Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

The number of patrollers on the Canadian-American border will be reduced, even if organized crime is increasingly present, Radio-Canada has learned.

Despite an increase in illegal crossings, the GRC will clear the border in Quebec

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The RCMP will carry out a “shuffle” of its personnel at the Canada-US border. There will thus be fewer patrol officers, despite a historic increase in illegal crossings.

  • Romain Schué (View profile)Romain Schué

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There will soon be fewer agents in Quebec to patrol the Canadian-American border.

According to information obtained by Radio-Canada, the management of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is preparing to reduce its personnel on the ground, in order to reassign them to other sectors.

Border agents in Quebec were recently informed of this prospect, causing incomprehension and frustration among those mainly concerned, who have been living for several months an unprecedented situation in terms of clandestine crossings.

As revealed by Investigation, criminal networks, some of which are linked to Mexican cartels, are now using Canada, and particularly Quebec, as a gateway to the United States.

Every day, smugglers bring migrants directly to the states of New York and Vermont, passing mainly through Canadian fields, woods or forests. A new phenomenon, involving organized crime, had also confirmed Pierre Massé, the head of the RCMP Border Integrity Program.

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Nearly 7,000 people, half of them of Mexican origin, were arrested by American police officers in this sector between October 2022 and 2023. This represents an increase of 550%, compared to the previous year, based on data provided by the US Border Patrol.

The Minister of Public Security, Dominic LeBlanc, also assured that he took this threat very seriously and had promised to increase the workforce during an outing to the Commons on November 21.

It is rather the opposite that will happen, particularly in the Champlain sector, in southern Quebec. It is this region which is, by far, the most used in Canada for clandestine crossings.

Currently, to cover this 168 km territory which extends from Dundee, in Montérégie, to Lake Memphrémagog, in Estrie, a dozen officers from Division C of the RCMP are normally present per shift.

That's the number on paper. In reality, there are sometimes much fewer, sometimes only six or seven police officers on patrol, if we take into account vacations, illnesses or training, and the sergeant who remains at the office, confides an agent, who is not authorized to speak publicly.

A figure which will be further reduced by a few units in the coming months, Radio-Canada learned.

Without specifying the precise number of agents concerned for security reasons, the RCMP confirms a future workforce reshuffle. “No position will be eliminated and no one will lose their job,” specifies Charles Poirier, spokesperson for the RCMP.

According to our information, around fifteen agents could be targeted. Or almost a quarter of the current daily workforce.

Is this a request from Ottawa linked to pressure budgetary? The RCMP did not respond to this question.

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According to information from Enquête, Mexican cartels are now involved in clandestine crossings from Canada to the United States.

The number of migrants crossing the Canada-US border illegally is on the rise.

Photo album: Illegal crossings

These gendarmes could be reassigned to investigation divisions on border crimes and organized crime or to Montreal headquarters, in order to “put more effort into the sectors of activity that assist our patrol officers,” according to the RCMP.

These sections play an essential role in supporting our operations, and are part of the police arsenal necessary to fight against the criminal phenomena that we observe in this moment at the border, in particular the networks of criminal smugglers, continues Charles Poirier.

We obviously remain on the lookout for emerging criminal trends so that we can quickly rearrange our workforce and teams to deal with any unforeseen situation.

A quote from Charles Poirier, RCMP spokesperson

This decision, however, leaves a bitter taste for those mainly concerned. It’s nonsense, underlines an agent at Radio-Canada, deploring the lack of resources to protect the border.

Already now, we are lacking people. It’s frustrating because there are calls [to prevent passages] that we can’t take. We see them on the cameras, but we don’t have enough staff. Maybe it's dangerous people who have returned, but we'll never know, regrets another gendarme.

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Since the closure of Roxham Road and the demolition of the installations, the number of Canadian agents has been reduced. (File photo)

Since the closure of Roxham Road, the number of RCMP border officers has decreased significantly. Every day, according to our information, around a hundred Canadian agents took turns daily to deal with the massive arrival of asylum seekers.

Subsequently , the numbers have gradually decreased, despite a very different dynamic in this sector which is also conducive to drug and firearm trafficking.

During the migration crisis and the Roxham Road phenomenon, border patrol teams were greatly tested, and we had to increase patrol numbers to deal with this unprecedented situation, explains Charles Poirier. The situation has since resolved, and we have therefore returned to a workforce more representative of the reality on the ground.

But this reduction in staff would have consequences. According to our information, there is currently already a cruel lack of personnel at crucial times, well known to criminal networks, whether in the early hours of the morning or early evening.

“The criminals know this, they know our shift changes. This is where we are most deprived and busiest,” underlines an agent.

Bandits aren't stupid, they're scouting. We say that the border is a priority, but we don't see it on the ground.

A quote from An RCMP officer

Unfortunately, it will still take the death of a migrant for them to realize the problem, laments another member of the police.

Last winter, a Haitian migrant, Fritznel Richard, died of cold while trying to go illegally to the United States, after getting lost in the woods, near Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle. He had been spotted by RCMP officers, he could not be found in time.

There is frustration. As long as no one dies in the woods or attacks a police officer, nothing happens. However, it also puts the safety of the patrol officers at stake. There are lots of places that we don't know about, lots of crossings that take place, but we don't have enough agents, not enough technology. We can't do everything, we can't be everywhere at the same time, assures a police source present on the ground.

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US agents regularly intercept smugglers and migrants, who are sometimes crowded into vehicles.

While the Canadian authorities have been reducing their numbers at the Canadian-American border for several months, their American counterparts have had the opposite dynamic. p>

In March, the Biden administration added 25 border agents in this same sector, to deal with the historic influx of illegal crossings. A number which would still be far from sufficient, according to local authorities.

Earlier this week, David Favro, the sheriff of Clinton County, New York, sounded the alarm to elected officials in the US Congress, which is currently looking into this issue.

In his eyes, there is a border crisis. It is crucial that Congress act now to secure the border and protect our communities, he told Democratic and Republican representatives.

The latter mentioned in particular the presence of criminal networks and car chases, which led to bodily injuries and property damage. Firearms were also found with smugglers in the same area, as revealed by Investigation.

This subject could also interfere in the race for the White House. One of the candidates for the Republican nomination, Vivek Ramaswamy has already promised, in a video broadcast this fall on social networks (New window), to make it a priority and to resolve […] this crisis ignored by the media […] and our political leaders.

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