Security check ends woman's aviation career
'I would never jeopardize my job to help anyone do anything illegal,' says Tina Lorenzen
A woman in the aviation industry says her life was ruined after RCMP released unproven allegations in a routine security check to Transport Canada.
For more than a decade, Tina Lorenzen worked as a cargo agent for Canadian North in Yellowknife and Norman Wells.
It wasn't until she was transferred to Edmonton in 2011 and had to apply for a higher level of security clearance that she learned the RCMP had been keeping a file on her full of allegations of drug trafficking — allegations that were never proven.
Lorenzen, now 40, lost her job after Transport Canada denied her request for security clearance.
“Those guys are basically naming me off as a bad person without any proof,” Lorenzen said. “I would never jeopardize my job to help anyone do anything illegal.”
The file says police believed Lorenzen was smuggling drugs on planes in the N.W.T. and that she used her house in Yellowknife to run a drug ring, but Lorenzen has never been charged with any drug-related crimes, and she says she's never even been confronted about the allegations.
When asked about Lorenzen's case, RCMP in Yellowknife said they were surprised that her file was released to Transport Canada.
RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Barry Ledoux told CBC News that if the RCMP actually strongly suspected Lorenzen of smuggling drugs over a long period of time, they could have charged her.
The RCMP’s national headquarters refused to comment on the case.
Lorenzen does have a criminal record, which she originally failed to disclose when she applied for a Transport Canada background check. In 1995, she received a suspended sentence and was placed on probation for two years after being convicted of assault with a weapon in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T.
When Transport Canada sought more information on this, Lorenzen apologized and said she believed that after five years, "a pardon was basically accepted within the RCMP detachment."
Lorenzen said she has spent tens of thousands of dollars to fight Transport Canada's decision in Federal Court, but on March 20 a judge found that she could pose a threat to aviation security.
Transport Canada's position was that the omission, combined with the information in the criminal record check, "raised questions regarding her judgment, reliability and trustworthiness."
The judge concluded Transport Canada's decision was fair and reasonable and the department was within its rights to deny her security clearance.
Lorenzen’s background check begins: "On Dec. 13, 2004, the RCMP in Norman Wells, N.W.T., received information they believe to be credible that the applicant … transports or places a substantial amount of marijuana on aircraft to be distributed in small northern communities."
It then notes that she owns a house in Yellowknife, which she rents to an “associate,” who has a lengthy criminal record.
“Lorenzen uses the associate to distribute marijuana in Yellowknife, paying her with marijuana as the associate is known to be a heavy drug user,” it says, before listing the associate’s criminal convictions.
It also points out that an RCMP member doing a walk-through of a bar in Norman Wells in 2009 could smell “fresh marijuana coming from the applicant and others that were sitting with her.”
In internal RCMP emails, obtained by the CBC, when RCMP criminal investigator Andre Marcoux was asked about the incident he told another officer, "This person, Lorenzen, has been doing this on a continual basis, for quite some time.”
Lorenzen denies the allegations.
Civil liberties group calls for legislation
According to the RCMP's website, it's completely legal for them to supply that information when an individual is applying for security clearance.
The Civil Liberties Association of Canada says RCMP often release questionable information in criminal records checks, like whether someone has ever called 911 or attempted suicide, or been the victim of a crime.
Abby Deshman is a director with the association.
“None of these people have been found guilty of crime,” says Abby Deshman, a director with the Civil Liberties Association. “And if they were charged with a crime, they are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, so it undermines the presumption of innocence and it's also incredibly privacy invasive.”
The association is calling on the federal government to legislate when and why this type of information is released.
Canadian North didn’t know
CBC News contacted Canadian North about the allegations. A spokesperson said they couldn’t comment on the case, but said the company has never received allegations from the RCMP about drug smuggling in Norman Wells.
The N.W.T.'s Department of Transportation wasn’t made aware of the allegations either.
Lee Stroman, then manager of safety and security with the department and a friend and tenant of Lorenzen's, wrote a letter to Transport Canada pleading with them to give Lorenzen a pass.
"I support her application and hereby confirm that she does not present a threat or risk to aviation security," he wrote. "Her clearance should be processed and approved in the most expedient manner."
But it wasn't enough.
Lorenzo said she would continue fighting her case in court, but she has run out of money.