Ottawa says it will crack down on synthetic-drug production by squeezing organized crime, limiting imports of selected chemical components and pouring resources into drug prevention.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan says the Synthetic Drug Initiative will be led by the RCMP and is the first such plan to focus on a single class of drugs.

Perhaps the best known of the narcotics is ecstasy, which has been the subject of countless police operations as well as a number of deaths in Canada.

"The production, trafficking and distribution of illegal drugs will not be tolerated," Van Loan told a news conference in St. Henri.

The initiative features three main components:

  • Boosting the RCMP's ability to prevent drugs from entering the country or being manufactured here, and to share information with other nations about "transnational targets."
  • Strengthening of regulations for the purchase of raw materials that can be used to make synthetic drugs.
  • Toughening of sentences for drug crimes that endanger communities, children or those who live near drug houses.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, also in town for the announcement, said it is vital that MPs pass the new legislation in the fall when Parliament resumes.

Drug-lab central

Ottawa says Canada is a major centre of synthetic-drug labs that are often controlled by gangsters.

The drug-makers get their hands on chemicals from legitimate foreign and domestic sources and divert them into the labs where they're turned into pills and sold on the street.

The RCMP plans to step up efforts to stop the flow of chemicals into the hands of criminals.

Child victims

Synthetic drugs, including ecstasy, are often made in unsafe conditions and can be highly addictive and even fatal. Children are often the victims.

In 2006, a 13-year-old girl from Rigaud died after experimenting with ecstasy. A teenage boy was charged with selling her the drug.

In Edmonton, a 16-year-old boy was charged with criminal negligence in the deaths of two girls from the Paul Band who overdosed on ecstasy back in late March.