Regarding border security
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,