- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2003

EDMONTON, Alberta, Jan. 3 (UPI) — Powder-laden envelopes that prompted the evacuation of a postal sorting facility early Friday do not contain anthrax, officials assured workers.

Fire officials and police were summoned late Thursday when dust was seen wafting near a mechanical sorting device, which was immediately turned off. Several tests were conducted at the scene as some 150 employees were quarantined in the facility cafeteria.

One of the preliminary tests done by fire officials gave a positive indication of anthrax.

However, conclusive testing was done by a hastily assembled lab crew at the University of Alberta and an all-clear was sounded some 4 1/2 hours later and workers were sent home.

The matter is being treated as a criminal investigation, as the powdery envelopes were all addressed to the Canadian firearms registry.

Spokeswoman Karen Carlson of the Edmonton fire department said there is no doubt of deliberation in the hoax. "It is obvious somebody put powder in these envelopes," she said.

Protests have sprung up across Canada in recent months over a law that every firearm in the country be registered. The most passive protests have involved gun owners demanding to be arrested as they have no intention of registering their weapons.

A recent federal auditor's report described the registry program as ineffective, understaffed, poorly planned and grossly over budget in its first year.

Anthrax scares flooded Canada after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, though none was genuine. The United States, however, suffered five fatalities and more than two dozen others were made ill by anthrax-laced mail.

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