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Canada Firing border agent who tried to collect mailed hashish "too severe," board says

01:15  25 january  2020
01:15  25 january  2020 Source:   ottawacitizen.com

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A federal border agent, fired after trying to pick up a package of hashish at a post office, has been reinstated by the public sector labour relations board and awarded 17 months of back pay.

Danielle Campeau, a border services officer based at the airport in Sept-Îles, Quebec, twice went to a local post office on Feb. 5, 2016 to retrieve a package that her “sporadic boyfriend” had mailed to her home. He lived in Montreal and told her he didn’t want his visiting parents to find his hash.

At the time, marijuana and its extracts, including hash, were illegal. (Cannabis extracts became legal to produce and sell in Canada in October 2019.)

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On the morning of Feb. 5, a post office employee refused to give Campeau the package, saying “it smelled of drugs.” The 24-year-old Campeau returned in the afternoon and, when a postal worker again refused to hand over the package, she panicked and went directly to the Sûreté du Quebec, the provincial police force, to report what she had done.

The package was found to contain 12 grams of hashish, a concentrated form of cannabis made from the plant’s resin.

Campeau did not tell her employer, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), about the incident.

Weeks later, however, the RCMP informed the border agency that a criminal investigation had been launched into the incident. No criminal charges would be laid against Campeau.

CBSA managers met twice with Campeau, who offered them her version of events. Campeau said she didn’t report the incident because she was depressed, anxious, living alone and worried that it would damage the agency’s reputation.

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In April, the border agency told Campeau that her reliability status — a security clearance required for most government positions — had been suspended, which meant she couldn’t return to her job. She was then suspended without pay while the agency decided what kind of discipline to impose.

CBSA Quebec regional director Benoît Chiquette told the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board that he ultimately decided to fire Campeau in September 2016 even though her reliability status had by then been restored.

Chiquette said it was clear that Campeau knew she was picking up hash at the post office, and since her job was to seize illegal drugs and other substances, her offence undermined the agency’s credibility. He said she did not act with honesty and sincerity, and “broke the bond of trust” with her employer.

Labour relations board adjudicator Linda Gobeil, however, said the unique circumstances of the case demanded a lesser penalty than termination.

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Gobeil noted that Campeau didn’t know her sometimes boyfriend would send her the package, and “simply reacted” to news of its arrival on Feb. 5. She was afraid her boyfriend would be in trouble if she didn’t pick it up.

“As a result, alone and distressed, she did not know what to do, and she panicked,” said Gobeil.

Campeau was so distressed when she met with police officers that they gave her a pamphlet on suicide prevention, and border agency officials later checked on her at home for the same reason.

Gobeil said Campeau did not try to deny what happened, and was clearly not in “the right state of mind” when interviewed by her border agency managers. What’s more, she said, the border agency never explained why her reliability status could be restored but not her job.

“In my view,” Gobeil concluded, “the termination was too severe a penalty given all the circumstances.”

She ordered that Campeau’s firing be replaced with a two-year suspension without pay. She also reinstated Campeau’s job, salary and benefits retroactive to July 2018.

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