By Jami Makan
A legal defense fund has been created to help Bob Boule, owner of the Smuggler’s Inn Bed and Breakfast in Blaine who is facing human smuggling charges in Canada.
A GoFundMe page has been created to raise funds for Boule’s defense. Located online at gofundme.com/smugglersinn, the GoFundMe page was created on May 28 with the goal of raising $40,000. As of June 4, it had not received any donations, although the page noted that separately, $17,220 has so far been raised for Boule.
GoFundMe is a “crowdfunding” website that allows people to raise money for different causes, ranging from life events such as celebrations and graduations to challenging circumstances like accidents and illnesses. The website was launched in 2010 and, according to GoFundMe, has collectively helped 70 million donors raise over $5 billion for various causes around the world.
Boule was arrested by Canadian authorities in early April for allegedly helping people cross into Canada illegally. Crown prosecutors have alleged that he helped 16 individuals cross into Canada from the Smuggler’s Inn, which abuts the US/Canada border and “0” Avenue in Surrey, B.C. The violations are alleged to have occurred at various times between April 2016 and March 2019.
Specifically, Crown prosecutors have alleged that Boule committed a number of violations of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which states that “no person shall organize, induce, aid or abet the coming into Canada of one or more persons know that, or being reckless as to whether, their coming into Canada is or would be in contravention of this Act.”
According to a spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC), the maximum penalty for each such offense is a $500,000 fine or 10 years’ imprisonment. “The penalty for this same offense, if done for profit, is a minimum of three years’ imprisonment,” said the spokesperson.
The GoFundMe page created for Boule noted that Boule has been a leader in his community. In June 2018, Boule was presented with a Blaine Builder Award by mayor Bonnie Onyon in recognition of his years of service as a volunteer and his contributions as a business owner to the city.
The GoFundMe page also pointed out that the area surrounding the Smuggler’s Inn “became a popular spot for refugee claimants to cross into Canada,” and that Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has publicly announced that refugees are welcome in Canada.
“To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength. Welcome to Canada,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter in January 2017, one day after President Donald Trump put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the U.S. and temporarily barred travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The GoFundMe page suggested that Canadian authorities are applying Canadian law in an overly broad manner that could ensnare ordinary U.S. business owners who operate near the border with Canada. “The broad interpretation argued by the Canadian government could capture any taxi driver, bus driver or business owner on the border who assists anyone to get to the border,” said the GoFundMe page. “The person in the U.S.A. can be charged … even if they never stepped foot in Canada.”
In addition, a fundraising event will be held at the Smuggler’s Inn on Saturday, July 20. The picnic-style event will take place from noon to 5 p.m. and will feature raffles and entertainment, said Laura Massaro, owner of the Pizza Factory.