Canada is investigating US Border Patrol's maritime immigration checks


The government of Canada is investigating reports that U.S. Border Patrol agents stopped Canadian fishing boats in a search for undocumented immigrants in disputed waters off the coast of Maine that Canada has considers its own.

Laurence Cook of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association said in a personal posting on Facebook that, in a June 24 boat check off the Machias Seal Island "grey zone" in late June, Border Patrol agents claimed "to be looking for illegal immigrants ..."

"Typical American bullies," he wrote.

The fishermen's association confirmed on Facebook that "a few Grand Manan Fisherman were approached" by Border Patrol agents in June.

Canadian state media outlet CBC News reported that there have been at least two such stops, and as many as 10 in recent weeks. Amy Mills, spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada, the nation's diplomatic and consular agency, told NBC News via email that it was looking into the matter.

"Canada continues to investigate these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters, including through engaging with U.S. agencies involved in the matter," she said. "Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in international law. Until the matter of the boundary is resolved, we will continue to take practical steps with the U.S. to ensure that the area is well‎ managed."

A spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, confirmed the encounters but said they were routine and suggested that agents did not board the boats but rather adjoined them so agents could ask questions.

"U.S. Border Patrol was conducting regular patrol [operations] to enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law that they may encounter in the course of their duties," she said via email. "... Border Patrol does not board Canadian Vessels in the Grey Zone without consent or probable cause and only conduct interviews as a vessel runs parallel to it, bow to stern."

She referred further questions to the U.S. State Department, which had no immediate response.

Only about 100,000 of the United States' 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants were from Canada, according to the Pew Research Center in 2014.

The maritime boat checks come amid some of the most strained relations between the United States and Canada in decades. President Trump's duties on Canadian steel and aluminum, announced in May, were met with in-kind tariffs on billions of dollars worth of American goods.

The trade dispute started in earnest after Trump tweeted that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was acting "meek and mild" and was being dishonest about Canada's trade barriers during the Group of 7 summit last month in Charlevoix, Quebec.

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G-7 Summit in Quebec, Canada
QUEBEC, CANADA - JUNE 08: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'THIERRY QUENETTE / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) (L-R) The President of the European Council Donald Tusk, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker pose for a family photo during the G7 Summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada 08 June 2018. (Photo by Handout / Thierry Quenette/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and G7 leaders Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, France's President Emmanuel Macron, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, and U.S. President Donald Trump discuss the joint statement following a breakfast meeting on the second day of the G7 meeting in Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018. Adam Scotti/Prime Minister's Office/Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and G7 leaders Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, France's President Emmanuel Macron, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, and U.S. President Donald Trump discuss the joint statement following a breakfast meeting on the second day of the G7 meeting in Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018. Adam Scotti/Prime Minister's Office/Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
QUEBEC, CANADA - JUNE 08: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'ERIC BOLTE / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau (R) greets Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G7 Leaders Summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada 08 June 2018. (Photo by Handout / Eric Bolte/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and G7 leaders France's President Emmanuel Macron, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump take part in a working session on the first day of the G7 meeting in Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. Picture taken June 8, 2018. Adam Scotti/Prime Minister's Office/Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (not shown) during the G7 Summit in the Charlevoix town of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pose during a family photo at the G7 Summit in the Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Canada?s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a bilateral meeting at the G7 Summit in in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with France's President Emmanuel Macron during a bilateral meeting at the G7 Summit in in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton watches as President Donald Trump meets with France's President Emmanuel Macron during a bilateral meeting at the G7 Summit in in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Donald Trump sits side by side with France's President Emmanuel Macron during a bilateral meeting at the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
QUEBEC, CANADA - JUNE 08: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'ERIC BOLTE / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) (L-R) British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walk for the family portrait during the G7 Summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada 08 June 2018. (Photo by Handout / Eric Bolte/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
QUEBEC, CANADA - JUNE 08: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'ERIC BOLTE / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) (L-R) The President of the European Council Donald Tusk, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker pose for a family photo during the G7 Summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada 08 June 2018. (Photo by Handout / Eric Bolte/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a press conference at the conclusion of the G7 Summit on June 9, 2018 in La Malbaie, Canada. - The leaders of the G7 failed to heal a tariff dispute that has pushed them to the brink of trade war, as Donald Trump quit their summit early and warned Canada, Japan and Europe that 'the gig is up.' (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)
LA MALBAIE , QC - JUNE 09: Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May holds a press conference at the end of the second day of the G7 Summit on June 9, 2018 in La Malbaie, Canada. Canada hosted the leaders of the UK, Italy, the US, France, Germany and Japan for the two day summit, in the town of La Malbaie. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves following the final press conference at the conclusion of the G7 summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, June 9, 2018. - Trudeau confirmed he had warned Donald Trump his country would impose retaliatory tariffs on US goods from July 1, denouncing Trump's decision to invoke national security concerns to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel as 'insulting' to the Canadian war veterans who had fought alongside US allies. (Photo by Lars Hagberg / AFP) (Photo credit should read LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
People watch a G7 protest from the window of a restaurant in the old sector of Quebec City, Quebec, on June 9, 2018. (Photo by Geoff Robins / AFP) (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Police gather in the old sector of Quebec City, June 9, 2018 where anti G7 protests are planned later in the day. (Photo by Geoff Robins / AFP) (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Riot police walk in formation during a protest march at the G7 Summit in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (C) participates in a roundtable discussion with Small Island Developing States at the G7 Summit in the Charlevoix town of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
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