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Angry woman stripped at border over tattoo

A Montreal woman says Canadian border agents made her strip to see if she had a pink tattoo on her buttocks after mixing her up with an alleged criminal.

Sylvie Ménard, who has no history of trouble with the law, flew home from a relaxing Mexico vacation in April to a humiliating encounter with airport authorities.

Ménard, manager of a wine business, is still seeking an explanation why she was handcuffed and locked up, then told to undress.

“They don’t have enough information to identify who’s a criminal and who isn’t,” she said. “And that’s the big problem.”

Dominique McNeely, a spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency, said he could not discuss the case, but said false matches occur and such checks are necessary.

“We can’t let someone enter the country unless we’re absolutely certain about their identity.”

Ménard, 43, said after being questioned by an airport customs official she was pulled aside. Her luggage was tested for drug residue and her name was run through a computer. Next, a border officer read out her rights, handcuffed her and led her to a cell.

“I was really stressed,” she said.

As far as Ménard can tell, her name matched that of a suspected criminal with the same birth date. Police were called.

Ménard says it felt like a bad dream and was astounded when a female border officer asked her to expose her buttocks to see if she had a pink tattoo. The officer later made her disrobe again to check if one had been erased with a laser.

Police checks turned up a different description for the suspect.

Ménard says a police officer suggested she change her name to avoid future confusion.

“That was the solution.”

Ménard says there must be an easier way to verify identity, given that she was carrying a passport, driver’s licence and health card. She has lodged complaints with the police watchdog and the border agency.

Source: Toronto Star

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