Federal Government Announces Funding to Help Akwesasne Fight Organized Crime After Migrant Tragedy

QUEBEC CITY — The federal government has announced funding to help the Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne fight organized crime, after eight migrants were killed in the St. Lawrence River earlier this year.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino was in the community Thursday where he announced more than $12 million for policing and other initiatives over the next five years.

The money includes renewed funding of $10.4 million to help the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service fight organized crime, as well as separate amounts for new police equipment and for community groups that work to prevent violence.

“Akwesasne, like all other communities at the same time, has faced the challenges of crime and I would like to point out that we have faced issues that involve the illegal flow of contraband, obviously organized criminal elements, and more recently , the tragedy involving eight lives lost around an ongoing investigation and human trafficking,” he said.

Authorities have remained mum on their investigation after the bodies of eight Indian and Romanian migrants were pulled from the St. Lawrence River in late March following what police said was a failed attempt to cross illegally the United States by boat.

Akwesasne Police Chief Shawn Dulude said he couldn’t add anything to the ongoing investigation Thursday.

“It may sound cliché, but I can’t comment because the investigation is ongoing,” Shawn Dulude said. “Rest assured that what is done or needs to be done internationally has been done by our partner agencies such as the RCMP, and what needs to be done locally or in the region has been done by ( Akwesasne Mohawk Police) and our neighboring partner agencies.

The bodies of the two families were pulled from the St. Lawrence River in Akwesasne, about 130 kilometers southwest of Montreal, on March 30 and 31.

Indian authorities said they were looking for three men in connection with the death of the Chaudhari family, originally from Gujarat, who perished trying to cross the river. According to a complaint filed by Indian police, at least one of the suspects is in Canada.

Dulude said he was not aware of any arrest warrants issued in Canada.

The other family is the Toronto-area Iordache family, consisting of a couple and their two Canadian-born children.

Authorities have described Akwesasne as a popular location for human trafficking due to its geography, which straddles the borders of Quebec, Ontario and New York state.

Mendicino said the “unique dynamic” of Akwesasne required police to focus on border issues and to obtain cooperation from different law enforcement agencies. He said the funding would allow Akwesasne police to participate in a joint investigative team with other agencies, including the RCMP, Quebec Provincial Police, Canada Border Services Agency and US Customs. and Border Protection.

“It is the core of this goal of increased collaboration which will facilitate better information sharing and a unified effort between the various levels of law enforcement and border security agencies, which will allow us to invest, to investigate, disrupt and deter organized criminal activity,” the minister said.

Dulude said the funds would enable police to purchase technology, such as cameras and drones, to increase surveillance of community roads and waterways.

“Today’s announcement will not put an end to what is happening right now, and has been for a long time,” said Mr. Dulude. “We must keep this in mind when defining our objectives and our strategic planning for the years to come”.

In April, Dulude told reporters that police had made 48 separate interceptions involving 80 people trying to enter the United States illegally since January, but he admitted on Thursday that his forces had yet to arrest any smugglers this year.

Since the deaths, Dulude said there has been less activity on the water overall, but the flow of migrants walking between the United States and Canada continues.

Police last month suspended their search on the water for 30-year-old local Casey Oakes, who was last seen driving the boat that was found next to the bodies of the two families. of immigrants. Mr. Dulude said the search is continuing.

This report by La EssonneInfo was first published on May 25, 2023.