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Sunday School teacher strip-searched, humiliated in Vancouver airport

Former Sunday School teacher Jill Knapp says she was falsely accused of being a drug smuggler, detained at the Vancouver International Airport and subsequently strip-searched.

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be accurate.

Siddak Ahuja Montreal, QC

Former Sunday School teacher Jill Knapp says she was falsely accused of being a drug smuggler, detained at the Vancouver International Airport and subsequently strip-searched.

According to the CBC, she says the Canada Border Services Agency must have greater oversight.

Knapp was arrested by CBSA agents in January 2016 after flying from Mexico City to Calgary via Vancouver. She is only now speaking out about her experience because she was diagnosed with anxiety after her airport ordeal.

She said she has no criminal record and had nothing in her luggage that would call for a closer look.

“Within two minutes he called me a drug smuggler, mentioned a strip search, and even said that he was going to send me to the hospital for an X-ray [to look for drugs],” says Knapp. “And that was before he even asked me any questions.”

A civil liberties advocate says the complaints call for independent oversight of the CBSA, the only major law enforcement agency in Canada that doesn’t have an external review of employee conduct.

Knapp says she had collected her luggage when she was pulled aside and directed to “secondary inspection,” where she says a border guard became overtly aggressive.

“Out of nowhere, he actually raised his voice at me and said, ‘I think you’re a drug smuggler,'” says Knapp. “He said, ‘I deal with people like you every day.'”

Knapp says she told the agent that she had been visiting her husband in Mexico, and that she had applied for him to live in Canada; the agent didn’t believe her.

The agent confiscated her phone and demanded her password.

Finding nothing incriminating on her phone or in her luggage, the agent called in a drug-sniffing dog, which also didn’t detect any foul play.

Knapp was eventually placed in detention but wasn’t told why. She requested to speak with a lawyer and was told staff placed a call but she never heard from anyone.

She hadn’t eaten for 14 hours, but was only offered half a glass of water and no food. She says CBSA staff denied her requests to use the bathroom.

She was then ordered to strip. “They actually made me turn around, open up my butt cheeks and squat,” says Knapp. “I was just in shock. I didn’t quite understand what it involved.” After, again, finding nothing incriminating Knapp was released.

According to CBC, there is currently a bill in Parliament calling for greater oversight of the CBSA. However, it has not yet received royal assent, and time is limited before the House breaks for the Oct. 21 federal election.

What do you think about the CBSA? Do they need more oversight? Let us know in the comments below!

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