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Protesters plan to sneak into Canada

American protesters with criminal records plan to attend an international summit in Quebec by smuggling themselves into Canada via native reserves that straddle the U.S.-Canadian border, protest organizers say.

Three groups marshaling demonstrators for the Quebec City Summit of the Americas next month confirmed that the protesters, who would be refused entry into Canada because of charges from their involvement in previous anti-globalization demonstrations, are planning to enter illegally.

Canadian immigration officials and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who are undertaking massive security arrangements to bar potentially violent demonstrators from disrupting the April 20-22 summit, were caught off guard Wednesday by news that groups plan to smuggle protesters into Canada through reserves.

"That's interesting. I will check (it out) now," said Richard St. Louis, a spokesman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

St. Louis said that he was present at a security planning meeting in Quebec City on Tuesday with the RCMP and Canada Customs officials and that no one there had any information about the proposed smuggling operations.

"We haven't heard anything," he said.

But Phillippe Duhamel, a spokesman with the Quebec anti-globalization group SalAmi, said the smuggling operations through the Akwesasne reserve, near Cornwall, Ontario, appear to be well under way.

Duhamel said that he received an e-mail two weeks ago from U.S. protesters informing him that they were working with organizers in Kingston to arrange for safe passage into Canada from northern U.S. states through the native reserves.

"The e-mail said that people were meeting with Mohawks in Akwesasne to transit into Canada for the Quebec City summit," Duhamel said. "It seems pretty clear now that Immigration Canada intends to make the border very tight for any kind of protesters coming from the U.S. to Quebec City."

In early January, Canadian customs agents stopped two groups of U.S. protesters who were headed for meetings in Quebec to plan tactics for the summit. Ten U.S. activists from New York City were refused entry into Canada on Jan. 15 at a Montreal border point. Another was barred a week earlier when he tried to enter Quebec City via Maine.

Duhamel suggested that "it would be a clever thing to do" for protesters with criminal records to travel through the reserves to avoid being turned back at the border.

Chief Larry King of the Akwesasne Mohawk Council said he is unaware of any plans to allow protesters to enter Canada via the reserve to attend the summit.

But Kerry Pither, a spokeswoman with Ottawa's Solidarity Network, also said that summit-bound U.S. protesters were planning to use reserves to illegally enter the country.

Pither said the native groups, who vehemently oppose the North American Free Trade Agreement, have great sympathy for the protesters' aims and are permitting them entry via the reserve.

Regional briefs

NO TAX CUTS IN B.C.: The British Columbia government released its pre-election budget Thursday, announcing $1.85-billion in new spending on hospitals, education and child care programs. Although the province followed the tax-cutting trend of other provinces in last year's budget, the government offered no new tax cuts this year despite a projected surplus of $1.1-billion.

FIGHTS MAR SPRING BREAK: Spring break has meant fractures and fights for some Ontario students visiting Quebec City, with the second outbreak of violence in as many days occurring after midnight Wednesday. A 17-year-old boy from Oshawa, Ontario, underwent surgery after suffering severe injuries to his head, police said. Four youngsters from Mississauga were questioned by police and released. On Monday, three students were sent back to Ontario by trip organizers because of a fight in a suburban hotel.

AID FOR GAS-SNIFFING KIDS? Federal Health Minister Allan Rock has broken his promise to help the gas-sniffing children of Davis Inlet, Newfoundland, by withholding funds and ignoring treatment proposals, an Innu chief from Labrador says. "The lives of Innu children are at stake," Simeon Tshakapesh said in a terse letter to Rock that was released Wednesday. "I can only ask that you immediately instruct your officials to put the necessary money on the table so that the treatment of the children can begin."

DIESEL FUEL SPILLED: Transportation authorities are investigating the cause of a freight train derailment Wednesday just outside Salmon Arm, British Columbia, that resulted in 6,500 gallons of diesel fuel and some hydraulic fluid spilling in and around Shuswap Lake. No one was injured when several grain cars and three locomotives went off the tracks. A Ministry of Environment spokeswomen said the spill wasn't in an area where "it would do extreme environmental damage."

NOVA SCOTIA POLITICIAN HURT: Nova Scotia politician Paul MacEwan was in serious condition in the intensive care unit of a Halifax hospital after falling while skating Tuesday. The family of the 31-year Cape Breton veteran of the provincial legislature said in a statement that he is undergoing tests. MacEwan, 57, served as an independent for several years before joining the Liberals a decade ago.

TRUCK CRASH CLOSES HIGHWAY: The crash of a semitrailer truck carrying a helium-cooled MRI machine closed the Yellowhead Highway near Jasper, Alberta, for at least six hours Wednesday. A Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman said the closing was necessary because helium used to keep the magnetic resonance imaging scanners supercooled was venting. The driver suffered minor injuries.

WIFE OF RESTAURATEUR SUES: The wife of a popular Greek restaurateur killed in 1993 has filed a lawsuit against prison authorities in Vancouver for failing to supervise three men who were on parole when they killed her husband, Paul Karageorgos.

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