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Jail time sought for Blaine inn owner who aided foreign nationals to jump border: prosecutor

Sentencing hearing for Robert Boule underway in Vancouver
A sentencing hearing for Robert Boule (inset), owner of the Smuggler’s Inn, got underway in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. (Photo courtesy of The Northern Light newspaper)

Prosecutors in the case of U.S. bed-and-breakfast owner Robert Boule contend the senior should serve 12 to 15 months in jail for aiding and abetting seven foreign nationals to enter Canada illegally, court officials heard Thursday (Dec. 16).

The term was submitted by Crown Ryan Carrier during a sentencing hearing in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, in connection with Boule’s guilty plea last August to offences committed between May 2018 and March 2019 via his Smuggler’s Inn.

In submitting the proposal, Carrier noted that Boule was free on bail at the time the offences were committed, with conditions including one specific to not assisting anyone in entering Canada.

READ MORE: UPDATED: Smuggler’s Inn owner charged with helping people illegally enter Canada

READ MORE: Sentencing hearing this week for U.S. inn owner who admitted to helping 7 enter Canada illegally

Boule – whose business is located on the U.S. side of 0 Avenue, at 184 Street – was arrested in April 2019, and was initially facing 30 charges. However, nine were stayed in June of that same year.

He ultimately pleaded guilty to “all facts encompassed by one count” under Sec. 131 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, for his role in assisting the seven individuals in entering the country.

Defence counsel told the court that a non-custodial sentence would be “most appropriate” in the case, and suggested Boule receive a 12- to 18-month conditional sentence order. If a prison term is imposed, Michael Gismondi suggested 30 days in custody – to reflect time served – followed by two years probation.

Boule, Gismondi noted, pleaded guilty, is remorseful and is a good prospect for rehabilitation.

Regarding breaching his conditions, Boule “had an incorrect understanding of the law,” Gismondi said.

In arguing for the longer custodial term, Carrier reviewed a 20-page agreed statement of facts in the case that cited the details of Boule’s involvement with a Syrian family and four citizens of Afghanistan.

In each case, Boule was aware of the individuals’ citizenship, their intentions to enter Canada illegally and that they didn’t have the required paperwork, Carrier said. Boule also accepted cash payments in each case, pointed out a gas station just across the border in South Surrey where they could be picked up by a taxi, and advised the people that if they were arrested by Canadian police, to say that they were a political refugee, Carrier added.

Boule “deliberately turned a blind eye” to the fact that providing all of that information would aid the foreign nationals in crossing illegally, Carrier said.

“Mr. Boule was well aware of what they intended to do when they got to his inn.”

Carrier said in determining sentence, it’s important to consider that foreign nationals who enter the country illegally circumvent the system, which “can negatively impact Canada’s national security, public safety…”

By declaring asylum, “they become Canada’s responsibility, irrespective of the fact they could and should make their asylum claim in the United States,” he said.

He emphasized the case is not about denigrating the refugee status, nor is it saying that refugees are inherently dangerous. It’s about the fact that illegal entry and those aiding it, “without any of the checks required, creates an immense risk,” as well as strains the system.

“When someone like Mr. Boule is helping people do this, it has ramifications,” Carrier said. “Mr. Boule wasn’t vetting these people – nobody was. It’s lucky that they were refugees, not somebody with a pocketful of fentanyl or terrorist intentions.”

Gismondi said Boule “is not here to excuse or justify his behaviour,” and that Boule asked him to extend an apology to the citizens and government of Canada.

Boule’s hearing is scheduled to continue Friday (Dec. 17).
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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