RCMP officers in Yorkton, Sask., breached a woman's privacy when they seized a fentanyl package she had mailed from a post office, but the drugs should still be used as evidence because the officers were acting out of concern for the public, a Saskatchewan provincial court judge has ruled.
The written decision of Judge R. Grant, issued earlier this month, centred around a visit to the Canada Post office at a Shoppers Drug Mart in Yorkton by Const. Jeffery Nelson and Const. Filipe Vincente on May 12, 2016.
The officers were acting on a tip that Dorothy O'Dell was sending fentanyl through the mail to a relative living near Winnipeg, Man. O'Dell has been charged with trafficking fentanyl.
Though Nelson — a four-year veteran of the RCMP — asked the Shoppers employee minding the post office counter if she needed any documentation from him, he did not produce a warrant before the employee turned over the package mailed by O'Dell earlier that day.
Later, after obtaining a warrant to open the package, Nelson found it contained patches of fentanyl.
'Compelling interest in detecting' fentanyl
O'Dell's lawyer, Richard Leland, argued that the RCMP's seizue of O'Dell's package violated her privacy and the drugs should be excluded as evidence during her trial.
But while agreeing that O'Dell had a "reasonable expectation" of privacy and noting Nelson's inexperience with the Canada Post procedures for seizing a package, Grant ruled the evidence should remain in play because of the "compelling interest in detecting and deterring the trafficking of a drug such as fentanyl."
Grant also noted that, under normal procedure, a postal inspector would decide if the package could be inspected.
Neither the Shoppers Drug Mart clerk who handed over the package nor her supervisor — a six-and-a-half-year store employee — had received any special training for the post office, Grant said.