U.S. grandma angry over heroin mixup at border
CTV News.ca Staff
Published Thursday, July 28, 2011 2:28PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 5:31AM EDT
A 66-year-old grandmother from the U.S. wants answers about why she had to spend 12 days in custody in Manitoba after guards mistakenly thought she had heroin in her van.
Janet Goodin says her ordeal began on the evening of April 20, when she was making a routine cross-border trip to Sprague, Manitoba, to meet with family and play bingo.
As the Warroad, Minn. resident crossed into Canada, she was stopped and searched by Canadian border guards. The guards found a jar of dark liquid in the back. Goodin says the jar contained motor oil from a recent oil change.
"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," Goodin recalled to CTV's Canada AM Thursday.
The next thing she knew she was being handcuffed, taken into custody, and interrogated.
"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," Goodin recalls.
She was shocked. "It was totally surreal," she said.
Goodin was charged with trafficking heroin, possession of heroin with the purpose of trafficking and importation of heroin. She was told she was not allowed to call her family to tell them where she was, though she was allowed to call a legal aid lawyer and ask him to relay the message.
She was strip-searched twice and placed in a remand centre in Winnipeg.
Because it was the week before the Easter long weekend, Goodin's bail hearing was delayed for several days.
She says her family too was stunned.
"They were absolutely horrified," she said. "…Yeah, 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.
Unfortunately, investigators took that statement as an admission that there were drugs in the van. That still made her a party to the offence.
Bail was set at $5,000 and because Goodin was not a Canadian, she was also asked to provide a surety of $15,000.
Finally, the suspected heroin underwent more thorough testing in an RCMP lab, where it was determined that there were no drugs in the liquid. The Crown stayed the charges against Goodin on May 3 and let her go.
By then, she had spent 12 days in jail.
Goodin says she's considering suing but is still thinking that over.
"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.
"At the very least, they really need to fix whatever's wrong at the border so it doesn't happen to somebody else," she said.
Winnipeg-based lawyer Scott Newman, who represented Goodin during her Canadian ordeal, told CTV.ca by phone Tuesday night that Goodin 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 will not comment on the case, but in comments to the Canadian Press, the agency suggested that its on-site testing equipment might be to blame.
But spokeswoman Lisa White insisted that false positives occur in less than one per cent of all tests.
"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 wrote in an email to CP.
White wouldn't say if the CBSA was launching an internal review of the case, but she said all complaints are taken seriously.