Busted: Nova Scotia's War on Drugs


213 pages
Contains Photos, Maps
ISBN 1-55109-227-1
DDC 364.1'77'09716





Reviewed by Susan Massarella

Susan Massarella is a reference librarian at Laurentian University.


Vernon Oickle, the editor of The Bulletin, a weekly newspaper published
in Bridgewater, exposes the thriving drug trade in Nova Scotia by
meticulously cataloguing drug seizures that occurred in the area from
1975 to 1997. Busted highlights the increase in drug shipments in recent
years and the involvement of organized crime in the drug trade. There is
an interesting account by a retired RCMP officer who had done undercover

Yet, the book does not convincingly show that the “war on drugs” is
anything but an exercise in futility. Most of the large-scale arrests it
describes concern shipments of hash and marijuana, not heroin or
cocaine. Indeed, apart from one page in which he presents the view of
Dr. Neil Boyd of the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University
that illicit drugs should be legalized, Oickle never questions the
validity of the war on drugs. The impression is given that if Canadians
were to allocate more money and more police to combating the drug
dealers, the drug problem would go away. References are often made to
the better-equipped American antidrug forces, but no statistics are
given to show that drug use is any lower in the United States.

Interspersed with the detailed accounts of police raids is the story of
Ray, a down-on-his-luck truck driver who gets embroiled in the drug
trade. Ray’s story is intended to give a human face to the stories of
drug trafficking and to show how “good” people can unwittingly
become pawns of drug dealers. However, the story imposes a talk-show
sensibility on the book. See Ray fight with his evil ex-wife! See Ray
struggle to buy his two daughters running shoes! See Ray become trapped
in a life of crime! The belief that Nova Scotians are victims of drug
kingpins who come from elsewhere (and who are usually described as
“foreign-looking” or as having “a French accent”) permeates the
entire book. Busted is recommended for purchase only by public libraries
and high schools in Nova Scotia.


Oickle, Vernon., “Busted: Nova Scotia's War on Drugs,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/3194.