Canadian Border Guards Mistake Oil for Heroin

Daily Mail: This senior-citizen's trip across the border lasted far longer than expected when authorities couldn't tell the difference between oil and heroin.

Janet Goodin of Minnesota was crossing the border to play bingo and visit family when border patrol guards mistook a container of motor oil for heroin.

'They handed me the jar and said. 'What's this?' I said 'Well, I don't know. I suppose it's oil or something left over," really not thinking too much about it,' she said.

Bound for Sprague, Manitoba, the 66-year-old couldn't believe it when the jar of brownish liquid in her car tested positive for drugs. 'They came over and said that the substance in the jar tested positive for -- well, she said some chemical term and I didn't understand. So I asked her to repeat it and she said it tested positive for traces of heroin,' she said.

She told the authorities that it was actually oil that her son-in-law had used when he had recently done some work on her vehicle. Nevertheless, she was handcuffed, interrogated and strip searched twice. After that, she was placed in a remand centre in Winnipeg. Police charged her with trafficking heroin, possession for the purpose of trafficking and importation of heroin. 'It was totally surreal,' said the former administrative assistant for the Girl Scouts.

She was not allowed to call family to let them know where she was, and could only call a legal aid lawyer twice. Because it occurred the week before the Easter long weekend, her bail hearing was delayed several days. 'They were absolutely horrified,' she told Canadian TV. 'They were just beside themselves. They were so upset.'

'My one son called the border people and said if there were any drugs in the van, they were his -- you know just trying to help me out,' she says.

But police instead took this as an admission of fact which would still make Ms Goodin an accessory to the crime. Bail was set at $5,000 and because given she was not Canadian had to also provide a surety of $15,000. After 12 days in custody, further tests by the RCMP lab found the oil was not heroin. The charges were dropped and she was released May 3.

Now the Canadadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews wants answers and report from the head of the Canada Border Services Agency. Ms Goodin herself wants answers and remunification. She said: 'Well, I would like to have some sort of compensation. At my age, two weeks out of the rest of my life is quite a long time for me. And of course, the children borrowed money to try to get me out of trouble and now we owe that.'

She also wants the system changed: 'At the very least, they really need to fix whatever's wrong at the border so it doesn't happen to somebody else.'

Winnipeg-based lawyer Scott Newman, who represented Goodin during the saga said she is 'contemplating' suing the Canadian Border Services Agency. 'Certainly, a civil lawsuit is one of the options that are available to her. I can't advise at this point if she's going to be taking this step,' he said.

The Canada Border Services Agency have said that its on-site testing equipment might be to blame, but that false positives occur in less than one per cent of cases.

'Whenever the CBSA becomes aware of erroneous field tests, we will review that case and determine appropriate next steps and where appropriate, take corrective action,' spokeswoman Lisa White said.


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