It is generally not my position to respond to an editorial because I truly believe in the right of the press to offer an opinion and use the opportunity to express the position or political belief or agenda of the newspaper.
I have decided to respond to the editorial written by Richard Mostyn entitled Drug Dog Must Go, because to not respond would be unconscionable.
The editorial contains numerous inaccuracies and mistruths that must be addressed.
First, I completely agree with Mostyn that the Supreme Court of Canada got it right.
We must be protected from random searches by the police.
Since 2003, when I first initiated the Dogs for Drug Free Schools Program, my program’s protocol has been that we would never undertake a random search using a trained detector dog.
That policy is clear in the protocol of the Canines for Safer Schools Program at Porter Creek Secondary School.
If Mostyn had taken the time or effort to contact me, read the protocol, or even walk into our school, he would have known that we have not, and will not, conduct random searches using the drug dog Ebony or anyone else, including the police.
Unlike what Mostyn would like the public to believe, I have taken the position of the Supreme Court since 2003 so, in fact, we had always done it right.
Mostyn states in his editorial that the very presence of the dog violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I am really uncertain what aspects of the decision he refers to because he is clearly misstating what has occurred.
To begin with, the case in Sarnia, Ontario, involved two specific issues.
The first was a random, arbitrary search conducted by a police-dog handler without prior information.
The second was the warrantless search conducted by the police officer after the indication of narcotic odour by the dog.
The facts of this case have absolutely no relationship to what is occurring at Porter Creek.
I am not sure if Mostyn realizes, but I am not a police officer. I am employed by the School Council of Porter Creek and, as such, our program is educational, not enforcement driven.
I do not take instructions from the police; I work with principal Kerry Huff and the school administration.
Our program is governed by specific school policies, an established protocol and prior-case law established by the Supreme Court of Canada in relation to school searches by principals and administration.
We act in relation to the safety of the school and immediate concerns, we act only on reasonable and prior information and we do not conduct random searches with or without a dog.
If narcotics are located within our building the matter is forwarded for discipline under the school policies. And we have not had any student prosecuted for a criminal offence of drug possession from within our building since I arrived.
Mostyn states “Doug Green, Ebony’s handler, is probably providing useful drug information to the school’s students.”
I am really unsure how Mostyn knows anything about what I am doing at Porter Creek as he has yet to visit, call or ask for information about our program.
Since 2003, I have spoken to almost 70,000 students, parents and teachers about the serious issues of teen drug abuse.
Since my arrival at Porter Creek I have spoken to all our Grade 8 students, and our Grade 10 Students through curriculum-based opportunities.
I work daily with our most at-risk students, attend court to assist them if they have found their way into trouble and mentor them to make positive choices every single day.
I have presented to parents, educators, school councils, and several elementary school classes since our program started in September.
Ebony has become very much a part of our school culture; she has many visitors each and every day. Our students line up to walk and care for her and I cannot, for a minute, describe how important she has become to students who often have very little to look forward to.
Contrary to what Mostyn wrote in his editorial, Ebony does not and has not ever searched students.
I am really unsure as to where that idea has festered from, but if you have ever read anything I have said, listened to me speak, or taken the time to investigate, you would have known that this dog has not been trained to search students.
The recent Supreme Court of Canada decision prohibits the police from conducting random, arbitrary and warrantless searches in schools and other public places with or without the use of a drug-detection dog.
To insinuate that we have in any way violated any of our students’ rights based on Mostyn’s mistakes is, in fact, simply irresponsible and quite frankly offensive.
Our program does not violate the charter; it embraces it. Our students are learning about responsibility, boundaries and outcomes of poor choice.
We are not eroding personal freedom, we are embracing the idea that every parent wants their son or daughter to be educated in a safe, caring and drug-free environment.
I, however do not embrace the ideal that you can bring your drugs to school, that you can put kids at risk by your criminal behaviour, or that you should expect some form of special consideration because you choose to violate the law.
We will, as before, continue to make our school as safe and as drug free as we can, abiding by the rules of law and the rules of fairness and ethics.
Our students, their parents and our community deserve nothing less.
Doug Green, drug awareness co-ordinator, Canines for Safer Schools, Whitehorse