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‘Typical American bullies’: US border patrol ‘targets Canadian fishermen’ in disputed waters amid trade war

Canada launches an inquiry into June actions by ‘American bullies’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2018, 5:38am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2018, 7:39am

The US border patrol has been accused of “bullying” Canadian fishing vessels in the seas near Maine amid tensions between the countries over US President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs.

In a June 24 incident, a US border patrol that had been launched from Maine “attempted to stop” a Canadian fishing vessel in Canadian waters, Laurence Cook, chairman of the Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association, said on Facebook.

“Typical American bullies,” said Cook, who said he was “not surprised to see the Americans trying to push people around”.

Cook said that incident took place near the Machias Seal Island, a tiny rocky outcrop about 20km south of Grand Manan that has rich lobster grounds, and whose sovereignty is disputed by Washington, although the Canadian Coast Guard maintains a lighthouse there.

They claim to be looking for illegal immigrants. To be illegal they would have to be in sovereign waters and they know it
Laurence Cook, chairman of the Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association

Grand Manan is a Canadian island in the Gulf of Maine, right near the border between the United States and Canada.

According to Cook, the Canadian fishing captain, Nick Brown, informed the US vessel that “he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters.”

“They claim to be looking for illegal immigrants,” said Cook in his Facebook posting. “To be illegal they would have to be in sovereign waters and they know it,” he said, adding an expletive.

A second incident occurred on June 25 also near Machias Seal Island, John Babcock, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada said on Wednesday, after the Canadian Foreign Ministry launched an inquiry.

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“Canada continues to investigate these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters, including through engaging with US agencies involved in the matter,” Babcock said.

US Customs and Border Protection and the US embassy in Ottawa were not available for comment because of the Independence Day holiday in the US.

Ties between Canada and the United States have been strained since Trump slapped tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminium, citing US national security. He also called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “very dishonest and weak” after a dispute at the G7 meeting in Quebec last month.

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Elizabeth Read, a Global Affairs spokeswoman, said that “Canada’s sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in international law.”

Reid added that Ottawa was reaching out to the US authorities for more details.

Trump has made cracking down on illegal immigration a cornerstone of his administration, and his now-abandoned “zero tolerance” practice of separating migrant parents from their children at the Mexican border triggered international condemnation.

He has also bolstered border security in the northern frontier with Canada, and the American Civil Liberties Union said US police had been setting up more checkpoints on roads leading to the Canadian border to check people’s citizenship.