Monday, 23 July, 2018

Border Patrol agents reportedly stop Canadians in disputed waters

Machias Seal Island is roughly 19 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan and 16 kilometres from the coast of Maine Machias Seal Island is roughly 19 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan and 16 kilometres from the coast of Maine
Andrew Wong | 09 July, 2018, 07:48

Canadian officials say armed U.S. Border Patrol agents have been stopping and boarding Canadian fishing boats to look for illegal immigrants in the contested waters between ME and New Brunswick, resurfacing an old maritime dispute.

"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", said Global Affairs spokeswoman Elizabeth Reid, adding that Ottawa was reaching out to the USA authorities for more details on the incident.

Chris Mills, a former lightkeeper in the Canadian coast guard, said he never saw a Border Patrol boat or a US military vessel pass by when he worked at the Machias Seal Island Lighthouse in 1991 and 1992.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, confirmed the encounters but said they were routine and suggested that agents did not board the boats but rather adjoined them so agents could ask questions.

U.S. Border Patrol has ramped up enforcement along Maine's maritime border with Canada, in an operation that alarmed Canadian fishermen and surprised Americans.

"Canada's sovereignty over the area is long-standing and has a strong foundation in global law", the post said.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent looks over Lake Erie near the U.S.

Ties between Canada and the United States have been strained since President Donald Trump slapped tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, citing us national security, with Trump calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "very dishonest" and "weak" after a spat at the G7 meeting in Quebec last month.

Federal law gives Border Patrol the authority to stop, search and examine any vehicle entering the US including those in a maritime environment, Malin said.

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"If the Canadians want to use the term harass, they have been harassing us for years", Drouin said. But both Canadian and American fishermen said they noticed increased activity in harbors and in the Atlantic in early June.

Only about 100,000 of the United States' 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants were from Canada, according to the Pew Research Center in 2014. The Border Patrol described the encounters in the Atlantic as "regular patrol operations to enforce immigration laws".

"There's been a bit of a misunderstanding there somewhere", said Laurence Cook, the chairman of the advisory board for the lobster fishing area.

He has also bolstered border security in the northern frontier with Canada, and the American Civil Liberties Union said USA police had been setting up more checkpoints on roads leading to the Canadian border to check people's citizenship.

The fishermen are members of the Grand Manan Fisherman's Association.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

"Absolutely overkill", he said of the "disturbing" stops.

Visitors head to Machias Seal Island on in June 2016. "Until the matter of the boundary is resolved, we will continue to take practical steps with the U.S.to ensure that the area is well‎ managed". In 2007, according to the National Post, an American fisherman had his thumb torn off when his equipment became tangled during a dispute with a Canadian competitor.

"I'm sure from the border patrol's perspective, that's not at all what they were doing", he said, citing the American claim on the area that dates back to the late 1700s.

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