Canada investigates run-ins between US customs, fishermen


The Grand Manan Fishermen's Association issued a statement Wednesday in New Brunswick that said "a few Grand Manan fishermen were approached by the United States Border Services during the month of June".

Global Affairs Canada distributed a brief statement saying it is investigating "these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters".

"Houlton Sector Border Patrol has conducted operations in the past in this area and will continue to conduct operations in the waters off the Coast of ME in jurisdictional waters of the United States", Stephanie Malin wrote in an email.

Canada is investigating at least two incidents in which two Canadian fishing vessels were reportedly stopped and questioned by U.S. Border Patrol agents in disputed waters off ME, a spokesman for the country's foreign affairs department confirmed Thursday. The Grand Manan Fishermen's Association later confirmed that several such interactions occurred in June, NBC reports. "Canada and the USA have a long history of co-operation which ensures that fishing in this area is well-managed and safe for both countries". Fishermen from both countries compete with each another in the lobster-rich waters.

Chris Mills, a former lightkeeper in the Canadian coast guard, said he never saw a Border Patrol boat or a USA military vessel pass by when he worked at the Machias Seal Island Lighthouse in 1991 and 1992. "I guess the comment on the street would be: 'Typical American bullies, '" said Stephen Kelly, a former American diplomat who served in Canada.

The possibility of illegal immigrants entering the USA from Canada via the Bay of Fundy is remote, according to a local immigration lawyer. "Canadian fishermen are being harassed by U.S. Border Patrol". "They're not happy about it, and they don't think [the Americans] have any business doing this". "Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in global law".

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Machias Seal Island lies between a grey area in the Canadian and American border which the US has recently begun monitoring more closely.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in an email late Thursday that agents were enforcing "immigration laws and other violations of federal law that they may encounter in the course of their duties during the operation in June".

"But it strikes me as a silly idea and a concerning expression of aggression by American border officials pushing into Canadian jurisdiction".

Rick Doucet, the fisheries minister for the Canadian province of New Brunswick, told The National Post that fishermen have spoken of "heavily armed" Border Patrol agents climbing into Canadian lobster boats and searching for "illegal immigrants". Canadian fishermen are being "harassed", he charged. "To be illegal they would have to be in sovereign waters and they know it", he said, adding an expletive. Earlier this year President Trump imposed tariffs on Canada, an action slammed by Trudeau as a "turning-point in the U.S". So far, 21 Canadian vessels have been interviewed by local agents in the 2018 fiscal year, she said, with zero immigration arrests made.

Tensions between Canada and the United States are now high over trade issues related to American tariffs on steel and aluminium and retaliatory Canadian levies; disputes over dairy, lumber, and wine; and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.