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Bigger port brings drugs, firearms, crime concerns: Delta mayor

A delegation from the City of Delta will be discussing their concerns with federal officials in Ottawa
Mayor George Harvie said the issue of increased law enforcement at the port has also been raised due to the potential escalation of imported illicit drugs and weapons, including illegal firearms.

Delta Mayor George Harvie is conveying concerns about the federal government’s announcement this week that the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2) project has been approved.

"The port expansion has been an issue of concern for residents of Delta for many years now. The protection of the Roberts Bank ecosystem, better policing of the port, and Indigenous rights are a few of the major concerns that need to be addressed. As mayor, I will continue to work diligently with the federal government and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to ensure this expansion is in line with our vision for Delta," Harvie said in a statement following Thursday’s announcement,

The Delta mayor noted a previous city staff report, which listed issues of concern including environmental. He subsequently sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking the government to deny the application.

That recommendation was based on a federal review panel’s findings on the project.

The City of Richmond joined the City of Delta in opposing the expansion.

In a letter to Delta council, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said that, despite the potential economic benefits, Richmond was also concerned with the panel’s conclusions.

In addition, the issue of increased law enforcement at the port has also been raised due to the potential escalation of imported illicit drugs and weapons, including illegal firearms, said Harvie.

He said it would require more security or policing resources in order to curtail the illegal operations.

Harvie noted he is leading a delegation next week to Ottawa to discuss a number of issues with the federal government, and will raise the port issues during his meetings.

"With an expansion of this magnitude, it is pertinent that our federal government help cover their share of costs associated with our vital infrastructure upgrades," said Harvie.

Three years ago, the city put forward a motion at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention asking that the provincial and federal governments work together to re-establish a port policing or equivalent agency at the Roberts Bank container terminal and at all ports in B.C.

The Ports Canada Police was disbanded in 1997, leaving municipal police to patrol docks and ports, provincial government money laundering investigator, Peter German noted in a  report at the time. German warned the lack of a dedicated port police could be allowing large numbers of stolen vehicles to slip out of Canada.

A 2011 Public Safety Canada report concluded that Canada’s three largest ports – Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax – are the most vulnerable to inbound and outbound smuggling, citing container traffic volume as a key reason for the ports’ appeal to smugglers.

“We have 250-plus port police in Seattle port. They are not there because there is not a problem – there is a problem,” Mayor George Harvie told the Optimist in a 2019 interview.

“We have no port police. We have the CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency), but they are very understaffed and only can do point-five per cent of the thousands of containers that go through, so if you are in organized crime that’s pretty good odds. Stuff a container and you only have point-five per cent of a chance of it being inspected.”