HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Joint Police Operations Erode Border
Pubdate: Sun, 21 Aug 2005
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2005 The Gazette, a division of Southam Inc.
Author: Kim Bolan, CanWest News Service


Pot-smuggling tunnel shows problem. U.S. attorney is asking court to seize
British Columbia property of suspects

The U.S. attorney prosecuting three Canadians suspected of digging a tunnel
with the purpose of moving drugs across the border will ask a Seattle judge
next week to seize the B.C. property on which the tunnel was constructed.

A court order would mean the Langley, B.C., home would be surrendered to the
U.S. government if property owner Francis Devandra Raj is convicted on
trafficking charges, even if individuals or banks in Canada have an
outstanding claim on the land.

The tunnel case is just one of several recent cross-border investigations
that have some legal experts concerned about what they see as growing
encroachment of U.S. law enforcement agencies into Canada.

In July, B.C. pot activist Marc Emery and two associates were arrested at
the request of U.S. authorities, who accused him of selling marijuana seeds
to Americans over the Internet.

Last March, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association wrote to the RCMP Public
Complaints Commission about an incident in which an off-duty Vancouver
police officer was stopped in British Columbia's Fraser Valley by Texas
state troopers working with the RCMP to detect motorists under the influence
of marijuana.

The constable, David Laing, also complained to the commission about the
involvement of foreign police, and received a settlement from the RCMP.

"The Texas Rangers example is one of the most brazen examples of Canadian
authorities acquiescing to U.S. control on Canadian soil," Jason Gratl,
president of the civil liberties association, said Friday.

"It is not just about this guy's rights. It is really about our territorial
integrity. ... It is absolutely outrageous that a foreign law enforcement
official would be on the front lines of policing in British Columbia."

Ian Hillman, spokesperson for the U.S. consulate in Vancouver, won't give
the exact number of American law enforcement agents operating this side of
the border, but notes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug
Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms, and the Department of Homeland Security are all

"For security reasons, we can't give out the exact numbers, but I can tell
you overall we are very, very small," Hillman said. "We are here in a
liaison capacity only. They don't have the authority to conduct active
investigations in Canada, because this is a sovereign nation."

But Gratl says he's concerned that if U.S. law enforcement agencies in
Canada collect information on Canadians and return to the U.S., "it is not
subject to our court's jurisdiction."

"Nothing our courts can do can compel foreign law enforcement or
investigative authorities to produce documents for use in Canadian
proceedings. This means that even unconstitutionally obtained evidence can
be used in the United States against Canadian citizens, without any remedy
whatsoever," he said.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Paul Marsh said from Ottawa it's natural to have more
cross-border co-operation when crime has become more global. "Criminals are
more networked than ever before," he said.

But defence lawyers say there is a tendency to let U.S. authorities arrest
suspects who commit crimes on both sides of the border, because penalties
are harsher in U.S. courts.

Canadian investigators watched for months as trafficking suspects built
their tunnel from the Langley property to the U.S. without intervening or
laying charges. But when the group began to use the tunnel, they were nabbed
by the U.S. DEA.

"There is no question that at least the FBI and DEA are very active in
working with the RCMP up here in British Columbia. That has been the case
for several years," defence lawyer Michael Bolton said Friday.
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