American border patrol agents stopping and boarding Canadian vessels: spokesman

James Marshall
July 6, 2018

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

According to a statement from the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association obtained by CBC News, the association said it believed the situation was part of a "regular exercise being conducted along the us marine border".

The contested island and surrounding waters, which begin about five kilometres southwest of New Brunswick's Grand Manan, are known as the "grey zone".

Rick Doucet, New Brunswick's fisheries minister, told the National Post Wednesday that fishermen have informed him of "heavily armed" border patrol agents clambering onto lobster boats, saying they were looking for illegal immigrants.

At least 10 Canadian fishing boats operating in disputed waters off the coast of ME were intercepted in recent days by U.S. Border Patrol agents searching for illegal immigrants, according to Canadian news organizations.

The flare-up - amid recently heightened tensions between the United States and Canadian government over trade - revolves around the last, unresolved land-border dispute between the two longtime North American allies.

A program manager with the association told CBC that everyone is being stopped, "It's not exclusive to Canadians". "Proud of Nick not surprised to see the Americans trying to push people around".

They claim to be looking for illegal immigrants.

US officials told CBC News in a statement that the border agents were in the area to "enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law".

"Sometimes doing nothing is better", he said.

Elizabeth Read, a Global Affairs spokeswoman, said that "Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law".

Visitors head to Machias Seal Island on in June 2016.

"They're in global waters, so border patrol shouldn't be boarding Canadian vessels", he said. However, Canadian officials are not happy.

While the State Department did not immediately respond to request for comment, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said the "US Border Patrol was conducting regular patrol operation to enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law that they may encounter in the course of their duties".

He has argued that Canada and the USA should submit the disagreement to arbitration at the world court.

Emily Gilbert, a University of Toronto professor who researches the US-Canada border, told Business Insider that it's common for the both the US Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to patrol those waterways. Border agents have also assisted in two rescues this fiscal year.

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.

He said drug smuggling is a more relevant concern.

Tensions between Canada and the United States are now high over trade issues related to American tariffs on steel and aluminium and retaliatory Canadian levies; disputes over dairy, lumber, and wine; and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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