In 2017, a Winnipeg postal worker stumbled upon an unconscious woman in an apartment vestibule, called 911 and suddenly had a difficult decision to make.
The 911 operator was encouraging him to perform CPR, but the postal worker suspected the woman was overdosing on fentanyl. Rather than risk exposure to a substance that can be deadly, even in extremely small quantities, he decided to wait for emergency responders to arrive instead.
“Health and safety these days is not a given for postal workers,” said Dave Lambert, the Winnipeg health and safety representative for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. “It’s a daily struggle for us to push our agenda, which is better or more appropriate protocols and training in how to identify suspected biohazards or suspicious parcels.”
Managing the risk of becoming exposed to fentanyl is an increasingly urgent issue for postal workers. As a Maclean’s investigation revealed Thursday, a legal loophole that prevents police from searching packages sent through Canada Post, but not private couriers, has made the crown corporation the shipping method of choice for criminals. That means postal workers are essentially working as unwitting, uncompensated drug mules, delivering dangerous substances to people’s doorsteps along with their bills and bank statements.
Maclean’s examined drug markets on the dark web, a corner of the internet that can only be accessed with a special browser and whose sites are not indexed by Google, and was unable to find a single vendor offering a shipping method other than Canada Post. In 2017, the federal Liberal government considered a Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police resolution to close the legal loophole that was backed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), but opted not to act.