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Canadian, U.S. agencies display border defence readiness around Gulf, San Juan islands

Suspicious vessels discovered during live exercise identified, boarded
Canadian and American agencies conducted a live maritime border defence exercise along the southern coast of British Columbia and northern Washington last month. (Courtesy BC RCMP)

Multiple Canadian and U.S. agencies took to the chilly waters off of B.C.’s Gulf and Washington’s San Juan islands recently in a demonstration of border defence readiness.

Five agencies in total – including the BC RCMP Federal Policing Pacific Shiprider Program, Canada Border Services Agency, U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch, U.S. Coast Guard and the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department – conducted a joint maritime law enforcement and security exercise over two days from Aug. 19 to 20.

“The remarkable level of interagency cooperation illustrated in the execution of this large-scale multilateral joint exercise is a demonstration of our ability, and readiness to collaborative defend against the most serious and complex threats facing Canada, the United States, and the international community,” said Will Ng, BC RCMP criminal operations officer, in a news release.

The coordinated effort between Canadian and American authorities involves conducting exercises to detect, prevent and deter illegal activity on the sea that could pose serious threats to the safety and security of both countries.

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And while exercises are routinely held at different locations several times per year, it’s the first time the BC RCMP Border Integrity Centre was utilized as the command centre for operations, providing maritime intelligence support throughout the duration of the exercise.

Among the centre’s inventory of advanced technological capabilities are sophisticated sensors, cameras, vessel radar tracking systems, and the E2MV (911) System.

The centre is a key component of Canada’s border defence system and especially well-suited for large-scale and lengthy maritime operations, coordinating surface and air assets, as well as detecting irregular land border activities in support of land border enforcement teams.

During the live exercise, a number of suspicious vehicles were identified before being boarded by the U.S. Maritime Safety and Security Team and accompanying RCMP officers. Investigation of the vessels led to the discovery of several individuals on board who were associated with transnational organized crime activities.

The BC RCMP Border Integrity program will continue to participate in joint maritime operations as it not only strengthens interagency partnerships, it provides a significant advantage in a time when organized crime is becoming increasingly sophisticated, says BC RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime media relations officer Cpl. Arash Seyed.

“(It) allows for more comprehensive shared border coverage and live multi-jurisdictional enforcement action by officers from both countries,” he wrote in a statement to Black Press Media.

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Austin Westphal

About the Author: Austin Westphal

Austin Westphal is the newest member to join the Saanich News team.
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