Woman charged with human smuggling in Quebec
CTV.ca News Staff
Updated Sat. Sep. 29 2007 9:28 PM ET
A U.S. refugee worker has been charged with human smuggling in Quebec, after she allegedly tried to help 12 asylum-seeking Haitians enter Canada.
Janet Hinshaw-Thomas, 65, may be the first human rights worker ever charged under Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
“It's a total abuse of the law,” her defence lawyer, Mitchell Goldberg, told CTV Montreal.
“It's a total misinterpretation of not only the intention, but the spirit of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.”
The law is designed to target criminal organizations who smuggle people into the country. Liberal justice critic Marlene Jennings said she believes using the legislation required federal consent.
“That means that Rob Nicholson, the Attorney General of Canada, authorized it, and that's a clear misuse and misinterpretation of the law,” she said.
“He has explanations to give.”
However, Nicholson has not confirmed whether he had any influence on using the law to charge Hinshaw-Thomas.
The human rights worker was arrested at the border crossing of Lacolle, Que. last week, as she tried to enter Canada from New York state with the Haitians, including seven children and five adults.
She frequently drives asylum seekers to border crossings, according to her lawyer, but alerts officials ahead of time.
She has since been released on $5,000 bail, and is scheduled to appear in a St-Jean-sur-Richelieu courtroom on Nov. 30.
Erik Paradis, spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency in Quebec, told The Canadian Press that seven people have been charged under the legislation since it became law in 2002.
But he did not say whether Hinshaw-Thomas is the only human rights worker to be charged.
“The law is quite clear,” he said. “Organizing and aiding entry into Canada is an offence under Section 117 of the (act).”
“We can't tolerate human smuggling. The CBSA (is) really going to continue its efforts to combat movement of people, and (this charge) is an example.”
With a report from CTV Montreal's Annie DeMelt and files from The Canadian Press