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Canadian border agents seize gay couple's laptop


Canadian border agents seize gay couple's laptop

Videos were no racier than porn sold in shops

A lazy drive home from a weekend auto show turned into a stomach-churning experience at the Canada-US border for an Ottawa couple.

It was a sunny Monday afternoon, Jun 16. Rick Frenette and his partner Shawn were returning from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, snaking through the Eastern US to the border at the Thousand Islands, near Kingston.

Both avid car buffs, they were towing their latest project, a vintage Bricklin, home. But a problem with the car's paperwork led Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) officers to pull the pair in for an extra inspection.

"We didn't think there would be anything other than the normal questions, but there was," Rick says. "They went through our entire truck. They did not go through our toiletries, which we were surprised about, but they opened up the laptop, and I guess one of the icons said 'porn' on it."

While the gay men watched, a CBSA agent sat in their truck and poked through the contents of the laptop. When he ran into locked material, he got the passwords from them.

Rick and Shawn say that, in retrospect, it was a slapdash search. The laptop was combed, but not their cell phones, Shawn's Blackberry, or the loose burned CDs in the truck's glove compartment.

The CBSA officers went into their office. Time ticked by as Rick and Shawn pondered what to do next.

About an hour later, a CBSA officer came back with bad news.

"He came back and said 'We're going to have to confiscate the laptop.' I asked why. He said it had 'questionable material,'" says Rick.

The "questionable material" was gay porn. In particular, the CBSA officer pointed to a video that showed light watersports. The pair's video collection wasn't any more racy than the videos you can buy at porn shops in Canada, they say.

Among the movies on their laptop were home videos of the couple having sex.

According to those close to the CBSA, it not an uncommon story. And as the Supreme Court of Canada has pointed out in the Little Sister's bookstore case, porn that would be perfectly legal to make, sell and possess in Canada is often stopped at the border. Academic papers, fictions, letters and correspondence, bootlicking pictures, family photos — it can all get you in trouble.

Joe Arvay, the lead lawyer in the Little Sister's case, said in 2006 that up to 70 percent of porn seized by the CBSA is gay or lesbian material.

A trip to the US is normal weekend fare for Rick and Shawn, and they say they've never had trouble with the border guards before. But now they want to spread the word to other gays and lesbians to leave their laptops at home when they're travelling.

"Mostly, we want to let people know they shouldn't have any pornographic material, period," says Rick. "It's just a pissoff. People aren't aware of it."

Jim Deva thinks that it's more than just a pissoff. He spent 20 years before the courts fighting for Little Sister's Bookstore to be able to import gay and lesbian erotica.

"How is that going to protect us or keep us safe? What a waste of manpower! What a waste of the security state! Shouldn't they be looking for knives and guns? Wouldn't that be a better use of their time?" says Deva.

Deva and the other staff at Little Sister's have become lightning rods for anecdotal complaints about the CBSA. He says most people don't fight the seizures because they're afraid of the consequences, often abandoning their computers with agency staff.

"You don't want your name flagged when you cross the border. It is a major inconvenience. It's not just that you'd lose your laptop, it's that you can't fly into or connect in any American airports without a lot of hassle and so people ask themselves if it's worth it," he says.

He says that Rick and Shawn's case is a typical example of overreach. Pornography isn't illegal to buy, own or make in Canada, and importing the material isn't illegal either. Historically, the CBSA has taken issue with both watersports and fisting, but both are theoretically okay.

"They have no legal right to keep either of those," says Deva. "There is nothing wrong with watersports, it's not an obscene activity. It's something that lots of gay couples participate in. And fisting our court case 10 years ago proved that fisting is not an obscene activity."

"The whole thing is insane. So as long as the border services agency can keep it quiet, they can keep doing it."

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If no charges come out of this, they should get it back. Laptops and hard-drives are kept because the CBSA officers arn't experts, they don't really know what's legal or not when they think its questionable, they send it off to an "expert", hopefull this foolishness will go away and the laptop will be home soon.
Legal action
Been living in American for the past 12 years, I think this couple should files a legal action again the CBSA violate their right under the Canada Charter. Right to privacy is cover in the charter, and the porn isn’t illegal in Canada. So what is the ground for CBSA to take that Laptop in the first place? Of cause CBSA can put them in the no fly list. But if they do that because someone files a lawsuit against them, they are also guilty of obstruction justice as well. To prevent one party to seek justice in the judicial system by using legal or illegal mean is the classic example of obstruction justice.
If this is happen in the U.S., you can call ACLU and it will be a huge lawsuit. May be they need CCLU in Canada now to defend their civil right over the Canadian government.
Response to Race Falcon
Dear Race,

Need I remind you that by far most of the child molesting is done by god fearing, church going, bible thumbing family fathers or priests?
This is very common
I heard the same story from a friend who entered Canada from the US. He had to sit there while they combed through all of his porn. Luckily he likes hairy bears and leather, and even had a folder of "men in uniforms". I guess he had a good time when they got to that as he could not stop laughing for all his efforts to control himself. After 2 hours, they let him go with his laptop intact.

I will factor this in to any decisions about travel to Canada in the future. Just as I don't spend my tourism dollars in "Red" states anymore, I won't spend them in a FASCIST country. Too bad Canada, you've been sucked into the Security Paranoia abyss..
Maybe I wont visit the USA next year now
I read simular forums on Stubitity in Dubai imigration checkpoints and changed plans to visit there this year. Will probably be wise to avoid the USA as well at that rate.
Back in the fifties!
I am a straight, 53 year old woman who just literally, stumbled upon this site. I am absolutely outraged and disgusted that the CBSA is still doing crap like this. I had stupidly thought that this kind of behaviour was over now, since Gays and Lesbians had such a public presence and the Supreme Court has struck down so many laws preventing gay rights.

Good grief; one would think it is the 40s or 50s - or even later. What people do with the privacy of their laptops - child porn being the exception - is nobody's business. How come America's Most Wanted, guns, drugs and illegal smokes get into the country? CBSA too busy looking for gay sexual activity on computers. Maybe they get their jollies on it later. Shame on them.
Travel Advice from a Regular Border Crosser
I have lived on the Canada/US border all my life at the busiest border crossing in North America. The "border monkeys/ guards" on both sides are VERY limited in their thinking.

That is why it is best for anyone crossing the border at any time to leave ANYTHING you value such as laptops and porn collections at home. (not to mention sex toys) When push comes to shove we are at the losing end of any confrontation rights or no rights. Remember we are still a minority.... and most str8 Border Guards are not tolerant.

When crossing the border it is best to give the people at the border nothing to stop you for. Here in Windsor we have even learned NOT to mention Gay Destinations when going over state side. Always name a popular STR8 destination.... when asked where you are going.

Travel as discreetly and quietly as you can across the International Border and you will avoid hassles. I noticed the gay sticker on Mr. Frenette's vehicle in the picture, no matter what some of you may say IN TRUTH THIS IS WHY HE MAY HAVE BEEN TARGETED by that particular Border Guard. I have also had Canadian friends targeted on the US side so BEWARE the Border Monkeys they can bite and it could cost you.

We have come a long way since Stonewall, but we have a long long way to go yet in being accepted completely 110% in society on both sides of the border. There's still much prejudice and hatred out there.
Tips for protecting yourself
At the top of this story, there's a sidebar called _Does this guy look like a porn mule_. It details four ways to reduce the risk of travelling with electronic devices. I use Truecrypt too. As for not giving up your password: that's totally your right, but at the border they can confiscate whatever they want, turn you away, and/or put you on a blacklist. That's why most people just throw their hands up in the air. Canadians need to know how to protect themselves when they're crossing the border -- and then we need to fix the laws and policies.
Race, what makes you so sure any of this situation had anything to do with moral standards, or perversion? I agree with all the folks who say this was about money. It doesn't take a genius to know that peoples' opinions on gays is ambiguous enough to get away with abusing their rights. Many couples watch porn, and make their own videos, gay or otherwise. This was just a case of a couple chumps at the border making a quick buck by abusing their power.
Great job border guards!!
Great job to the Canadians!! These perverts need to have their sick, obscene material confiscated, especially since they traffic those obscene materials across international boundaries. They all start out as "gays" and the next thing you know, they move to kids! These sick perverts need dealt with harshly! They are lucky that the border guards were so lenient towards them. Maybe next time they think about trafficking their illness across the border, they wont try it. As previously stated, hats off to the Canadian border guards!!!


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