Crossing the line at the border

A judge says two agents resorted to ‘intentional infliction of force’

Crossing the line at the border

Aaron Harris/CP

Border guards stationed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport had good reason to be suspicious of a certain Nigerian passenger who arrived at the customs counter on March 3, 2002. The man’s ticket, for a one-way trip from Lagos, was purchased the day before—in cash. His lips were dry and pasty, a common trait among drug smugglers who swallow their deliveries. And when asked why he was travelling to Canada, the man, Esemuede Henry Idada, said he was doing research for a new business venture: exporting frozen turkeys to Africa.

To quote Federal Court Judge Russel Zinn, it was an “extremely unusual” explanation.

But eight years later, it is the Canada Border Services Agency that has some explaining to do (and some damages to pay). Even though the judge agreed that Idada was a legitimate target for further investigation—including a strip search and a stool sample, used to detect narcotics—two agents were a tad rough for the court’s liking. They resorted to “intentional infliction of force,” Zinn ruled, and then tried to “minimize” their actions on the witness stand. “It is apparent from the treatment that Mr. Idada received that some officers do think they can act without repercussions,” the judge ruled. “While it should go without saying that the Customs Act does not give them carte blanche, I think a reminder is warranted.”

The first “intentional infliction of force” occurred when Idada, a naturalized U.S. citizen, showed up at the counter. As he flipped through his wallet looking for his passport, an impatient officer, Nick Kostovski, “jerked” it from his hand and said he didn’t have time for this “nonsense.” A few hours later, Idada was pinned to the floor and handcuffed because officer Dan Tangney feared that his briefcase was a potential weapon. “The force used was not justified and not reasonable,” the judge ruled. For the record, Idada’s stool samples came back clean. He was not sneaking drugs into Canada, and he really was dabbling in the frozen turkey business. The feds now have until the end of April to agree on a dollar figure for damages.


Crossing the line at the border

  1. We need to elect judges…if they had to be held accountable to the public for their decisions, I am sure a good deal of this non-sense would stop.

    • Funny how that goofball idea surfaces more and more. More folks need to take time to LEARN a bit about CANADIAN LAW or, at least watch a little less American TV.

      • I am not exactly sure what the political notion of electing judges has to do with CANADIAN LAW. However, being a glutton for punishment, I'll bite…. please enlighten me oh wise one – can't wait for this.

        • Electing judges is by far the worst idea any democracy has come up with. It politicizes the judiciary and interfere with a judges role of impartiality.

    • Because accountability is working so well for the people we elect already?

      Thanks, no thanks.

    • You are right Mediawatcher. The Law belongs to the people, not the Judges, the Courts or the Government. Judges should interpret the law and individual cases based on how they believe the citizens would interpret it. Currently Judges don't even follow the law set down by Parliament, but "read in" new law based on their own philosophical beliefs.
      In this case the issue of "jerking the wallet" out of his hand would not pass the public's idea of assault, nor would handcuffing the guy after he refused to put down the briefcase. This case occurred in March 2002, barely 7 months after 9/11 and was not a time to be putting up with nonsense from people on one-way tickets from Nigeria looking for frozen turkeys. The complainant's story does not ring true nor do his actions. The public would have more sense than this judge, that is why Judges should be elected.

  2. Hmmmmm. So, jerking a passport from a person’s hand is an “intentional infliction of force”?! Does that mean that if you “jerk” your driver’s licence from a police officer’s hand as he’s giving it back to you, you have now used force against the officer and can be arrested and sued? Sounds like it to me! As for the briefcase thing, well, I’d be interested in hearing more details, but it sounds like the passenger has a bit of a “grudge”.

  3. First off, Customs Officers at the airports in Canada do not carry firearms, so the choice of picture to accompany the article is quite a head-scratcher. Secondly, this was an awful decision that's going to cost the Canadian taxpayer some terrible sum of money. I suggest reading the Court's decision in full. Why the judge decided to take every word out of the plaintiff's mouth as gospel, while discounting the officers' testimony due to lack of recall on this minor eight-year-old issue is beyond me. This man does not deserve a penny.

  4. They could have moved the briefcase away instead of pinning him down and handcuffing him. Goonery, pure and simple

  5. It seems that all law officers we are hiring are all a bunch of ego maniacs with an aggressive no holds barred attitiude. We need to phyc profile them all. The innocent victims that all these cops have injured demands it. Eg Vancouver airport fiasco.

  6. matt and bert: Have you read the decision? I suggest you do so before passing judgement.

    • Actually I did read the decision. Point number 90 gave me a few chuckles. I think the judge is totally correct. Now, as to how much money the Mr. Idada is going to get, I don't think it will be that much. Force is the option of last resort. I think in this instance force was not the right option. However, I do feel bad for the officers who are put in those situations and have to make judgment calls.

  7. This judge has a chip on his shoulder against the CBSA. I think he should spend an hour in the airport, observe unruly travellers, and maybe he'd change his decision. Just a bad precident for ALL law enforcement!

  8. "He jerked the wallet from his hand"! Outrageous! That should be worth a million dollars alone. And pinning and handcuffing to the floor! Where will the torture end?
    Of course this guy will get a huge damage settlement, grovelling apology and probably file a Human Rights Commission charge against the terrible Border Guards.
    What did they think they were doing anyway? Guarding Canada's borders instead of encouraging trade in frozen turkeys?
    Not a dime for this outrageous judgement by another attention seeking Judge. Its long past the time that citizens should elect Judges so we could get rid of fools like this guy.

  9. I encourage anyone reading this to read the judgement. The fact the incident happened In March 2002, 7 months after 9-11 is something to keep in mind.


    This guy's story about frozen turkeys is bizarre and buying a one way return ticket for cash to Canada when you already have a return ticket back to the US is very suspicious. Having returned to the US with his return ticket he could have picked up an inexpensive flight to Toronto.
    This guy may have shipped frozen turkeys to Nigeria but there is a lot more to what this guy's "business" activities are than turkeys. He didn't know the cost of shipping or size of a container! The Judge in this case believing someone who comes to Canada on a one way ticket from Nigeria (of all places) looking for frozen turkeys while discounting the professional judgements of Immigration Officers has a problem. The Crown should appeal this.

  10. This is absolutely hilarious…I have a feeling that CBSA “agents” or “inspectors” think that they are more powerful than the human race. As a proud Canadian, I am extremely happy that our borders are protected however, I am always treated poorly as well at the Canadian border and I dont know why. I understand that it is a stressful career and the hourly wage is horrible, but the title (Canadian Border Services Agent or Canadian Customs Officer) is really an overrated term for “luggage investigator” or “bag inspector”. I would just like some equal Canadian respect at the border instead of feeling horrible and violated by miserable, under-educated, under-paid “luggage doctors”.

    Ricardo Hamilton

  11. The agent “jerked” the wallet from this passenger? I wonder why? possibly because he had to “jerk” something else in the employee bathroom. I think that the CBSA should consider hiring “Inspector Gadget” to the CBSA workforce.

  12. an embarrassment to all the great customs officers who keep our borders safe
    shame on you mr kostovski……

  13. why are all fat fucks miserable?

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