Drug dog must go

Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure. So says Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.

So says Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

And, because of its existence, Ebony the drug dog must be pulled from Porter Creek Secondary School.

The animal’s presence in the school violates the students’ rights, according to a Supreme Court of Canada decision delivered Friday.

The court ruling stemmed from a drug sweep of a Sarnia, Ontario, school by a police canine team in 2002.

Police conducted a random search of the student body for drugs. No search warrant was obtained and no tip provoked the search.

There, as at Porter Creek, the police attended through a longstanding invitation from school officials.

“The police had no knowledge that drugs were present in the school and would not have been able to obtain a warrant to search the school,” according to the court decision written by Louis LeBel.

“The subject of the search is not public air space. It is the concealed contents of the backpack.

“As with briefcases, purses and suitcases, backpacks are the repository of much that is personal, particularly for people who lead itinerant lifestyles during the day, as in the case of students and travellers.

“Teenagers may have little expectation of privacy from the searching eyes and fingers of their parents, but they expect the contents of their backpacks not to be open to the random and speculative scrutiny of the police.

“This expectation is a reasonable one that society should support.”

The dog sniff was unreasonably undertaken because there was no proper justification.

The police lacked any grounds for reasonable suspicion, wrote LeBel.

“While the sniffer-dog search may have been seen by the police as an efficient use of their resources, and by the principal of the school as an efficient way to advance a zero-tolerance policy, these objectives were achieved at the expense of the privacy interest (and constitutional rights) of every student in the school.”

Sniffer dogs are not infallible, wrote the court.

And, therefore, a record of a particular dog’s record of success will be important in assessing the reasonableness of a search.

From a police perspective, a dog that fails half the time is better than no detection at all, according to the decision.

“However, from the perspective of the general population, a dog that falsely alerts half of the time raises serious concerns about the invasion of the privacy of innocent people,” wrote LeBel.

“Moreover, the sniff does not disclose the presence of drugs. It discloses the presence of an odour that indicates either the drugs are present or may have been present but are no longer present, or that the dog is simply wrong.

“In the sniffer-dog business, there are many variables.”

“Students are entitled to privacy even in a school environment,” wrote Justice William Ian Corneil Binnie in support of the decision.

“Entering a schoolyard does not amount to crossing the border of a foreign state. 

“Students ought to be able to attend school without undue interference from the state, but subject, always, to normal school discipline.

“A search was conducted. The authority for that search was nowhere to be found in the statute law or at common law.

“This is not a case, for example, where the police would have entered the school under the authority of a search warrant and used sniffer dogs to assist in effecting a more focused search.”

Therefore, the drug evidence found through the search was properly excluded, he concluded.

“What was done here may have been seen by the police as an efficient use of their resources, and by the principal of the school as an efficient way to advance a zero-tolerance policy, wrote Justice Marie Deschamps in support of the decision.

“But these objectives were achieved at the expense of the privacy interest (and constitutional rights) of every student in the school, as the youth court judge and the Court of Appeal pointed out. The Charter weighs other values, including privacy, against an appetite for police efficiency.

“A hunch is not enough to warrant a search of citizens or their belongings by police dogs.”

Currently, at Porter Creek Secondary, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Doug Green, Ebony’s handler, is probably providing useful drug information to the school’s students.

But the presence of Ebony, a trained dog sniffing around pockets, backpacks and lockers throughout the day, is sending the wrong message to impressionable young minds.

It erodes their personal freedom. The dog’s presence suggests it’s OK for the state to monitor a person’s affairs throughout the day, even without just cause.

As well, any seizures or actions spurred by Ebony’s efforts are now likely to be ruled inadmissible following the Supreme Court’s ruling.

So, why have her there?

The three-year drug-dog pilot project at the school will cost $275,000. That’s a lot of money for a project that now violates the Canadian Charter.

It will be more costly if a student challenges the project in court.

In Canada, everyone has a right to protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

The drug-dog project proceeded under the understanding that our children were exempt from that protection.

Friday the Supreme Court ruled otherwise.

And, in light of that decision, the Education department has no choice but to get the dog out of the school. (RM)

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

Air North president Joe Sparling said the relaxing of self-isolation rules will be good for the business, but he still expects a slow summer. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)
Air North president expects a slow summer

Air North president Joe Sparling suspects it will be a long time before things return to pre-pandemic times

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

Most Read