Man's home 'invaded' by government

Man’s home ‘invaded’ by government search of fish tanks

Surrey, B.C., resident targeted by inspectors looking for marijuana grow-op

**By Kathy Tomlinson, CBC News Read 10 comments10]( **

Mike Baynes said he felt the inspection team invaded his privacy, when they came looking for a marijuana grow-op. (CBC)
A B.C. man who raises tropical fish said his home and privacy were invaded when local enforcement agencies knocked on his door while looking for a marijuana grow operation, and then forced him to pay for an electrical inspection and upgrade his fish-tank operation.
“I felt violated,” said Mike Baynes, 67, from Surrey, B.C. “When they came in here and saw no grow-op, I think they should have said ‘I’m sorry Mike,’ and then turned around and walked out.”
Baynes is one of 128 Surrey residents who don’t have grow operations, but were nevertheless subjected to searches and electrical repair orders in recent months because they use a lot of hydro.
“I think that is an invasion of privacy,” he said. “I don’t think that the City of Surrey has anything to do with my hydro consumption.”
Seven B.C. municipalities, including Surrey, are registered with BC Hydro to get monthly lists of all customers who use more than three times the daily average amount of power.
Teams have police escort

Teams of electrical and fire inspectors then go out to the homes they suspect could be marijuana grow operations to conduct searches, with the RCMP standing by outside.
Residents first get a written notice that says if they don’t consent to a search within 48 hours, the team will seek a warrant.
“I heard a noise outside, and then when I went and looked I had this big yellow notice stuck on my door,” said Baynes.
Because he wasn’t doing anything illegal, Baynes said he had no problem giving his permission. In hindsight, he said, he wishes he’d asked more questions.
“They come in, they look around, different guys wander around here and there and the electrical inspector comes in and he looks at the power bars under the aquariums and he says, ‘I don’t like those power bars on the floor,’” said Baynes.“I misunderstood the system. I didn’t know that they had the powers to order a safety electrical inspection.”
$800 cost to resident
Baynes said he was ordered to hire an electrician to look at his 19 fish tanks, which cost him $800. He added it was cheaper than it could have been because as a retired electrician he did some of the work.
Baynes was told the power bars he uses for his fish tanks posed a hazard. (CBC)
“I think [municipal inspectors] have to justify their existence,” Baynes said. “They turned around and said, ‘We can’t find [any grow op] but — just in case — slap. Do this. And some of the quotes I got [for electricians] were $3,000.”
The electrician who did the inspection confirmed Baynes did nothing wrong, but some of his wiring wasn’t up to code. Baynes then made some upgrades to his fish tanks, which he felt were unnecessary.
“I was picked on,” he said.
Statistics show, for the first time last year, more often than not the Surrey teams found no illegal grow-ops at homes they inspected. In 2011, they found 82 marijuana grow operations, but also issued 128 electrical repair notices to law-abiding residents like Baynes.
“When you don’t find anything — and you still look for a reason [to issue an order] — I call that harassment,” he said. “And I’m paying for that. I pay taxes here.”
Surrey fire Chief Len Garis told CBC News that since the program started in 2005, the teams have inspected 2,253 homes, of which 1,158 were confirmed as illegal grow operations. Those homeowners were fined between $2,300 and $3,600, Garis said.
Many have no grow-op

At slightly fewer homes — 1,067 — the inspectors found no evidence of illegal grow operations. Of those, 642 had legitimate reasons for high hydro bills.
The other 425 — like Baynes — were given repair notices for electrical violations, requiring them to do upgrades.
The Surrey teams put notices on residents’ doors, giving 48 hours notice of a pending inspection. (CBC)
Garis added that because of the 48-hour notice of inspections, the grow operations they do find are “almost always” dismantled by the time the team does its search.
“When we get in there, the operators have pulled out all the plants and left,” said Garis. He also said he can’t remember a single inspection that led to criminal charges.
“Possibly in the early days there were charges, but I’m not aware of any,” said Garis.
He said the program is revenue neutral. Fees levied against homeowners with grow-ops have brought in $3.42 million so far, which covered the cost of inspections. Garis also said most residents without grow-ops consent to the inspections and don’t appeal the repair notices.
The executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said he hopes more people will begin to stand up and fight. David Eby believes the bylaws and laws that allow these inspections would not hold up under constitutional challenges.
“There are an increasing number of people who are being subjected to these incredibly invasive searches who are doing nothing wrong except for potentially having some exposed wiring that they need to fix,” said Eby.
Searches challenged

“How much power do we want to give police? How much power do we want to give city authorities to invade our privacy like that? They are going to find some grow-ops, for sure. But they are also going to violate the rights of a lot of people.”
The BCCLA is supporting residents in Mission, B.C., who have launched a class action lawsuit over similar inspections in that community.
An RCMP officer waits in a car outside while inspections are conducted.
One Mission resident who grows cucumbers was fined $5,200. Another got the same fine for a hot tub with faulty wiring.
“If B.C. continues to operate in this way, these kinds of programs will be introduced across the country,” said Eby. “If people value their privacy and if they think this is an overreach in terms of government power, then they need to be speaking out about it now.”
The BCCLA suspects more detailed B.C. Hydro customer information will be available to municipalities, once Smart Meters are gauging usage more quickly and accurately.
“As technology improves, they will be able to get even more information,” Eby predicted.
B.C. Hydro is required by provincial law to hand over customer billing information on all high-usage customers when asked by the municipality.
Chief security officer Bob Harriman insisted Smart Meters won’t make much of a difference. He said the billing records given to municipalities will be more up to date, but otherwise the same.
“The data being collected with the new metering system is no more different than the data being collected under the old system,” said Harriman. “The smart meters are not that smart.”
The utility sent 32 reports out last year to registered municipalities, detailing two years of billing history on all customers who used more than three times the daily average amount of power.
David Eby, of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, thinks the searches are an unjustified invasion of privacy. (CBC)
“BC Hydro guards very near and dear customer database information, and only shares it under legislative process,” said Harriman.
Baynes said he pays $450 a month for hydro. He’s worried now that the inspection teams have him on their list, they could be back.
[size=4]“It all reminds me of 1984 written by George Orwell,” said Baynes. “The government is all powerful.”[/size]

I think this could get very ugly .
I find electric concerns in many home I have inspected some more serious then others .
Where has common sense gone



Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
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[size=3]Bell cellphone billing error topped $3,000

Always check your monthly statement to make sure the charges are correct.

By Ellen Roseman | Sun Mar 4 2012
If you have been overcharged for a long time, you may not get a full refund. Here’s why.
Here’s a great reason why you should be checking your monthly bills and asking questions about any charges you don’t recognize.
If you have been overcharged for a long time, you may not get a full refund.
Dhun Noria trusted Bell Canada to send accurate bills and didn’t check them each month. He’s a 40-year customer and very loyal to the company.
But after disconnecting his cellphone in 2006, he kept being billed for it until this year. The error only came to his attention when he planned to buy another cellphone.
“We had a few services provided by Bell and we paid the invoices on time,” he says. “It wasn’t until January that I realized I was paying for something I did not own.”
When he called Bell, he was reimbursed for three months’ service ($160). Later, he was promised credits (worth $1,000) on his future wireless service.
Why didn’t he get back more than $3,000 in erroneous cellphone charges during that six-year period?
Under Bell’s written terms of service, customers have 90 days to question or dispute any fees. Otherwise, they are deemed to accept them.
If you don’t check your credit card bills, you may not spot dubious charges from companies whose names you don’t recognize.

Related: How to avoid premium text-messaging fees ](
Beth O’Shaughnessy found a $76.72 charge from a firm she didn’t know while looking at her CIBC Visa account online.
“On further reviewing our bill, we realized this was the second charge from the same company, with another one in the same amount two weeks ago,” she said.
The company, Digital Star, has attracted many online complaints across North America for charging people’s credit cards and not delivering any goods or services.
George Wark found Digital Star charges of $74.95 and $2.16 on his BMO MasterCard bill. He, too, didn’t remember dealing with the company.
“I’m very meticulous about checking my bank accounts regularly, despite whatever security measures are claimed to apply,” he said.
He was told to fill out a fraud form and wait for the bank to investigate the suspicious charges. He would get a refund in a few months if the charges were indeed unauthorized.
O’Shaughnessy didn’t like the lengthy refund process. After contacting me, she got her money back from CIBC within a week of finding the charges.
Doug Cunningham notified me about an error on his American Express credit card bill.
“Despite paying my balance in full on Jan. 4, more than two weeks ahead of the due date, I was assessed an interest penalty,” he said.
“When I called Amex, they said a number of clients were billed incorrectly due to a widespread computer glitch. They immediately reversed the charge and apologized.”
Jolene Price, an Amex spokeswoman, confirmed that some cardholders were billed interest charges on their January statements — even though their accounts were current and their payments were received on time.
Refunds would be given to those customers on their February statements, “regardless of whether or not they called in to our service centre,” she said.
Cunningham’s response: “Bear in mind that Amex is quick to charge interest if the bill isn’t paid in full. I’d like to see if they give interest credits to customers who made overpayments in January.”

Related: How to reduce US roaming fees
I’m keen to hear from readers. How frequently do you catch billing errors and get them reversed? Have you been shortchanged on a refund because you didn’t report a mistake promptly?
My advice: Pay attention to all your monthly bills. Go through the charges line by line. Call to ask about anything that doesn’t ring true.
Finally, never assume the numbers are correct. Companies rely on you to bring billing issues to their attention. If you don’t, they’ll blame you for being lazy instead of shining a mirror on their own inaccuracy


If you think the BC pot searchers are out of line wait till the Harper bullies pass bill C-30. This bill gives authority to any police officer to demand any and all information about you that is on the ISP servers. That includes all your emails, the web sites you have visited, etc.
Oh and according to Vic Toews if you object to this invasion then you are supporting child porn.