Teacher was asked to strip and squat at Vancouver airport after officials suspected her of drug smuggling: 'It was humiliating'
39-year-old Jill Knapp said she decided to come forward with her experience three years after the incident as she still suffers from anxiety because of the ordeal.
A former Sunday school teacher claims she was strip-searched at the Vancouver International Airport because agents from border services thought she was a drug mule.
According to CBC, 39-year-old Jill Knapp revealed she was humiliated by officials with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in January 2016 and has now decided to come forward with her story because of the anxiety she still suffers because of the ordeal.
On January 9 that year, Knapp was on her way home to Calgary in Alberta province after paying a visit to her husband in Mexico City; she was to catch a connecting flight through Vancouver when she was stopped and strip-searched because she was suspected of being a drug mule.
"Within two minutes he called me a drug smuggler, mentioned a strip search, and even said that he was going to send me to the hospital for an X-ray [to look for drugs]," Knapp revealed. "And that was before he even asked me any questions."
Knapp said she was stopped and red-flagged as she tried to catch her connecting flight despite not having a criminal record or anything of suspicion in her luggage and termed the whole experience as "traumatizing."
After that altercation, she reportedly collected her luggage and was directed to "secondary inspection," where she said one of the border guards became "instantly aggressive" with her. "Out of nowhere, he actually raised his voice at me and said, 'I think you're a drug smuggler,'" she said. "He said, 'I deal with people like you every day.'"
Knapp said the guard refused her explanations that she had been visiting her husband in Mexico City and had applied for him to live in Canada, or that she worked as a software instructor with law firms.
She claimed he then confiscated her phone and demanded her password. He did not give up even after he found nothing on her phone or luggage either, calling in a drug-sniffing dog to the scene.
When that failed as well, she said she was placed into detention without being given a reason and her requests for a lawyer went unfulfilled. In the 14 hours she spent there, she was just given half a glass of water and no food and was denied the use of the bathroom.
Knowing there was no other way out, she consented to a strip search but got more than what she bargained for. After two female officers found nothing on her, they ordered her to remove her clothing from the waist down.
"They actually made me turn around, open up my butt cheeks and squat," she revealed. "I was just in shock. I didn't quite understand what it involved."
CBC reported that Knapp's experience is not an isolated one and that several airline travelers have officially complained about mistreatment by border agents, including screaming, and the use of foul language, racial profiling, and physical force.
With Knapp's story now making the headlines, the hope for civil liberty advocates is that there will be independent oversight of the CBSA, which remains the only organization in Canada that does not have an external review of employee conduct.