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U.S. woman held in Manitoba jail over motor oil mix-up won't sue border services
By: Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press / Winnipeg Free Press
WINNIPEG - After being arrested, strip-searched and held in jail for 12 days, Janet Goodin still has no idea how border guards mistook her motor oil for liquid heroin.
Goodin, 66, is looking for an apology and financial compensation. She says she would like to sue the Canada Border Services Agency, but can't afford to.
"I'm on a fixed income, so that's not possible," Goodin said Wednesday from her home in Warroad, Minnesota, just south of the Manitoba border.
"An apology would be nice, and I would like to be able to pay back the relative that I borrowed money (for legal fees) from."
Goodin frequently crosses the border to spend time with her two daughters who live in Manitoba. She was driving her van through the crossing in Sprague on April 20 when border guards decided to search the vehicle.
They came across a canning jar filled with a brown substance. Goodin said it was excess motor oil that had been left over from an oil change. She was shocked when border guards told her it had tested positive for heroin.
"I couldn't believe they were saying that. I've never been so flabbergasted in my life," she said.
"I said, 'I'm the furthest person in the world that would be a drug smuggler.'"
Goodin was taken into custody on drug trafficking and possession charges, handcuffed and strip-searched. She was offered bail on $5,000 cash and a $15,000 surety registered against a property. Goodin, who lives in a mobile home, came up with the cash and her daughters offered up their homes as the surety.
The court refused to accept the homes because the properties are on a reserve, Goodin said, so she had to stay in custody. Almost two weeks later, the suspected heroin underwent more-thorough testing in an RCMP lab, where it was determined that there were no drugs in the liquid.
The Canada Border Services Agency will not comment on specific cases, but hinted Wednesday that its on-site testing equipment might be to blame.
"Whenever the CBSA becomes aware of erroneous field tests, we will review that case and determine appropriate next steps and where appropriate, take corrective action," spokeswoman Lisa White wrote in an email.
"If a tool is deemed to have a number of false positives ... appropriate action is taken which may include the issuance of a notice, or service may be required on the unit."
False positives occur in fewer than one per cent of all tests, White added.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews would not comment on the case either, but said earlier this week that he expected to receive a report on it.
The charges against Goodin have been stayed, but she is still upset about what happened.
"Two weeks out of somebody else's life might not seem so long, but when you get to be my age and you see the end coming, every day counts," she said.
"I want to see changes made where they figure out how the mistake was made so it is not made again."
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