Toimpress Empress Catherine the second, Prince Grigory Potemkin supposedly created whole villages in Crimea, made up of façades. Since then, a Potemkin village is a synonym for fakery. If you watched the news over the week-end, you may have seen, as a background for all the interviews done at the Rock Island Customs office, two nice and shiny vehicles, one from the Canadian Border Service Agency and the other one with the livery of the RCMP.
They were so obviously decorative pieces that this newspaper didn’t even care to take a picture of them.
So are we just a bit surprised that, yesterday, eleven illegal immigrants were arrested in Magog? A bit surprised, yes; but a lot more fearful. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, not even a member of Harper’s cabinet, to know that there is nothing more dangerous than a brazen criminal. And let’s face the facts, having the gall of crossing the border illegally into Canada after all the publicity given to the subject that this is a porous border in Stanstead, takes a bit of bravado. But, the crossers could also become desperados and then it could get ugly. Car chases are nice on the movie screen, they last a couple of seconds, every one of them taking hours of preparation and rehearsal; in real life, in a small town like ours, car chases could kill innocent people. They could also kill border officers. Those border officers would have the honours of a national funeral attended by those who are ultimately responsible for their deaths.
Because this would not be a simple case of bad luck: most officers of the peace who have lost their lives in the line of duty simply happened to be at the right place at the wrong time. Called to an incident, they expect anything, knowing that luck is behind them most of the time. No, in this case it would be utter negligence.
While our local MP, Jean Rousseau, good NDP member that he is, is blaming cuts to the Border Agency for the rash of illegal crossings, it is only part and parcel of the problem.
It is a lack of resources that predated the recent cuts. We have no physical, full-time police presence in a border town; one would be hard pressed to find another example in the whole world. Look at the number of police and border cruisers just across the border to get an idea of how bad the situation is in Canada.
We will repeat that, as long as we do not have a full time police presence in Stanstead, not a cynical Potemkin-like one as we saw over the week-end, this town is now in danger. The criminals behind these illegal crossings will become bolder and bolder; there is money to be made in human trafficking and we suspect that some locals are more than happy sharing knowledge with them.
If last week we could only wish, now we must have action.
A final note: while all local and regional media have some awareness on how these people are crossing the border, we have made it a duty to keep quiet on how it is done.
Roger Durand, governor of the Fondation Desjardins, and Denis Paré, regional council president, are surrounded by the thirteen bursary recipients at the ceremony.