'Put on notice': Wholesale fentanyl trafficker sentenced to 17 years by Alberta judge

·2 min read

CALGARY — An Alberta judge has sentenced a former mayoral candidate to 17 years in prison after he was caught with a kilogram of high-potency fentanyl hidden in cereal boxes.

Jonathan Sunstrum ran for Calgary mayor in the 2007 and 2013 civic elections, with fewer than 2,000 votes each time.

He was arrested after a traffic stop near Canmore, Alta., in January 2019 during which police found about one kilogram of fentanyl in a hidden compartment in Sunstrum's truck.

Police said it had a potency 10 to 15 times higher than what is typically sold on the streets in Western Canada. There was enough fentanyl to make 820,000 individual doses.

Also recovered was a chemical used in its production and 4.5 grams of a substance containing fentanyl and Benzodiazepine, a psychoactive drug.

Sunstrum was convicted in January of possessing fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking.

Judge Mark Tyndale said Sunstrum was obviously a highly trusted member of a drug trafficking organization and the seizure represented the third- or fourth-largest in Canada.

"Those who choose to traffic in fentanyl and related drugs in Alberta must be put on notice that their callous indifference to ... death and suffering for the sake of greed will attract sentences that reflect society's revulsion and righteous fury at that parasitic behaviour," Tyndale said Friday.

"The offence of trafficking fentanyl in this quantity must be situated near to the greatest degree of gravity, and the degree of responsibility of Mr. Sunstrum, that is his moral culpability, is very high."

Tyndale acknowledged the sentence is higher than the norm, but is necessary because more than 1,100 Albertans died of opioid overdoes in 2020.

"The decision to sell this poison on our streets can only be seen to represent a conscious choice to value profit over human life," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2021.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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