|width=”423″ height=”87″ alt=”stripped.jpg (11684 bytes)”>||On January 8th, 1997, Melinda Holland-Arana was thoroughly groped by
an older woman, and then led off to a room to be stripped by two others, all against her
will. This abuse was authorized by Canadian Government policy.
The ticket for admission to Melinda’s personal horror show was nothing more than a
By Dan Loehndorf
??? Melinda and her two friends, Alexa Marsh and Andrea Johnson, had
been attempting to cross from the States into Canada, on their way to see a Smashing
Pumpkins concert, when the border guard became confused by their identification.
??? Alexa explained, “He asked if we were from Oregon, because we had
Oregon licence plates, and we said, `No, we’re from Washington'”
??? The small inconsistency between their plates and their stated place of
origin was enough for the border guard to launch an investigation into the identities of
the women in the car. It wasn’t enough for Melinda, who was driving, to explain that they
were students, two of them from Pacific Lutheran University in Washington, and that the
car was registered in Melinda’s home state of Oregon.
??? The identities of the women were soon confirmed: they were who they
said they were, and they were from where they claimed to be from. But what would seem like
a testimony to Melinda’s honesty and good character, was to the border guards an
indication that she was attempting to cross the border with some kind of contraband.
??? Don’t try and understand the reasoning behind the decisions of these
officers – it takes years of government training to identify a hardened criminal behind
the guise of an unassuming young university student. Besides, this ‘Melinda’ had already
tried to trick them about where she lived. It didn’t take a criminal genius to figure out
that she was probably smuggling soviet fighter jets in the trunk of her car.
Which Came First?
??? “The customs officers came back out,” remembers Alexa,
“and said ‘ladies, it looks like we have reasonable grounds to search your
??? But first Melinda and her friends were to be personally searched.
Melinda recounts, “they made me put my hands against the wall and spread my legs and
they completely searched me. They didn’t leave a single part of my body untouched. And
they were pushing on my breasts… they were pushing in on my breasts and
everything.” The officers found nothing.
Then they asked Melinda to empty her wallet for them, and that was when they found the
“contraband”: a Hemp Mercantile business card. Melinda’s mother was later
enraged to discover that a business card was grounds for a search of the vehicle. She
telephoned the officer in charge who claimed, incorrectly, that “…well, they sell
pot in those stores.”
??? Obviously adept at tying temporal pretzels, the officer claimed that it
was the business card which gave them reasonable grounds to search the vehicle. Yet he
also told Melinda’s mother on the telephone that he had found the business card in the
glove-box of the car. And didn’t they tell the three women that the car was going to be
searched before they even found the card? Which came first, the search or the reason for
Customs Officers Commit Vandalism
??? Alexa recounts how furiously the customs cops tore apart Melinda’s car
after finding the business card, like they had committed a crime to be punished by
vandalism. “They picked apart stuff and trashed the whole car. Then they said, ?we
found a pipe and fourteen screens in the car. That’s paraphernalia.’ But the pipe didn’t
even have a bowl on it.” According to Melinda and Alexa, they didn’t even know that
the broken old pipe was in the car.
??? If Melinda was a soviet spy for confusing the officers about where she
lived, then she had committed some form of treason for having a broken, bowlless pipe in
the car. The three women were read their rights and incarcerated in a holding cell. While
Alexa and Andrea were allowed to remain in a cell together, Melinda was isolated and
prepared for a strip search.
??? “I could hear Melinda in the next cell,” Alexa says,
“The cop was telling her that if she had anything on her she might as well give it to
them now.” Alexa’s voice trembles as she tells what happened next, “Then they
made her take off all of her clothes, one by one.”
Search and Sleazure
??? Melinda remembers the incident all too well. “I was in a room by
myself and there were no windows, or even a window on the door. They told me to read this
sign. It was about my rights while being searched. I sat down and I didn’t move. I just
sat there with my hands on my knees. I didn’t want to put them in my pockets, because that
might be cause to think I had something on me.”
??? They made Melinda read the sign aloud three times. Melinda sat down,
and two female officers advanced on her and proceeded to strip search. They found nothing.
??? “Afterwards I was just mad… I couldn’t figure out why I had to
be strip-searched. They should have been able to feel something on my body when they
searched earlier. They didn’t make me go to the bathroom to see if there was something
inside of me.” Only Melinda was singled out for a strip search, as her friends
??? If the officers truly found the Hemp Mercantile business card in the
glove box of the car, then what singled out Melinda for a strip search? If a strip search
was warranted for some other reason, then why wasn’t it warranted for all three of the
women? If the officers thought Melinda was hiding something that couldn’t be found by a
conventional search, then why didn’t they do an internal search?
Questions without Answers
??? I have spoken to the chief customs officer and the Canada Customs
Public Relations office. There was much stonewalling by both customs authorities, although
I did get an interesting admission – by way of denial – from the public relations officer,
??? Ms Coupis contended that she was restricted from speaking about the
case because of privacy issues, so I spoke in generalities with her. She admitted to me
that unless certain indicators are present, there is no grounds for searching a vehicle,
and that people cannot even be held at the border for more than 5 or 10 minutes before
they have been legally “detained” and must be read their rights to be held
??? When I asked Ms Coupis whether a hemp card was considered an indicator,
and if so, what kind, she said, “That’s a good question. I’m not going to answer that
??? Many questions remain unanswered after Melinda’s aborted trip to
Canada, “the true North strong and free.” Where strength consists of ganging up
on and stripping young women of their clothes without just cause. Where freedom is a room
without windows, and a locked door.