Sentencing proceedings for Robert Boule (inset), the owner of the Smuggler’s Inn, were held this week (Dec. 16-17, 2021) in Vancouver. (Photo courtesy of The Northern Light newspaper)

Sentencing proceedings for Robert Boule (inset), the owner of the Smuggler’s Inn, were held this week (Dec. 16-17, 2021) in Vancouver. (Photo courtesy of The Northern Light newspaper)

U.S. inn owner apologizes for helping foreign nationals illegally cross into South Surrey

Judge imposes 30 days jail, probation on Smuggler’s Inn owner Robert Boule

The U.S. inn owner who pleaded guilty to helping seven foreign nationals circumvent Canada’s border checks by directing them into South Surrey via his 0 Avenue property has been sentenced to time served and probation for his behaviour.

The penalty for Robert Boule – imposed Friday (Dec. 17) in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver – comprises two concurrent sentences: a 12-month suspended sentence plus 15 months probation, for providing the assistance, and a 30-day jail term followed by 30 months probation for breaching a bail condition that “unequivocally” prohibited him from engaging in the activity.

In imposing the punishment, Madame Justice Nitya Iyer said she “could not excuse Mr. Boule’s breach” of the bail condition, and that she did not accept his explanations for his conduct.

Arrested in April 2019, Boule, now 72, faced multiple counts under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for “aiding and abetting” foreign nationals in entering Canada illegally.

He pleaded guilty last August to one count that encompassed the facts of the seven foreign nationals, following a failed constitutional challenge of the IRPA.

READ MORE: Blaine inn owner’s challenge of immigration act fails

At the outset of the sentencing hearing Dec. 16, prosecutor Ryan Carrier submitted that Boule should serve 12 to 15 months in jail for the aiding and abetting. Defence counsel Michael Gismondi said a 12- to 18-month conditional sentence order was more appropriate, or alternatively, a prison term that reflected time served, followed by two years probation.

In her reasons for sentence, Iyer said she considered Boule’s age and poor health, positive letters from his friends, as well as the fact that his “assistance to the asylum seekers was relatively unsophisticated” – he did not seek out the foreign nationals or provide assistance once they had entered Canada, and received minimal financial compensation.

As well, that there was no suggestion that he was aware of any criminal purpose behind the individuals’ quest to enter Canada.

The court had heard Thursday of Boule’s involvement with a Syrian family and four citizens of Afghanistan.

In each case, he was aware of the individuals’ citizenship, their intentions to enter Canada illegally and that they didn’t have the required paperwork, prosecutor Ryan Carrier told the court. 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 political refugees, Carrier added.

Carrier contended that Boule was wilfully blind to the fact that information he provided would aid them in crossing the border illegally.

Defence counsel Michael Gismondi had told the court that Boule “had an incorrect understanding of the law” with regards to the bail condition he breached. It was imposed following his arrest in April 2018 in connection with allegations he had assisted nine foreign nationals in crossing the border illegally; charges that were later stayed.

Iyer said Boule, “like everyone else… is responsible for informing himself about, and complying with, the relevant laws of the jurisdiction.”

The fact he didn’t “suggests that he had no regard for Canadian law at all.”

Iyer described assisting illegal entry into Canada as “a serious problem.” Those who receive such aid, by virtue of the IRPA, “have advantages over other asylum seekers” because they can remain in Canada while their claim is processed, she said.

The country’s costs associated with illegal migrants are “astronomical,” she added, noting that all seven of the people Boule helped between May 10, 2018 and March 10, 2019 were arrested, made asylum claims and are still in Canada.

Boule offered an apology for his behaviour shortly before the sentence was imposed.

In addressing Iyer, Boule said he “should have known better” than to help anyone who came to his Smuggler’s Inn to cross into Canada illegally.

“For all my life, I’ve tried to do the right thing. For me, that is trying to lead by example,” he said.

“When I make a mistake, I try to take responsibility for it. In this case, I made a bad mistake. I’m sorry to the court, the citizens and the government of Canada, and I am truly sorry for my actions.”
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