Games Without Frontiers: Human Trafficking in Our Back Yard  

By Colin McGregor     

Pierre Lefrançois is the editor-in-chief and president of Le Saint-Armand, the community newspaper for L’Armandie. That’s the name for the area on the Quebec side of the Vermont border just east of Lake Champlain. He has his ear on the ground as to what’s happening in his community, just like all good community media.

And according to him: There are citizens telling him that there are people crossing the border, coming into and going out of Canada clandestinely across farmland all the time.  But “When we speak to the border authorities, they seem ignorant of the phenomenon,” Mr. Lefrançois explains.

There are people who have been coming into Canada for years, through properties bordering Vermont. Farmers see people crossing the border day and night.

Mr. Lefrançois has heard of no human trafficking near Lake Champlain. It all happens inland, “from farmer’s field to another farmer’s field.”

And the traffic is by no means entirely headed from the United States to Canada, as was the case in past years. “There seems to be a new network in which people leave Canada. They enter Canada as a way of getting in to the United States.” Before, all traffic consisted of illegals leaving the U.S. for Canada.

“Citizens don’t want to talk about it publicly,” he says. “They don’t want to be accused of something, or get into trouble with the criminal networks.”

There have been cameras on the border for years: “There are camera systems installed along the length of the border. If I crossed the border I would expect a visit from the RCMP within minutes.” But for the migrants in the fields, seemingly nothing is done. “I am a long way from coming up with an explanation for this phenomenon. Maybe they don’t want to alarm the population. I don’t know. We who live along the border all know it’s happening.”

Le Saint-Armand is a member of AMECQ, L’association des médias écrits communautaires de Québec, the Quebec Community Written Media Association, as is Reflet de Société.

The asylum seekers who arrive in Canada along the famous Roxham Road, which is to the west of Lake Champlain, are on the increase this year.

According to Radio-Canada, Justin Trudeau’s government hopes that the Americans will look into the lucrative business that is the transport of migrants along the border. The Minister of Public Security, Marco Mendicino, says: “In Canada, we have a strategy to (combat) human trafficking. It’s one of our priorities. We’re working very hard.” As well, he says that “The United States is responsible in their jurisdiction, in their country, to arrest criminals.”  

He says there is excellent cooperation between the two countries. But in the eyes of Bloc Quebecois leader Yves Blanchette, Ottawa “tolerates a smuggling business to get people into Quebec and Canada.”  

The regional spokesperson for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not reply when we reached out for comment.

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