US Border Agents Question Canadian Fishing Crews About Immigrants In Disputed Waters

08 July, 2018, 11:13 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • Machias Seal Island is roughly 19 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan and 16 kilometres from the coast of Maine

"There is no threat, there's no indication of any movement of humanity from New Brunswick or Nova Scotia through the Bay of Fundy to the United States", said Lee Cohen, an immigration and refugee lawyer who has practised in Halifax for more than 30 years. "Canadian fishermen are being harassed by U.S. Border Patrol".

Drouin said he believed Canadians were overreacting to the Border Patrol stops.

Drouin said his two sons were also recently stopped when they were fishing in the contentious area around Machias Seal Island, which is about 19 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan Island and east of Maine. "To be illegal they would have to be in sovereign waters and they know it", he said, adding an expletive.

But some Canadian fishermen have described the encounters as harassment. Last Sunday and Monday, after the first reports surfaced about the Border Patrol operations, a roughly 100-foot-long Canadian coast guard vessel appeared in the disputed gray zone and began patrolling the area. They're also doing so on the water. "Why wait until it becomes something uglier?" USA law allows such immigration enforcement actions to be conducted anywhere within 100 miles of the border.

The group said it's working with the Canadian government to ensure their members can continue to use the fishery in a "normal manner", noting that they have previously enjoyed a "respectful and cordial" relationship with their American counterparts.

"There's been a bit of a misunderstanding there somewhere", Laurence Cook, chairman of the advisory board for Lobster Fishing Area 38, said.

After American fishermen came forward to say that their boats were also being intercepted by border patrol agents, the association said in a statement that they understood the incidents to be "part of a regular exercise being conducted along the United States marine border". The agency has not disclosed how many stops have been made. "Right answer Nick", said Cook. "I guess the comment on the street would be: 'Typical American bullies, '" said Stephen Kelly, a former American diplomat who served in Canada.

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Machias Seal Island is seen on June 24, 2016. Both countries claim the island, which is about 10 miles off ME and home to two full-time residents (both Canadian), puffins, rocks and not much else, and say they have the right to patrol its boundaries.

That debate has come to a head lately, starting with a June 25 Facebook post in which a Canadian fisherman alleged that U.S. Border Patrol attempted to stop a fellow fisherman "in the zone".

Canada is contacting U.S. agencies about the encounters, said John Babcock, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada.

"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in global law", Babcock said.

Late on Wednesday - the American Independence Day holiday - a spokesman for USA border patrol said its agents were carrying out regular operations to "enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law".

The US border patrol has been accused of "bullying" Canadian fishing vessels in the seas near ME amid tensions between the countries over US President Donald Trump's trade tariffs.

Those types of agreements were brokered long before President Donald Trump took office, but Gilbert said that due to his administration's aggressive border-security policies (not to mention the ongoing trade war between Canada and the US), Canadians are beginning to regret giving the US so much authority.

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