MANDEL: Accused cocaine importer walks away due to ‘racial profiling’

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Pulling someone over for driving while Black – is indefensible. To suspect someone of being a shoplifter based on the color of their skin: unconscionable.

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These and many other disturbing examples of racial profiling in our society are rightly condemned.

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But when it is used by accused criminals to avoid charges?

A man accused of importing as much as 23 kilos of cocaine recently had his charges dropped after an Ontario judge found that the RCMP officer at Toronto Pearson Airport racially profiled him and violated his Charter rights — even though he had other “reasonable” grounds to suspect him.

“Interrogating a traveler at the border cannot be based on race. There is no question that anti-Black racism is widespread in Canada and continues to be a reality in Canadian society. The courts are obliged to hear claims racial profiling seriously,” Supreme Court Justice Nancy Dennison wrote.

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“Where race or racial Stereotypes are used to any extent to select the suspect, that’s it racial profiling. It does not matter whether the police had another justifiable basis for detaining the person.”

Ian Edwards was arrested on September 17, 2018 after returning from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on an Air Transat flight. The Jamaican-born Canadian citizen had declared on his customs form that he was over his alcohol limit, but after being referred to a border agent he was told his two bottles were fine.

But the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) official had other concerns about Edwards: he had booked his ticket just two days before the trip, it was only for four days and he had traveled to the airport three times in recent months. Dominican Republic, which is considered a drug origin country. He was also sweating, mumbling and unresponsive to the officer’s questions, she said, and did not know where he was staying.

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So she sent Edwards to a secondary inspection on suspicion of narcotics. Another traveler from his flight was also sent there.

Edwards argued that he was selected by the border agent only because he was a black man, but the judge disagreed.

However, Dennison had problems with the arresting RCMP officer identified only as “Supt. Ryan.”

He was told that two men sent to secondary inspection had been seen leaving the washroom. “An inspection of the laundry room by CBSA officers revealed a broken ceiling tile on the floor and a hole in the ceiling above. A subsequent search of the ceiling revealed several bags containing 23.8 kilos of cocaine,” the ruling said.

During questioning, Edwards told Ryan that a friend had paid for his plane ticket as a favor and that he had gone to visit a girlfriend he met on the dating site Plenty of Fish. Like the CBSA agent, the officer was suspicious of the last-minute nature of the trip and its short duration to a drug-origin country.

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But he added another reason to be suspicious: “In his experience, someone with a Jamaican background travels to Jamaica instead of other Caribbean countries. This was also an indicator for him,” Dennison wrote. “He said it was just another piece of information that stood out as unusual.”

That’s all it took for the judge to find that the RCMP officer had racially profiled Edwards — and despite Ryan’s evidence that the man admitted he had been in the laundry room where the 23 kilos were found and that he had taken the ceiling dust seen on his body. shoulder, his arrest for importing coke was now null and void.

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“Supt. Ryan relied on a stereotype based on national origin to expose Jamaican-born Canadians to differential treatment and scrutiny. “There are no independent studies to support his perception that Jamaican Canadians travel to Jamaica and not other Caribbean countries, or that they are more likely to return to their country of origin than any other citizen,” Dennison wrote.

“The fact that Supt. Ryan had reasonable objective grounds for approaching the applicant and suspecting that he was importing cocaine. Supt. Ryan relied on his perception that persons of a certain national origin and race would be required to travel as an ‘indicator’ in suspecting that the applicant was importing cocaine.”

And Edwards walked free.

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