SAINT-BERNARD-DE-LACOLLE, QUE. Security officials scrambled on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border Monday morning when two men, a young woman and an infant made their way to the busiest hole in the frontier.
On the American side, the group was flagged to the U.S. Border Patrol. Agents intervened and brought them in for questioning and verifications to ensure that they were legally in the country, said Norman Lague, an officer with the agency.
When they passed the inspection, the group loaded their three backpacks, the baby s diaper bag, a stroller and car seat into a silver taxi van and continued along Roxham Road, a dusty dead-end street, on their way to Canada.
It is a version of the scenario that happens now several times a day every day here near the Quebec town of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle a taxi arrives, a family emerges, luggage is hauled across a border that is nothing more than a ditch, the RCMP arrests the asylum seekers, and takes them to be processed into an already overloaded system.
But despite the heartwarming photos of police officers helping with young children, or offering an arm to negotiate the slippery snowbanks, it appears that the status quo is starting to stress Canada s border protection and refugee-intake system.
From corporals to a staff sergeant to an inspector, the Mounties who spoke to reporters during a media tour Monday were too stoic to admit such a thing. But Brad Cutris, an acting division chief with the U.S. Border Patrol said it loud and clear from the American side of the border in response to questions lobbed at him a few feet away in Canada.
A solution would be great, he said.
Like what? a Radio-Canada journalist asked, while teetering on the snowy bank of a creek running between the two countries.
I wish I knew, ma am. I m not a policy-maker.
Monday s group of stunned and likely frightened border crossers was greeted in Canada by many of the nation s media outlets, plus a few American journalists who were visiting to better understand that the U.S. is not alone in having people streaming across its borders.
The tour for reporters began at the RCMP s emergency operations centre in downtown Montreal, where the force showed off its remote surveillance capabilities, including high-resolution cameras and regular helicopter patrols.
Cpl. Fran ois Gagnon, a media spokesperson with the force, told reporters that the increase in illegal border crossings into Canada has been the greatest in Quebec. It has meant more work for patrol officers but not more than the force can handle, he emphasized.
But when the tour moved on to Roxham Road a once-unknown country street that has become Canada s version of Ellis Island for some migrants Gagnon was among the dozen RCMP officers thrust into action when unexpected border-crossers arrived.
The 13 dramatic minutes from the time that the migrants taxi pulled up to the border in the U.S. to the time they were driven away in Canada was captured by frenzied photographers and television cameras.
Unlike other asylum seekers who obtain tourist visas to travel to the U.S. and make their way directly to Canada upon arrival, this group appears to have been living south of the border for some time.
One of the men who had pulled his black toque down to hide his face told Cpl. Gagnon that he was from Eritrea and had been living in the U.S. since 2013. Another RCMP officer who seized the border-crossers passports held a Minnesota drivers licence and what appeared to be a Sudanese passport in his hands.
At Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec s largest border crossing, Canada s newest refugee claimants would have been taken to the basement of a decommissioned building that has been set up with couches, offices, computers and vending machines to process the elevated number of refugee claimants.
Normally, the Canada Border Services Agency sees between 10 and 20 claims per day, said Dominique Fillion, an enforcement officer with the agency. Last month there were 452 asylum seekers who made claims at that particular border crossing. The agency will not say how many of those people crossed into Canada illegally.
Fillion said the CBSA has been redeploying agents from others posts and duties to help fingerprint, photograph and process the increased number of refugee claimants.
Every day we get more officers coming in, she said.
Like the RCMP, Fillion would not, or could not say if the agency is looking at any long-term solutions to ease the demands on the system.
Refugee advocates in Canada and the U.S. have urged the federal government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, which forces refugees to make their claim in whichever country they first reach. That would remove the need for asylum seekers to sneak into Canada in order to exploit a loophole in the deal.
Ottawa has so far rejected such calls, but there is increasing pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau s Liberals to develop a plan that will reduce the illegal and sometimes dangerous crossings.
Illegal crossings are unsafe and a burden on local communities, MP Tony Clement, the Conservative party s public safety critic, wrote on Twitter over the weekend. Our laws should be enforced.
- ^ Montreal becomes third Canadian sanctuary city for non-status refugees (www.thestar.com)
- ^ Toronto not truly a Sanctuary City, report says (www.thestar.com)
- ^ How Canada should react to Trump and refugee crisis: Opinion (www.thestar.com)
Posted: Feb. 19, 2017 8:00 am
NASHUA, N.H. (AP) Police have charged two members of the Daniel Webster men’s basketball team after a fight during a game that required 25 officers to restore order. Nashua authorities say guard Marquise Caudill assaulted a player from the opposing team Saturday and threatened an officer working a security detail who tried to stop him. They also said teammate Antwaun Boyd appeared to be inciting an already hostile crowd that had surrounded the officer. According to its website, Southern Vermont was playing Daniel Webster, which forfeited the game.
The 22-year-old Caudill, of Windsor, Connecticut, is being held on $50,000 cash bail on assault, criminal threatening and disorderly conduct charges. The 23-year-old Boyd, from Stamford, Connecticut, was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and released after bail was posted. It wasn’t immediately known if either is represented by a lawyer.
One other person, 43-year-old Elizabeth Morris of Malden, Massachusetts, also was charged in connection with the disturbance. She was released after bail was posted.
Published Monday, February 20, 2017 4:25PM CST
Last Updated Monday, February 20, 2017 7:20PM CST
An arrest warrant has been issued for a man Saskatchewan RCMP say threatened staff at the Kamsack Hospital. Mounties are searching for Fred Cote Jr. The 31-year-old threatened the hospital and its staff on Saturday morning, which prompted the Sunrise Health Region to implement security protocols, according to police.
The region has since locked the doors of the hospital and stationed a security guard at the entrance. The guard is monitoring who s entering and exiting the hospital, the region says. Cote Jr., who s described as 5-9 and 185 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes, may be armed and should not be approached, RCMP say. He was last seen driving away from the hospital in an older, green pickup truck. The hospital s doors are expected to remain locked overnight Monday, with operations returning to normal Tuesday, according to the health region.