quebec security guard
By Barry Ellsworth
Relatively warm temperatures this weekend are expected to attract a groundswell of refugees fleeing the United States into Canada through basically unguarded border wilderness, Canadian media reported Saturday. Spurred by fear of U.S. President Donald Trump s get-tough policies on refugees and undocumented immigrants, and also by his attempts at a travel ban on those from seven Muslim-majority countries, the newcomers would join hundreds of others who have crossed the border by foot in the provinces of Manitoba, Quebec and British Columbia, sometimes braving temperatures as low as 5 Fahrenheit (-15 C). Some refugees have lost fingers and toes to frostbite but that has not stopped the swell of asylum seekers.
At least 90 have crossed into Manitoba since Jan. 1, while in Quebec 452 refugee claimants were reported in the same month, according to CTV television news. Nine asylum seekers, including four children, barley made it across the Canadian border from Champlain, N.Y., Global television news reported. A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer caught a taxi at the border Friday and seized the passports of the passengers.
As he questioned an adult male in the front passenger seat, four adults and four children fled the cab and made a break for Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) standing on the Canadian side of a small snow-filled gully. RCMP officers helped the refugees up from the gully. The man who was being questioned then grabbed the passports from the U.S. border guard and took off for the safety of Canada. The guard yelled and chased but he stopped at the gully border as Canadian police helped him up, Global reported.
Luggage lay strewn in the snow where it had been thrown out of the taxi. The American guard and the RCMP eyed the luggage, then the U.S. agent took the luggage to the border line where the Canadian officers picked it up. The RCMP took the baggage and the refugees in vehicles, heading to the nearest border office so the asylum seekers could be interviewed and make a refugee claim.
Once inside Canada, migrants have the right to claim as refugees, providing they pass security checks, reported the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Many of the refugees are from the seven Muslim-majority countries Trump named in his infamous travel ban. Although the ban has been blocked by a U.S. court, refugees are not taking chances and are fleeing into Canada in growing numbers.
Refugee claims made at the border have doubled over the past two years, surging to 7,023 in 2016, while in 2015 it was 4,316. In 2014 it was of 3,747, the CBC reported.
My gut feeling is we are going to have 40 to 50 people coming here just tonight or tomorrow morning, Greg Janzen said Friday. Janzen is the reeve of the municipality of Emerson-Franklin, Manitoba, where many refugees end up. He spoke to CTV.
When Sylvane tried to file a police complaint last year against the chief of the small Innu community of Uashat-Maliotenam for allegedly sexually abusing her when she was a teenager, she ran into a roadblock.
“The Aboriginal police didn’t want to take my complaint because they said he’s the chief right now,” she told Radio-Canada’s investigative program, Enqu te.
Sylvane whose last name, like those of several other women interviewed for this report, CBC/Radio-Canada has agreed to conceal alleges the abuse started in June 2000, soon after her 13th birthday, when the current chief, Mike McKenzie, was 26.
“He gave me drugs, he made me drink. But in exchange, I always had to give him sex,” she told Radio-Canada. She persisted in trying to report the alleged abuse, turning to the provincial police, who told her they couldn’t intervene unless they were asked to by the local Indigenous police force. Eventually, after she got help from a lawyer, the provincial police did step in and launched an investigation. In June 2016, charges of sexual assault and sexual touching were laid against McKenzie, with the preliminary inquiry set to begin Friday.
McKenzie maintains his innocence.
‘He gave me drugs, he made me drink. But in exchange, I always had to give him sex.’ – Sylvane, describing allegations she’s made against current Uashat-Maliotenam Chief Mike McKenzie
When the charges were laid, the chief stepped down temporarily. But he returned to work after a two-month absence, saying he was democratically elected and felt it was important to fulfil his duties.
“What message does that send in our community?” said Lise Jourdain, a friend who reached out to Sylvane when she heard about the allegations. “Don’t touch the chief, but you can touch a 12-year-old child.”
Jenny, another Innu woman from the same community on Quebec’s North Shore, 900 kilometres northeast of Montreal, said her five-year-old son was being abused by the teenaged son of a babysitter, beginning in 2009. She said she complained to local police when she learned about the abuse in 2011, but the abuse continued even after police interviewed her son about his allegations. The interview was conducted by an officer with the community’s Aboriginal police force in French instead of in the son’s native Innu.
Uashat-Maliotenam’s police force referred all of Radio-Canada’s questions having to do with their conduct to the band council. (Radio-Canada)
In all, Jenny said she made four complaints to police without result. After she went to police for the fourth time, Jenny took her son to hospital for an examination when police failed to do so. She said she was told the forensic rape kit done at the hospital was lost. However, Enqu te learned it was transmitted to police, but it had never been sent to a Montreal lab to be tested.
No charges have been brought against the alleged abuser. The Crown prosecutor’s office reviewed the file twice and determined the law was applied as it should be, because of the “young age” of the boy, “his difficulties in describing the facts and his confusion at what happened.”
Quebec’s public security minister has just launched an internal ethics probe into how police handled the case.
Many Indigenous communities in Quebec are policed by a local squad that falls under the band council’s jurisdiction.
“It will always remain a local police, a politicized police force,” said Maurice Tass , a former S ret du Qu bec officer who once headed a now-defunct regional Indigenous police force before it was disbanded in 2000 due to lack of resources.
‘What message does that send in our community? Don’t touch the chief, but you can touch a 12-year-old child.’ – Lise Jourdain, member of the Innu community of Uashat-Maliotenam
In fact, all of the questions Enq ete sent to the Uashat-Maliotenam Police Service were referred to the band council, which had promised to respond. But the council’s executive director failed to show up to two meetings with Radio-Canada journalists to respond to the allegations.
Struggling for justice amid backlash
A third woman, Nicole, told Radio-Canada she had to wait 10 long years, some of them in self-imposed exile from her Atikamekw community, 400 kilometres north of Montreal, before she saw the man whom she accused of abusing her as a child sent to prison. Jean-Paul N ashish, a former head of the Wemotaci First Nation Police Force, was sentenced to six years in prison last October for sexually assaulting five women over a 40-year period. He continues to maintain his innocence and calls his accusers liars. As she waited for the case to wind through the courts, Nicole had to grapple with the belief of others in Wemotaci that she was lying.
“All that time, that’s what I was struggling with. I lived in fear full of stress and hatred of it all.”
Sylvane said she faced a similar backlash.
“A lot of people bullied me on Facebook. [They wrote]: ‘We don’t believe her,'” Sylvane said of the months after she went public about the alleged abuse. “When I saw that, I became even more discouraged.”
Another Innu woman from Uashat-Maliotenam, Danielle St-Onge, says she witnessed last fall just how dismissive the wider Indigenous community was of her experience as a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
This award was given to L o St-Onge by a First Nations suicide prevention group two months after he pleaded guilty to gross indecency against a minor in a case brought forward by his niece. (Radio-Canada)
Her uncle, L o St-Onge, pleaded guilty to gross indecency against a minor last summer. Despite his guilty plea, he maintained his innocence, saying he acted on the recommendation of his lawyer. He was given a conditional discharge, however, his name now appears on the sexual offenders registry. Two months after he pleaded guilty, St-Onge was honoured by an Aboriginal suicide prevention group for his work helping women, a move that shocked his 54-year-old niece.
“He was commended, and I was discredited,” Danielle St-Onge said of the pain she felt when she found out her uncle had been honoured. The organization later apologized and rescinded the award.
Enq ete will air its full report, Le cercle vicieux, on Radio-Canada Thursday at 9 p.m. ET
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