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7 Canadian COs exposed to fentanyl during searches

The union is working with Correctional Service Canada to implement practices and policies that would increase officer safety


By C1 Staff

ALBERTA, Canada — Multiple corrections officers were recently hospitalized after exposure to fentanyl during searches.

Officials told CBC News that in July, seven officers from two different institutions were hospitalized after the exposure. Three were hospitalized after receiving Narcan.

"We've had some significant exposures, some officers have been sent to hospital in an ambulance," Vice President of the Union Ryan DeBack said. "It's a huge problem."

An officer at the Bowden Institution was searching a vehicle in the parking lot on July 21 when the CO was exposed to potential fentanyl. The officer was wearing a mask and gloves, but still lost consciousness. Co-workers administered Narcan before the CO was transported to the hospital. 

Officials confirmed that last month, six officers at Edmonton Institution were exposed to potential fentanyl while searching inmates’ mail. Two doses of Narcan were administered and two officers were hospitalized. Deback said officers also intercepted a fentanyl shipment worth $13,000 sent to an inmate in June. 

"It's so prevalent among the drug culture … this stuff is everywhere," DeBack said. "Unfortunately, our clientele that we watch over is not exactly at times known for their sound judgment."

The union is working with Correctional Service Canada to implement practices and policies that would increase officer safety. The Correctional Service said latex gloves, surgical-style masks and safety goggles are provided and officer safety is a “fundamental priority.”

"Despite all the best precautions, there may be rare occasions when someone is accidentally exposed to fentanyl or other highly toxic substances,” the department said in a statement. 

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