Pubdate: Thu, 26 Jul 2007
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Times Colonist
Author: Frits Verhoeven


Re: "Border guards need the right to search," editorial, July 21.

In criticizing the decision of Judge Ellen Gordon, the Times Colonist 
wrongly points the finger of blame at the judge who decided the case, 
rather than at the customs officers who acted in complete disregard of the law.

Gordon did not rule that a search warrant was required before the 
vehicle was inspected and a hidden compartment drilled into. However, 
consistent with the requirements of the Customs Act, she ruled that a 
search warrant was required before the vehicle was transported to 
another customs port of entry to be dismantled.

The officers had ample time and ability to obtain an appropriate 
warrant. It is possible to obtain a warrant 24 hours a day, 365 days 
a year. But it was the evidence of the customs officers that, as far 
as they were concerned, no warrant is ever necessary, as long as the 
vehicle remains with the confines of a Canadian border port of entry.

The officers also locked the driver inside an immigration office 
without advising him that he was being detained or of his rights 
under the charter. It was their evidence that they could continue his 
forcible confinement for several hours if necessary.

These are not "technicalities." To allow this conduct would empower 
customs officers to detain persons and destroy property without 
regard to the law and the rights of the public.

The judge correctly points out that contrary to what the customs 
officers may have been taught to believe, border crossings are not 
"charter-free zones."

Should the acquittal be sustained on appeal, then the fault for 
allowing an apparent cocaine trafficker to go unpunished lies with 
the customs officers who ignored their obligations under the law, and 
with those who have failed to adequately train them.

Frits Verhoeven,

president, Canadian Bar Association, B.C. Branch,

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