Three cruise ship passengers from Quebec potentially face life in prison in Australia, after authorities discovered approximately $30.5 million worth of cocaine in their luggage.
The ship, the MS Sea Princess, sailed from London, England in early July. The cruise made a number of stops, including New York, Bermuda, Colombia, Chile, and New Zealand. Australia was the cruise’s final destination. The trio were arrested when their ship docked in Sydney.
Two of those charged, women in their 20’s, had posted a steady stream of photos of their journey on social media. The third individual was a man in his 60’s.
All three had been identified by border agencies as “high-risk travellers”. The arrest was the result of an exchange of information between several organizations, including the Canadian Border Service Agency and the U.S Department of Homeland Security.
The three Canadians did not enter pleas when charged. They will remain in custody in Australia until their next court appearance in October.
Drug Charges in Canada
What would happen if this cruise’s final destination had been Canada, and the cocaine had been bound for the Canadian market?
A number of drugs, including cocaine, are illegal in Canada. Drugs are categorized into complex schedules under the Controlled Drug & Substances Act. There are hundreds of drugs classified within each of these schedules. They range from heroin, cocaine, and morphine (Schedule I), to marijuana and cannabis resin (Schedule II), and LSD and amphetamines (Schedule III).
Other illegal substances falling variously into these schedules include: hashish, hash oil, crack, mescaline, psilocybin, barbituates, and anabolic steroids. As mentioned in a previous post, the status of marijuana may be changing, however it currently remains illegal for recreational or non-medical use.
There are a number of drug offences in Canada, including possession, drug trafficking, and drug importing/exporting.
In Canada, possession of illegal drugs and other controlled substances is punishable under both the Controlled Drug and Substances Act as well as the Criminal Code of Canada. Convictions can result in prison time, and/or heavy fines.
Possession can be proven where it can be shown that an accused had knowledge and control of the drug.
The severity of any possession charges laid will vary depending on the type and quantity of the substance involved, and the purposes for which you were in possession of it.
The definition of drug trafficking in Canada is very broad, and includes: offering to sell, selling, giving, or transferring. Sentencing for trafficking can be harsh, particularly for a Schedule I drug, such as cocaine. Many trafficking charges carry mandatory minimum jail sentences. The maximum sentence for trafficking of cocaine (or another Schedule I drug) is life imprisonment.
The Controlled Drug and Substances Act prohibits importing of Schedule I, Schedule II, and Schedule III substances, including cocaine, into Canada. Anyone who is found guilty of importing more than one kilogram of a Schedule I substance into Canada faces a minimum sentence of two years’ imprisonment, and can face up to life in prison.
Other Things to Know About Drug Offences in Canada
The majority of criminal offences in Canada are prosecuted by a provincial Crown Attorney at a local office. However, drug prosecutions are conducted by the Public Prosecutions Service of Canada, with prosecutors who have specialized and significant experience with drug cases.
Beyond just the spectre of imprisonment, including life imprisonment, a drug conviction can have a significant impact on your life. All drug convictions, even minor ones, go on your criminal record. This can, in turn, affect your travel outside of Canada, or your employment prospects going forward.
If you have any questions about drug charges or any other criminal defence matter, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.