Stanstead Journal - - FORUM -

We al­ready know there are a num­ber of safety prob­lems sur­round­ing our bor­ders. But when we learn that more than 300 peo­ple have il­le­gally crossed the bor­der at Stanstead since the be­gin­ning of the year, we re­al­ize the ex­tent of this phe­nom­e­non.

For­tu­nately, asy­lum seek­ers are not dan­ger­ous. As soon as they have found a way to cross the bor­der, they stop and ask to speak to the au­thor­i­ties to file a refugee claim. They co­op­er­ate.

But if these peo­ple with no means can so eas­ily elude the Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency and the RCMP, it is likely that crim­i­nals, arms and drug traf­fick­ers are do­ing the same. Such are the find­ings of ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion re­quests, which con­firmed that hu­man traf­fick­ing was oc­cur­ring in Stanstead. Re­cently, a case of arms traf­fick­ing also made head­lines.

This is a very im­por­tant pub­lic safety is­sue and as the MP for Compton-Stanstead, I can­not re­main silent on this sit­u­a­tion. It is my duty to call on the gov­ern­ment to take ac­tion.

Es­pe­cially since the Con­ser­va­tives reck­lessly cut fund­ing to the Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency last March. We are talk­ing here about more than $140M in cuts af­fect­ing more than 1,300 em­ploy­ees across the coun­try. Al­ready, the Agency has cut di­rect ser­vices to cit­i­zens by re­duc­ing the hours of some bor­der cross­ings in our re­gion. This is not go­ing to help with the marked in­crease in il­le­gal en­tries through Stanstead in re­cent months, on the con­trary.

I un­der­stand the cit­i­zens who fear tighter bor­der con­trols. The peo­ple of Stanstead have lived in har­mony with their Derby Line neigh­bours for decades. It is es­sen­tial to main­tain this community spirit. Free ac­cess to the Haskell Li­brary must be en­sured: it is a sym­bol to be pre­served.

I fear, how­ever, that the Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment will im­pose dras­tic mea­sures, with­out con­sult­ing or giv­ing any thought to the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion, by im­pos­ing re­stric­tions on hon­est cit­i­zens or crim­i­nal­iz­ing peo­ple seek­ing a bet- ter life by im­mi­grat­ing to Canada.

That is why I am in favour of bet­ter sur­veil­lance, with min­i­mal im­pact on the pop­u­la­tion. A suf­fi­cient num­ber of staff with the tools nec­es­sary to do its job well is the first step.

Let me be clear: we won’t guar­an­tee tran­quil­ity for Stanstead through bud­get cuts, se­verely tight­ened bor­der con­trols or bar­ri­ers that pe­nal­ize the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion.

Just re­cently, me­dia re­ported that cit­i­zens no­ticed and wel­comed an in­creased RCMP pres­ence in the area: this is prob­a­bly a good way to har­mo­nize the pub­lic safety and tran­quil­ity of Stanstead res­i­dents.

And most of all, to curb these il­le­gal en­tries that make head­lines ev­ery week and give our re­gion bad press. The Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment must take its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and work with the community to find a so­lu­tion that works for ev­ery­one.

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