December 8, 2023

La Ronge Northerner

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“Humanitarian smugglers” at the Canada-US border

“Humanitarian smugglers” at the Canada-US border

How does she see herself? How can it define itself? The question makes Julia laugh. She smiles too, softly. “You know, it’s not something I talk about in my personal life,” he says before thinking for a few seconds.

I would say I am a humane traffickerShe finally blurted out.

Ferryman. Here it is Fun activity What does Julia do on weekends? Or when we’re on vacation.

Because Julia isn’t the only one. We are a group of fewShe explained without giving further details.

On the surface we seem like ordinary people. Some may be more politicized than others. But we lead our own lives.

Actually, Julia is not the real name of this woman, apparently in her forties. This is the name used first Women of the group, leaves our studio. Male names are David.

Ferry to Plattsburgh

A few months before this meeting, we contacted one of these Julias, pretending to be an immigrant in Haiti to explore the idea of ​​leaving Canada.

It has been revealed that Investigation, several international organized crime networks specialize in the illegal crossing of immigrants across the Canada-US border. This expansion of their operations goes hand-in-hand with the extreme measures being observed by the Canadian and American police, who increase the number of arrests each evening.

As part of our investigation in recent months, we have spoken to a number of traffickers. Julia’s contact details were provided to us by a source close to the humane community, although she was unaware of the motives of this group, which we believed to be guilty.

After several text exchanges about secure messaging, over the phone, Julia arranged to meet us at a cafe in a working-class neighborhood north of Montreal to share the details of this secret trip.

Travel light with a backpack. People around Plattsburgh will provide you.

The final destination of this illegal journey was the town of Plattsburgh in New York State, fifty kilometers from the Quebec border.

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How do we get there? It is not clear. By boat, by car or on foot. All three can be present at the same time. Passing through Lake Champlain was one of the options used, we later learned.

But one essential feature fascinates us. At no point during our discussions does Julia ask us for money, unlike other criminal networks that demand several thousand dollars.

No costShe confirms. We believe in a world without boundaries. We think this is unfair and should not be. We don’t do this to make money.

A few days before embarking on this trip, we revealed our true identity to him while giving him an interview to understand their motivation. Julia was reluctant, and finally one of her colleagues agreed to meet with us a few weeks later.

Julia meets an immigrant in a cafe.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Mathieu Blanchet

To help, not to exploit

This other Julia knows that these criminal groups exist along the Canadian-American border. He insisted that this is why he was involved in this illegal activity. [On veut] Help people who need to cross do so safely without spending money they don’t have. Above all they are without riskshe says.

We are here to help people, not to exploit themshe mentions. The last thing we want is to be associated with our image of kidnappers. We don’t want people to fear us or hide things from us. This could jeopardize their safety and functionality.

How do immigrants find their connection? Unlike other groups that amplify their announcements on social networks, only Julia and her colleagues act. Through word of mouth. We are trying to stay viable for the long term and be careful for our own safety.she adds.

We have the knowledge, and in some communities are important people.

In order to stay out of sight during their journey, We do some checks that criminal networks don’t. Depending on the weather, depending on the reality of the people who want to cross, and depending on their numbers, there are different routes we can take.

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For example, a few days before departure, Let’s check if their path is as seen last time. Let’s say without police cameras. Rental cars are also regularly used by this group, but the costs are covered by their own network, he points out.

Never, she admits, has their team been so busy. Over time, word spread moreShe thinks believing that Living here is difficult will push many migrants Live without papers in Americathan Canada.

[Aux États-Unis] There is a universe, an economy, sad to say, but it allows you to live in a slightly more dignified, more autonomous way without papers.

But their activities are not limited to bringing people to Uncle Sam’s country. Since the closure of Wroxham Road, calls to smuggle migrants into Canada have increased, he says.

Half is halfShe explains. I always recommend Roxham when it’s open [de passer par là]Roxham is not a panacea though.

Altruistic traffickers, but the same risks

This is double life, Julia’s entourage ignores her. But she has Of course Awareness of high legal risks, though We try not to think too much about it.

We know we are breaking some rules [mais] We never asked for any money. If something goes wrong and gets caught, hopefully the justice system can understand it, maybe wrong.

In terms of law and its application, there is no difference between these different groups. Regardless of the underlying motivations, the fact remains that a crime has been committedThe Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are responding.

In recent months, the latter has been increasing border interference with its US counterparts. Nearly a thousand people from Quebec were arrested by US agents in September. This is four times more than last year.

Smugglers who claim virtue face the same risks and penalties as anyone else. It is wrong to believe that because there is no exchange of money, there is no crime.

According to the RCMP, all A person who facilitates the illegal passage of migrants will be arrested and properly investigated.

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These people, no matter how well-intentioned they are, put migrants at great risk and jeopardize their health and safety. In the event of a tragedy, the individuals responsible for regulating the passage of these migrants could face very significant legal consequences.recalls Charles Poirier, a spokesman for the federal agency.

From Julia’s point of view, her team’s activities Respect ethics and human rights. I fundamentally believe that this is a good cause and that it is rightShe believes.

I know that through my actions, I may have saved a life or certainly made a better life. To me, that justifies the costs.

In collaboration with Michael Dietjens and Martin Movilla

Title description by Mathieu Blanchet