Victim of mistaken identity

[May 11, 2009 07:54 PM]

A Montreal woman who was mistakenly arrested and jailed at the Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau airport in April 2009 was told to change her name to avoid further problems.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she has the same name and date of birth as another woman who is wanted by police.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) staff at the Dorval airport sent her for a "random" baggage check when she returned from a holiday in Mexico on April 11, 2009. They searched her bag, dusted for prints and were apparently looking for drugs. They wouldn't allow her to phone her spouse to tell him why she was delayed but they arrested her after reading her her rights.

"I told them they were making a mistake, that it was a case of mistaken identity but they wouldn't listen and they put me in a cell at the airport," she said. "When Montreal police from the Pointe-Claire station arrived, they realized I wasn't the person who was wanted. They told me that I should change my name!"

The Montreal woman cannot understand why CBSA employees didn't make more efforts to determine her identity either by checking her passport or her Social Insurance Number.

She said she tried everything to make the border agents understand that they had the wrong person. When the police officers arrived at the airport they even sent a female CBSA employee to check whether she had a tattoo on her buttock. "She made me pull down my pants twice, first to check whether there was tattoo, the second, to ensure that it had not been removed with a laser."

The woman was finally allowed to go when police realized that the person who was wanted by police was taller than the one they had in custody.

She filed a complaint with the CBSA and the police ethics committee. She is outraged at the way she was treated and wants to know why the customs agent didn't have more information that would have shown she was not wanted by police. She is also considering filing a civil suit.