Re­gard­ing bor­der se­cu­rity

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM -

As the Mayor of Stanstead, I am very con­cerned about ev­ery­thing that is be­ing said and writ­ten about the Town in the past few weeks re­gard­ing bor­der se­cu­rity.

The perime­ter of the Town is ad­ja­cent to the U.S. bor­der, for a dis­tance of 10.5 Kilo­me­ters and there are three cus­toms/im­mi­gra­tion of­fices, in­clud­ing two on pro­vin­cial roads and one on High­way 55.

The vil­lages of Rock Is­land, Stanstead and Beebe, which now form the Town of Stanstead, were first pop­u­lated by Amer­i­cans in the late 18th cen­tury. Some homes and in­sti­tu­tions such as the Haskell Free Li­brary and Opera House were built di­rectly on the bor­der. Not so long ago, a post of­fice served the peo­ple of both coun­tries.

Pub­lic ser­vices are still shared be­tween the two coun­tries, in­clud­ing the drink­ing wa­ter sup­ply, wa­ter treat­ment, main­te­nance of Canusa Street (Canada-USA) and there are mu­tual aid agree­ments be­tween the fire de­part­ments of the two coun­tries. A large num­ber of cit­i­zens of Stanstead, in­clud­ing my­self, have both U.S. and Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship be­cause we were born in New­port, Ver­mont but live in Canada. Many fam­i­lies in­ter­mar­ried and were es­tab­lished on both sides of the bor­der. It is quite nor­mal­for our cit­i­zens to cross the bor­der on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Like any other bor­der town, Stanstead has had dur­ing its his­tory, var­i­ous episodes re­lated to smug­gling and other il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties due to its prox­im­ity with the bor­der. It is even said that at the time of the Amer­i­can pro­hi­bi­tion of al­co­hol in the 20’s and 30’s, the fa­mous crim­i­nal Al Capone was do­ing «busi­ness» in the vil­lage. His­tory, ru­mours, fact or fic­tion, the sto­ries are cap­ti­vat­ing.

How­ever, Stanstead is now rec­og­nized as a wel­com­ing community, a peace­ful place to live and one that we call home. Ac­tiv­i­ties re­ported in the me­dia in the past weeks are not part of the ev­ery­day life of our res­i­dents.

The in­ci­dent which made the head­lines this week, con­cern­ing the il­le­gal traf­fic of firearms, hap­pened at the Haskell Free Li­brary and Opera House in March 2011 and was de­tected thanks to the vig­i­lance of the li­brar­ian, who knows the dif­fer­ence be­tween reg­u­lar cus­tomers or tourists who visit this unique lo­ca­tion and sus­pi­cious peo­ple.

Other sto­ries re­gard­ing im­mi­grants, who are pass­ing through il­le­gally, are about peo­ple who cross the bor­der in broad day­light, in front of the cus­toms of­fice with the sole pur­pose of reach­ing Canada and be­ing in­ter­cepted in or­der to ask for the refugee sta­tus.

Their in­creased pres­ence is the re­sult of poli­cies that were voted on in Ot­tawa per­tain­ing to im­mi­gra­tion and re­cep­tion of po­lit­i­cal asy­lum ap­pli­cants. In all cases, the events listed are not the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Stanstead, but are for the fed­eral au­thor­i­ties to han­dle. They have the full ju­ris­dic­tion as well as the full re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure safety along the Cana­dian Bor­der.

In short, I am very sad­dened to see that Stanstead has been so neg­a­tively por­trayed in the me­dia and I find it re­gret­table that all the ef­forts put forth, by the cit­i­zens, community groups, lo­cal com­pa­nies, mer­chants and pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions to re­vi­tal­ize the Town in re­cent years, are tainted and over­shad­owed by all these sto­ries, which do not rep­re­sent us, I as­sure you. Sin­cerely,

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