By Jessy Bains
Canada remains a hotspot for human-smuggling, the latest wave reportedly coming this week from Romania, but the federal government is not going to put up with it, officials said Thursday.
Police and border officials announced Thursday they have busted an Ontario-based human-trafficking network that was using the Stanstead border crossing in Quebec.
An estimated 30 people were arrested.
CBC News on Wednesday reported that “many or most of the detainees are Roma,” an ethnic group living throughout Europe but concentrated mostly in Romania.
Vic Toews, minister of public safety, said on Wednesday, the detainees would be the first to face stiffer penalties under a new law, which was passed by the Conservative government back in June.
Ray Boisvert, former assistant director of Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said there are a combination of factors that make Canada attractive to human traffickers.
“We certainly do benefit from open borders and open societies–we benefit from trade, commerce, and tourism, that are almost unique to this part of the world,” Boisvert, told Humber News on Thursday.
“That also brings opportunities for those who don’t look at it the same way and look to exploit that openness.”
Prey on the vulnerable
Boisvert said unless there is increased enforcement, leading to the arrests of those who are organizing these rings, traffickers will continue to prey on vulnerable and persecuted people seeking asylum.
“It’s easy to sell Canada to those persons who are persecuted or who are trying to flee economic hardship because Canada looks like the golden opportunity, the social programs here are pretty well second to none.”
Boisvert said the Stanstead border in Quebec has been very accessible to allow the easy flow of tourism and commerce.
“It does say something about the human smugglers-they do their homework and they’ll certainly look for places that are easier to get into than others,” said Boisvert.
Boisvert said a balanced approach is needed because overly strict border controls would hurt commerce, business, tourism and trade.
“Human smuggling is a dangerous and despicable crime. It puts lives at risk and threatens the integrity of Canada’s immigration system as well as the security and safety of Canadians,” Toews said in a statement on the Government of Canada website.
“Canada will take strong, targeted action to prevent abuse of our generous immigration and asylum systems,” he said.
Boisvert said he supports the new government provisions and said there should be consequences for those who abuse the system.
“What about all those persons who follow the rules?” said Boisvert.
“Those persons have done everything right. Some of them have spent years waiting and most in difficult situations.”
Most reportedly Roma
Several reports say the majority of the detainees are Roma.
Officials have not confirmed if any of the group the detainees are Roma, but Gina Csanyi-Robah, the executive director of the Roma Community Centre in Toronto, said most of the detainees are likely Roma.
“There’s no reason for ethnic Romanians to have to leave Romania, there’s only a reason for the Romanian Roma to try to escape the horrid conditions they live in.”
Csanyi-Robah said Roma have been settling in Canada as early as the late 1800s and Toronto has the largest Roma community outside of Europe.
“This is a part of family unification as much as it is seeking asylum,” said Csanyi-Robah.
“I don’t think this government cares to get involved with the serious human rights conditions for this community that exists in Europe and has not even uttered a word of reprimand to any of these countries.”