafficking operations. Led by JIATF-S, the effort successfully prevented 123 metric tonnes of cocaine and 13.8 tonnes of marijuana from reaching North American streets.

Cameron Ross at the School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, published a study called It’s all about the Money: Crime in the Caribbean and its impact on Canada, which supports Stuart’s position.

“Cocaine and marijuana have been transported by ‘go-fasts’ (powerful, low-visibility boats with cruising speeds in excess of 40 knots), which are very difficult to identify and intercept. As routes are targeted by law enforcement, the cartels change transit zones,” Ross wrote in the study.