By William Thomas
Upon his return from a visit to his native El Salvador and before going through customs at Pearson Airport last year, Mario Castillo had checked the “No” box to the question about importing meat products into Canada. Whoops! Wrong answer.
Personally, I enjoy checking the “No” box on the question of whether I will be visiting a farm in Canada within the next 14 days and on the 13th day I put on a false mustache and dark glasses and then … and then I visit a farm. Never, ever been caught.
So Mario was making his merry way through the customs’ processing procedure when a Canada Border Service Agency inspector discovered 15 pieces of fried chicken in his luggage. On the spot and without an explanation he was fined $800. He was told the penalty would be only $400 if he paid it within 15 days.
Instead of paying the fine, the man branded a “chicken trafficker” appealed to the Canada Agricultural Review Tribunal which quashed the fine after hearing the explanation. Apparently, unbeknownst to Mario, his mother had put the fried chicken in his luggage while he was having a shower, so that he would have something to eat when he returned home to an empty fridge.
So Mom comes off looking like the head of an El Salvador chicken cartel and her son appears to be the innocent mule in the illegal importation of a kilo of finger lickin’ good contraband. He’s lucky he was not fined an additional $800 for committing an indignity to the memory of Colonel Saunders.
At this point, the mayor of Toronto tried to intervene on Mario’s behalf but upon further investigation it was believed Rob Ford was just after the chicken.
Adding insult to garlic, the fried chicken was confiscated by Canada’s ever-vigilant but seldom-vegetarian border service.
But in Canada, when a man thinks he’s been wrongfully convicted of packing poultry in his luggage, he has the legal right to appeal. And he’s got a pretty good chance of winning his case because – and this is true in El Salvador as well as Canada – dead chickens don’t talk. In fact in Canada, the chicken probably could have launched a lawsuit claiming his international rights had been discriminated against but he’d already been carved into 15 pieces. Hadn’t justice already been rendered?
Angry that the verdict had been wrongfully overturned, Border Services applied to the Federal Court of Appeal for a judicial review of the tribunal’s decision. Nobody described the border agency of being left with egg on its face because that would trigger a philosophical argument of which comes first? The batter or the eleven secret herbs and spices?
Why you ask did the CBSA take the chicken case to a higher court? To show that they weren’t chicken.
This time the three-member appeal found that Canada Agricultural Reviews Tribunal had made an error in law and they quashed their ruling which had quashed the fine sending the matter back to the Agricultural Tribunal for a new and thorough quashing. Recipe for quashed chicken – first fry chicken pieces in covered skillet and leave them in luggage for twenty hours.
“Castillo,” the judge ruled, “may have been unaware that the chicken was in his luggage … but the clear intent of Parliament … provide an absolute liability regime … blah, blah, blah.” In other words, ignorance of chicken or indeed its presence on or near your person is not a viable defense. Had the chicken attempted to enter Canada in its own luggage with no help from a doting mother or her son the smuggler, that would then have been legal.
It’s obvious that these proceedings – which involved a dozen bureaucrats who graduated from university, hundreds of thousands of dollars, nearly two years of court time, a guy named Mario, a chicken we’ll call Eastside and a decree of Parliament – were clearly meant to protect the unsuspecting Canadian public from a disease known as Deep Fried Bird Flu – the El Salvador strain N1B2 Fade Left, Hike! Hike!.
The vigilance and due process of the Canadian justice system shows beyond a reasonable doubt that this government is not only serious about chicken but it sends a clear message to roasted ducks and even broasted turkey not to test our border security. Whole or dispersed in thighs, breasts or drumsticks, undocumented poultry illegally entering Canada will be apprehended and then destroyed on the spot.
Motto: “Be you a thirty-pound Butterball or three-ounce pigeon, the Canada Border Service Agency always gets its bird.”
The next appeal in this ongoing, international fowl but legal proceeding will take place in camera at an undisclosed food-related location in downtown Toronto. “Eastside Mario’s! Eastside Mario’s! Ay Budda Boom Budda Ching!”
I have no idea why the chicken crossed the border but I’m sure he’s damn sorry he did.