A Thunder Bay, Ont., border official has been dismissed after socializing with organized crime figures and refusing to do secondary examinations on some who'd been tagged for more extensive searches.

The officer "maintained a social relationship with known organized crime figures in Thunder Bay that operate throughout Canada and internationally," said a release accompanying a report by Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion that was presented to Parliament Thursday.

"The officer failed to take enforcement action on these individuals as his duties required. The officer also attempted to evade the law during a police operation at a local bar."

The report says investigators looking at the Canada Border Service Agency's officer found:

  • The officer's off-duty conduct and affiliation with known organized crime figures was highly inappropriate for a law enforcement officer and had the potential to harm the CBSA's reputation.
  • Very reliable sources, including law enforcement agencies, described one of the individuals that the officer refused to search as a "participant" in the "number one criminal organization" in Ontario.
  • During the interview with the investigators, the officer confirmed that he was a friend of the participant and that he would frequently see him at social events.
  • Evidence, including intelligence reports, photos and information from law enforcements agencies, leaves no doubt about the existence of the close relationship between the officer and the participant.

"While one's off-duty conduct is usually a private matter, public servants must ensure that their behaviour does not negatively impact their organization's reputation or their ability to conduct their work-related functions with integrity," Dion says in the release.

The public sector integrity commissioner reviews and investigates disclosures by public servants and members of the public about wrongdoing in the federal public sector.

Emerged as part of drug trafficking investigation

A spokesman for the Thunder Bay Police said he was limited in what he could say because there are ongoing court cases related to the matter.

The border official hasn't been charged, Chris Adams said. It was Thunder Bay Police who told CBSA about the allegations, he said, which emerged as part of a 16-month investigation by three police forces, the Ontario Provincial Police and RCMP.

Adams says the organization doesn't have a name, but is a group of people alleged to be involved in a drug trafficking network. Fourteen people were charged in 2011 and 2012 under an investigation known as Project Dolphin. Police say they seized $2.1 million in drugs and almost $500,000 in cash and property.

The officer worked at the border crossing between Ontario and Minnesota, about an hour south of Thunder Bay.

Dion's reports don't name public servants found to have broken the rules, citing privacy laws. The report doesn't say whether the officer is a man or a woman.

A spokesman for watchdog group Democracy Watch called the refusal to name the employee "outrageous."

CBSA is responsible for border services supporting national security, as well as customs. The agency falls under Public Safety Minister Vic Toews' department. In a statement, Toews' spokeswoman thanked Dion for the report.

"We take any misconduct by law enforcement very seriously. The individual in question no longer works for the CBSA. It would be inappropriate to comment further on this case," she said in an email.

A spokesman for the Customs and Immigration Union said he couldn't comment because there was an ongoing police investigation.

A spokeswoman for the RCMP said the force doesn't confirm or deny if investigations are taking place. 

2nd officer investigated

The original complaint to Dion's office, filed May 11, 2012, also involved a second officer who was alleged to have threatened to tamper with evidence if asked to conduct examinations of people associated with local organized crime.

Dion's report says the investigation did not back up that allegation.

The officer who was found to have broken the rules was also alleged to have used a corporate American Express card for personal reasons and to have paid back the money using funds from a workplace hockey pool.

The investigation didn't prove that allegation either.

The officer found to have broken the rules was caught in a police operation at a local bar, the report says, with two known associates of organized crime. Police arrested those associates. The CBSA officer "identified himself as a CBSA employee as a means to evade the law," the report says.

The criminal organization isn't named. The report says it operates throughout Canada and has an international scope.

CBSA says in a response to Dion's recommendations that it dismissed the officer and is "delivering awareness sessions and workshops" on its code of conduct.