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Stony Mountain Institution inmates using drones to sneak in contraband, say staff

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The union that represents corrections officers at Stony Mountain Institution says its members are at risk due to the latest trick inmates are using to get contraband into the prison.

James Bloomfield, the prairie regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, says inmates and their contacts on the outside are taking to the skies and using drones to bring things like drugs, cell phones and weapons over the institution’s walls.

« It’s very easy to launch one of these and have them go over an exercise yard to drop off a package, » said Bloomfield, who says the problem is happening at prisons across Canada.

« The technologies are so accurate that in some cases they can have them go right up to a window and drop a package in a specific person’s hands. »

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers says staff at the Manitoba penitentiary have intercepted at least five drones over the prison in the last year. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Bloomfield, who is a correctional officer at Stony Mountain, 23 kilometres north of Winnipeg, said staff have intercepted at least five drones flying over the prison in the last year.

He said the demand for contraband in Stony Mountain has created a multi-million-dollar underground economy in the prison and inmates use many techniques — including having packages literally thrown over the fence into the prison’s exercise yard — to get things in.

« Drones are just another tool that we have to work to stop, » said Bloomfield, who worries the technology could see a gun ending up behind the prison walls.

« With the amount that they can hold on a smaller drone these days, our concerns are very high. »

Risky business

As well as the dangers brought by the contraband that is getting into the facility, Bloomfield says officers are also facing risks from delivery system itself.

« If we have a drone come over that yard I can’t shoot it out of the air… If this thing comes over and drops a package now those officers are obligated to go and get that package in amongst 200 inmates, » he said.

« You can imagine the safety risks at that point when they’re dropping $60,000 or $80,000 worth of drugs into an exercise yard with 200 inmates, all of them looking to get that package and make sure that where it’s supposed to go is where it goes. »

Kelly Dae Dash from the Correctional Service Canada wouldn’t confirm the number of drone interceptions at Stony Mountain, citing security concerns, but did say drone sightings have increased over CSC airspace over the past several years.

Dash said the CSC is « continuing to research and introduce new technology including drone detection. » 

« Preventing the introduction of contraband and reducing the use of illicit substances by offenders in correctional institutions is a priority for us, » said Dash in an email.

« The use of drones as a method to introduce drugs into correctional institutions is one of many methods used by drug traffickers in an attempt to circumvent CSC’s drug interdiction efforts. »

Eyes on the sky

While prisons work to develop detection systems for the drones, Bloomfield says what’s really needed is more resources on the ground with their eyes on the sky.

« Really what it comes down to is we need appropriate detection systems and we need the right type of staffing to deal with this, » he said.

« Our staffing levels are very low and we don’t have the ability to have somebody walking around the yards watching and listening for this type of thing at night. »

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers says drones delivering contraband into Stony Mountain are putting corrections officers are at risk. (CBC)

Dash said the CSC currently has no plans to hire additional staff at Stony Mountain to monitor drone activity.

A lockdown and general search of the institution currently in place at Stony Mountain was planned in advance, said Dash, and has nothing to do with an increase in contraband material getting into the prison.



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Small Alberta village honours founding families for Black History Month

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Long before the province officially recognized Black History Month, the tiny village of Breton in north-central Alberta had been commemorating and honouring the African American immigrants who helped settle the area.

“It started out as very low-key, very humble beginnings with the local tea here at the museum,” said Breton and District Historical Museum curator and manager, Allan Goddard. “At that time, we still had a number of the first generation family members that were still alive.”

Alberta officially recognized Black History Month for the first time in 2017 but the folks in Breton have been celebrating their founding families annually since the mid-90s — around the same time the federal government began recognizing it.


READ MORE:
John Ware legacy carries on as Calgary celebrates Black History Month

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Every February the museum holds a special event to commemorate those who helped settle the area which was originally known as Keystone.

At this year’s event, 89-year-old Vant Hayes, who was born in Keystone, shared stories of his and his family’s life in the area.

“My parents came at the turn of the century,” Hayes said. “We lived in a log house and I’m not kidding you, the weather we had a day or two here, we get up in the morning and the water in the pail would be frozen.”

Hayes’ family was one of 52 that immigrated to the area at around the same time. Many, like his parents, were fleeing areas in the southern United States where state and local racial segregation were being enforced and violence was escalating.

“The African American settlers who founded Keystone in 1910, 1911 — they were leaving some very harsh conditions in primarily Oklahoma but some other states too,” Goddard said.

“At that time period, the Jim Crow laws were in effect and [immigrants] looked northward to Canada,” Goddard said. “Supposedly all homestead land was available and conditions of more tolerance.”


READ MORE:
Edmonton man shines light on Alberta’s racist past with interactive archive

Hayes didn’t provide details but alluded to stories he was told of violence his parents experienced in both Mississippi and Oklahoma.

While the family wasn’t completely free from racism once they arrived in Alberta, Hayes beamed when he talked about how his family was one of the first to help settle the area.

“I’m the only one left,” he said.

His sentiment is echoed by others whose families also helped settle other parts of Alberta.

“Our people did come up in the early 1900s to help settle the Prairie provinces so we are a part of the development of Alberta and Saskatchewan, so it’s important that the roots are told,” said Deborah Dobbins, whose family settled in the Wildwoods area of Alberta.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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Eat Smart kale salad kit recalled due to possible Listeria contamination

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This 340-gram Eat Smart brand Sweet Kale Vegetable Salad Bag Kit, with a best before date of Feb. 16, has been recalled in N.L., N.B., and Ontario. (Canadian Food Inspection Agency)

A ready-to-eat salad kit has been recalled in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Ontario due to possible Listeria contamination.

On Feb. 17, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued the recall for the 340-gram Eat Smart brand Sweet Kale Vegetable Salad Bag Kit.

Codes on the products being recalled have UPC 7 09351 89145 8 and best-before dates of Feb. 16.

Anyone with the product at home should throw it in the garbage, the CFIA says on its website.

The CFIA website said the distribution may also be national, but the recall notice as of early Monday morning lists just the three provinces.

CFIA’s food safety investigation is ongoing, and may lead to other recalls, according to the website.

According to the website, there have been no reported illnesses connected with eating this product.

Symptoms of Listeria can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness.

Food contaminated with Listeria may not look or smell spoiled, but can still make you sick.

Pregnant women infected with the bacteria may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, but the infection could lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn or stillbirth, CFIA says on its website.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador



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Man beats fentanyl trafficking charge due to charter violation. Here’s the video of the dog sniffing the car

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A B.C. Justice recently threw out the case against a man charged with trafficking 27,500 fentanyl pills.

In a decision published in January, he said it wasn’t clear if the dog sat or not.

And new video, obtained exclusively by Global News, shows the entirety of the traffic stop, including the moment the dog investigates the vehicle.  

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READ MORE: Did the drug-sniffing dog sit or not? Debate leads to man’s acquittal in B.C. fentanyl bust

Here’s why the extent of the dog’s sit matters: If the dog properly sat down, it would have indicated the dog was “in odour,” meaning it had found drugs.

But in the case of Sandor Rigo, who was stopped on a Chilliwack highway in April 2017, the dog, named PSD Doods, was unable to sit down all the way. The police officer who made the stop said this was because a curb was in the way.

An officer who stopped Rigo – only identified by the Justice’s decision as Corporal Catellier – said he believed the dog was in odour and had the car towed so it could be thoroughly searched. Police say over 27,000 fentanyl pills were found in the wheel well.

The dash-camera video from the RCMP vehicle, obtained by Global News, offers a partial view of what happened.

The video shows the officer pulling over Rigo, who was driving a Dodge Caravan. The officer can be heard asking Rigo where he was going and why he appeared to be shaking. Rigo answered that he was picking up used tires from a friend and he was shaking due to hypoglycemia, a condition which requires people to eat frequently to keep their blood-sugar levels stable.

Rigo was then asked to exit his van and sit in the RCMP vehicle. That’s when Cpl. Catellier brought PSD Doods to sniff the outside of the van.

RCMP PDS Doods sniffs Sandor Rigo’s van.

HO / RCMP dashcam video of traffic stop

The dog can be seen sniffing the outside of the driver’s side of the van. She is then directed to the passenger side of the van, which is out of view of the dash camera, and next to a high concrete curb.

On the video, the moment in question can be heard, but only partially seen. The officer repeatedly says, “Good girl,” to PSD Doods, as she is seen at the side of the car. .

A partially obstructed view of PSD Doods sniffing Sandor Rigo’s vehicle.

Court Handout

An expert witness in court said the dog wasn’t showing other signs of being in odour — which normally includes wagging her tail.


READ MORE:
Vancouver Island police seize huge trove of guns, explosives, homemade silencers

But the officer testified at the time that she displayed the other signs when she was out of sight of the video.

In his decision, which was made public in January 2018, Justice Michael Brundrett said since the dog was only shown in a “partial form of ‘alert,’” there wasn’t reasonable grounds to search the vehicle.

Brundrett said Rigo’s charter rights were violated, specifically articles 8 and 10(b), which pertain to the right to be secure against detainment, search and seizure, and the right to a lawyer.

Because of this, all evidence collected after the charter breach had to be thrown out.

Criminal lawyer Dino Bottos said even if the officer is proven correct because drugs were found in the car after the fact, in cases like these the public has to remember that “the ends do not justify the means.”

He said the judge has to maintain impartiality.

When a judge excludes evidence obtained during an unlawful search and seizure, he or she is doing so not to favour a particular accused, but rather to uphold what is written into our Constitution,” he explained. 

Anything obtained after the charter violation – in this case that would be the physical drugs as well what appears to be a video of Rigo’s confession – is “considered fruit from the poisonedtree.”

“If we’re serious about protecting rights and freedoms, that means that we need to exercise control over police state actions,” Bottos explained. “Which means in this case, when there is a breach of a right, then the only reasonable remedy is to exclude the evidence found as a result of that breach.”

Almost a dozen Canadians died every day from opioid overdoses last year. Since 2016, more than 8,000 have lost their lives, primarily to fentanyl. In British Columbia, the problem has become so bad that life expectancy has dropped for the first time in decades.

WATCH: Global News investigation into the deadly fentanyl trade in Canada






The amounts traffickers are bringing in are believed to be so vast that investigators suspect their money laundering has disrupted the Vancouver-area housing market. It has also put a spotlight on casinos. But when police seize their illicit cash, traffickers often just walk away, seemingly unfazed.

Brundrett said in his decision that it was a serious case, because of the “evils” of fentanyl trafficking, but the integrity of the justice system had to be taken into account.

*With files from Sam Cooper 

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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