BONOKOSKI: Former tobacco smuggling routes now carry human cargo

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Tobacco smuggling routes in the Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne on Cornwall Island, close to the city of Cornwall east of the St. Lawrence Seaway, are believed to be now being used to smuggle cargo human.


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The reserve’s marine-snowmobile unit recently intercepted 13 people while patrolling the St. Regis River across the Quebec border.

All were trying to enter the United States illegally.

In recent months, the reserve’s police chief, Shawn Dulude, said more people had tried to flee from police when they were spotted, either in the backyards of homes or on the streets. .

Regardless, any human trafficking activity, he said, poses serious risks to the safety and health of the Akwesasne community, especially given the current situation with the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“Foreign nationals coming in as they are, often we don’t know if they’re infected or not,” Dulude told CBC. “There are people from all walks of life in different parts of the world passing through here… We just want to make sure everyone is safe.”


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(Delude did not respond to my interview request.)

We apologize, but this video failed to load.

The Canadian Center to End Human Trafficking is a charity that operates a toll-free helpline that helps victims and provides information to others.

“Canadians are shockingly oblivious to the realities of human trafficking or how to change things,” said James McLean, director of research and policy at the center. “In our research, we found that three out of four Atlantic Canadians don’t feel like they can recognize the signs of human trafficking.

These numbers would be consistent with the rest of Canada.

According to the Canadian website Human Trafficking Search, human trafficking and human smuggling are terms that are often used interchangeably. But there is a very big distinction.


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Interpol explains the difference because “individuals who pay a smuggler to enter a country illegally do so voluntarily while victims of human trafficking are often tricked or coerced into entering another country”.

“For immigrants smuggled into Canada, their journey ends at the dock, airport or bus station, but for victims of human trafficking, their journey to forced labor or sex trafficking does not begin until once they set foot on Canadian soil. The problem is that more often than not human smuggling turns into human trafficking.

However, those using the proven smuggling routes in Akwesasne were seeking entry into the United States and could not be considered part of human trafficking.


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But human trafficking is only steps away.

Akwesasne Grand Chief Abram Benedict shares his police chief’s concerns, adding that this type of illegal activity is a recurring problem in the area.

“Any trafficking or human trafficking in our community is of great concern to us,” he told CBC.

after movement restrictions came into effect due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cornwall Island, Ontario, Canada on March 25, 2020.
Grand Chief Abram Benedict of Akwesasne poses after movement restrictions came into effect due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Cornwall Island, Ontario, Canada March 25, 2020. Photo by Christine Muschi /Reuters

Beyond the potential spread of COVID-19 in the community, Benedict said foreign nationals who travel to the region are often little known.

“In many cases (they) either have a criminal record or reasons why they cannot be admitted to these countries,” he said.

Benedict said illegal border crossing at Akwesasne is often attempted under extremely dangerous circumstances, whether in the middle of the night or in extreme weather conditions that “create a greater risk for these people.”

The Canadian Border Security Agency, which has taken control of the 13 attempts to illegally enter the United States, issued a press release citing the inability to discuss specific cases.

“Individuals who violate Canada’s immigration laws face serious consequences, including criminal charges, court fines, probation, jail time and a criminal record,” the statement said.

Unless they claim refugee status, of course.

And then it’s a whole new story.

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