OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 03/27/13 -- Far from a victimless crime or a local police problem, cross-border smuggling is an epidemic that renders both Canada and the United States vulnerable to external security threats, a study released and commissioned by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) warned today.
Smugglers threaten the safety and integrity of local populations, as well as the viability of future Canada-U.S. economic and security co-operation along the border, the study's authors warn.
The Ottawa-Montreal corridor bordering the states of New York and Vermont is one of the worst regions for cross-border contraband and human smuggling on the Canada-U.S. border. Although the contraband trade is active in many border regions, including in the Pacific Northwest and along the East Coast, it is endemic in the Cornwall, Ontario, region between Montreal and Kingston and upstate New York.
The unique geographic and legal characteristics of this corridor create the conditions in which the illegal movement of narcotics, weapons, humans, tobacco and counterfeit goods can thrive.
The study's authors found that policing on both sides of the border appears to have reduced the flow of non-tobacco contraband for the moment, but it is by no means eliminated. As for the tobacco trade, it continues unabated.
Turning a blind eye is no longer an option, they said. Perpetuating the status quo would be both irresponsible and dangerous. At worst it could effectively abdicate control of a wide swath of the Canada-U.S. border to the organized crime factions that control the contraband trade.
Because the smuggling is controlled by organized crime, there is no guarantee that it will not expand again in the future, or that it will not expand into more damaging activities. This leaves both Canadian and American citizens vulnerable to security threats and diminishes the integrity of our shared border.
"Since much of the illicit trade takes place around and across the border between Canada and the United States, it potentially threatens Canada's relations with the U.S. by raising U.S. insecurities about its northern border," said Carleton University professor Jean Daudelin, whose team included post-graduate students Stephanie Soiffer and Jeff Willows.
"U.S. measures taken to stem contraband could impair the free flow of merchandise and people between the two countries, creating a direct cost to Canada's economy."
Prof. Daudelin said the smuggling pipeline in the Cornwall region while chiefly devoted to tobacco, is already used to transport other forms of contraband and these activities could all too easily be expanded.
"The smuggling infrastructure established to sustain the tobacco trade is used for other 'goods' and the amount of money involved has developed into a major law enforcement and security conundrum," he said.
"The profits generated by the various smuggling activities constitute a large amount of money whose use escapes all control. They can be used to seed other criminal activities or finance terrorist organizations."
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