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.
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