The length and breadth of Canada’s border with the U.S. is in many ways awe inspiring.
Intimidating however, to anyone asked to defend it. Nine thousand kilometres crossing sheared rock, moss covered tundra and sparse vistas of prairie dust. On the edge of Canada’s biggest cities, sometimes within arm’s reach of small towns and villages consisting only of a single Co-op store and post office, but mostly it is a vast expanse of trees, rivers and open fields.
With modern forms of transportation available, and people being people, there is always someone willing to take advantage of this unfenced and uncluttered border to bring in or export across. Parcels of money, drugs, and guns. Sometimes the packages to be delivered are just people.
It is often bragged as Canada’s “undefended” border. In fact– that is exactly what it is. It is another Federal area, where the RCMP has failed the citizens of this country because of political expediency and simple outright neglect.
Our ability to grow and thrive as an independent sovereign nation thwarted and stymied by our total dependence upon our American neighbours, anytime there is a need to defend. Our affinity for the Americans is not a constant, it undulates, from harbouring draft dodgers during Vietnam to love in announcements of bi-lateral trade agreements. This love-you love-you-not relationship has remained for the most part, non-violent; tamed by unswerving mutual democratic principles, and the fact that our personalities are similar.
One could argue the logic of this arrangement –in terms of our independence and the need for an autonomous nation, but we seemed destined and content to be the mouse to the elephant.
The RCMP who are charged with this large task of defending this border from incursion have relied on this overwhelming kinship for decades. The Federal government and in particular the RCMP have treated the border mandate with a continuing blissful ignorance and denigrated the border capabilities over the many years. Successive Liberal governments, our politicians and the un-demanding police continue to underfund and under resource the safe-guarding of this border.
Canada still has the audacity to pose as the more stable and welcoming nation, all the while nudging and winking at the Americans, and grudgingly acknowledging them for actually doing the lions share of the work.
It is particularly evident thru the vast Prairie Provinces.
Over this hard grasslands illegal immigrants come and go in both directions, always believing a better life in greener pastures is at the other end, no matter what direction they are heading. These often desperate men, women and children press shoulder to shoulder, together in the back of a ramshackle van– sharing bottled water and 7-11 snacks to sustain journeys of often several days.
It played out once again in Emerson Manitoba this past week.
They were discovered, their simple plan exposed, on this occasion, because of an unrelenting -35 degree winter night. The blizzard led to disorientation a loss of their sense of direction and ultimately after 11 hours of wandering led to four deaths. A baby and a teenager, a man and woman, bodies frozen in ignominy.
Seven others made it across– only to then be quickly apprehended by the waiting Americans who were probably electronically alerted to their crossing. One wonders whether they were crest fallen at not reaching their American destinations or just happy to be alive?
Dropped off on one side, outfitted with winter boots and winter coats, told to walk the remaining distance where they would be picked up by another vehicle. Their pickup driver also battling the snow, driving through drifts, aimlessly and pointlessly trying to see his arriving and promised packages.
Our Federal RCMP Integrated Border Enforcement Team likely ignorant of any of it until once again alerted by the American authorities.
The U.S. border patrol responding stopped a 15 passenger van, a few hundred metres south of the border, driven by a former bankrupt 47 year old Uber driver from Florida. Steve Shand was arrested as were two other Indian nationals who had managed to get to the receiving rental van. It would seem that Shand and the others were driving around trying to locate the others when they were stopped.
Five others were located by the border patrol as they were walking towards the van. The seven were apprehended, but in discovering that one of the individuals was carrying a children’s knapsack, and with further questioning, it must have become obvious to the officers that there were others out there, and that they could still be on the Canadian side.
So at 9:30 that morning, the U.S officers notified the RCMP in Emerson, who in turn had to call for further officers from Morris Manitoba, 42 kms from Emerson, to assist in a search of the area using ATV’s and snowmobiles. Four hours later, at 1:30 pm they located frozen to death, a man, a woman, and a baby. A short distance further on was a teenager, also dead. All likely died from exposure. All died 10 kms east of Emerson.
Shand has been charged with “transporting or attempting to transport” but has since been released on his own recognizance.
It has now also been learned, through a comparison of boot prints in the snow, that there were likely two previous crossings on December 12 and December 22 when two groups of four individuals crossed into the United States.
Clearly the Canadian authorities knew nothing of this smuggling operation. And just as clearly, they are now totally dependant on the Americans to hand them a case to try and identify the Canadian portion of the operation.
So what was the RCMP response?
The Officer in Charge of Manitoba is Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy, who bears a striking physical resemblance to Commissioner Lucki, was appointed by Lucki in 2019 and heralded as the first woman in charge of Manitoba, after being the Director of Parliamentary Security in Ottawa. She clearly must spout the well rehearsed “Lucki like” aphorisms; she knows no other world.
If one was hoping for some insight into the event, or a call to arms to rout out the Canadian side of this criminal ring you are not going to get it from this leader.
Instead, this police leader said about the incident that it was “…just tragic, really sad” and lamented that her officers were “dealing with really rough situations”. She echoed this world of never ending stress and the government lines of needing to focus on the fact that everyone is a victim– even the police. She did offer the obvious — “organized crime has been involved previously”.
Her stated priority will be the next of kin notifications and working with the Indian consular officials.
She then warped into a public service announcement about the dangers of trying to cross the bald prairie in the winter.
Is it wrong to expect more? Is it wrong in this day and age to expect more from the police than talks about their stress levels? Where is the investigative rage?
Clearly all smuggling will never be stopped, but just once it would be nice to hear about the RCMP being the original investigators, not just promising to “work jointly with our domestic and international partners to create and maintain air, water and land domain awareness to detect, disrupt, and investigate threats to Canadians”. Land domain awareness?
In their latest public pronouncement on their mandate, IBET is wanting to “expand its layered approach to border security”. They boast of an “integrated approach” and spend some time “sharing our experience”. Their programs include “community outreach” a “Border Awareness” initiative, the “IBET Inn Touch” and the “Coastal/ Airport Watch Program”.
This is not to say that there aren’t officers in IBET trying to do the job. There are. But they are outmatched by an unforgiving landscape and gross underfunding, outmanned, and out resourced by all.
The Federal RCMP units historically have always been largely unaccountable; able to hide behind a curtain of privacy and national security concerns, and thus never allowing the public a glimpse into their efficacy. Their empty statements of “protecting Canadians” is bordering on insulting.
When one searches for successes from IBET, one comes up in 2017, when two persons, a husband and wife team from Regina, were charged with smuggling in Nigerian nationals. Again, this stemmed from arrests made south of the Canadian border in North Dakota. Project F-ADDUCE produced an arrest of 41 year old Victor Omoregi and his wife Michelle.
Like money laundering, human smuggling is likely rampant in this country with persons going back and forth across the 49th parallel. That is a problem, but the bigger problem is that the RCMP does not care at least to the point of funding and resourcing it. They are solely focused on higher goals, as they point out on their web site. The “greatest threats to our border…” as “national security crimes”.
Have there been successes there? Not that they can tell you about anyways.
Like all Federal sections there is no shortage of governmental oversight and bureaucratic pyramids flowing outwards from Ottawa in a constant stream. It is no different for the border. Headed by the International Joint Management Team, –made up of the RCMP, the Canadian Border Services Agency, the U.S. Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and the U.S. Border Patrol.
Even in the “Canadian” oversight group there are three American agencies and two Canadian agencies.
The loss of life on the border was tragic, likely soon to be forgotten, and like many Federal RCMP responsibilities predictable in its failure.
Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Bonnie Moreland – Some Rights Reserved