B.C.-based warships help U.S. authorities net $55M in drugs off Central America
A sailor aboard HMCS Brandon on Operation Caribbe in 2021. (Department of National Defence)
VICTORIA -- A pair of Canadian warships helped U.S. authorities seize more than a tonne of cocaine off Central America in a drug bust valued at roughly $55 million last month.
The B.C.-based coastal defence vessels – HMCS Brandon and HMCS Saskatoon – are in the eastern Pacific Ocean for Operation Caribbe, a U.S.-led anti-drug-trafficking mission that began in 2006.
The Canadian ships intercepted two suspected smuggling vessels on March 21 and March 23.
A search of the first boat turned up 29 bales of cocaine weighing 870 kilograms, while the second vessel yielded 250 kilograms of cocaine in 10 bales and 45 kilograms of marijuana, the Department of National Defence said Monday.
Seven suspected smugglers were detained by U.S. Coast Guard members aboard the Canadian ships.
"This is a concrete way of showing what the navy can do for Canada,” said HMCS Brandon commander Lt.-Cmdr. Maude Ouellet-Savard in a statement.
"Disrupting the flow of illicit narcotics destined for North America has a ripple effect that interrupts the flow of money for criminal organizations," Ouellet-Savard added. "This mission is about increasing security for Canadians and North Americans.”
At least one of the suspected smuggling vessels – the one carrying cocaine and marijuana – was loaded with explosives and detonated by the crew of the Saskatoon after the seizure, according to a public affairs officer on the deployment.
The Brandon and Saskatoon left CFB Esquimalt to begin their four-month deployment in February.
Operation Caribbe has netted approximately 1,980 kilograms of cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea this year, according to National Defence.