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Trial of U.S. man accused of helping migrants enter B.C. delayed by constitutional challenge

A sign warning people not to cross the border into Canada is posted outside the Smugglers Inn bed and breakfast in Blaine, Wash. The sign is one of the bail conditions imposed on owner Robert Boulé, who has been charged with helping migrants enter Canada from the U.S.
A sign warning people not to cross the border into Canada is posted outside the Smugglers Inn bed and breakfast in Blaine, Wash. The sign is one of the bail conditions imposed on owner Robert Boulé, who has been charged with helping migrants enter Canada from the U.S. Global News

The trial of a Washington state man accused of helping seven migrants illegally enter British Columbia has been delayed as he makes a constitutional challenge of the charges.

Robert Boule is facing 21 charges under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, for incidents alleged to have taken place between May 2018 and March 2019.

Boule is the owner and operator of the Smuggler’s Inn, a bed and breakfast located in Blaine, Wash. The hotel is just steps from the Canadian border on the U.S. side of Zero Avenue, where there is no fence or barrier separating the countries.

Read more: 9 charges stayed against Smuggler’s Inn owner accused of sneaking people into Canada

Boule’s lawyer says he believes he is being made into a scapegoat by the Canadian government.

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“He’s providing a service, he’s an innkeeper, and I highly doubt that he was organized in some sophisticated alien smuggling operation,” said Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer and long-time friend of Boule’s.

Click to play video 'Smuggler’s Inn owner appears in Surrey court on Immigration Act charges' Smuggler’s Inn owner appears in Surrey court on Immigration Act charges
Smuggler’s Inn owner appears in Surrey court on Immigration Act charges

“Yes, I’m sure some of his clientele did go to Canada illegally. But I think you should be looking at the people who entered illegally, not the innkeeper who happens to be right on the border.”

Boule’s trial was due to start Monday, but has been derailed pending his challenge. Five Crown lawyers have been assigned to the case, while Boule’s counsel is being paid for by the Canadian taxpayer.

READ MORE: Smuggler’s Inn owner forced to put up sign warning against entering Canada

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“This is going to run well into hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions,” said Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who said the case deals with “grey areas.”

Click to play video 'Global camera captures video of alleged border-jumpers' Global camera captures video of alleged border-jumpers
Global camera captures video of alleged border-jumpers

“Refugees have the right to claim asylum in Canada on one hand. On the other hand, you can’t bring illegals into the country, so if you’re helping a refugee enter Canada illegally, you’re caught by the law.”

READ MORE: Smuggler’s Inn owner charged with trying to illegally sneak people into Canada

The complexities of the case could see it drag on for years, added Kurland.

In the meantime, Boule continues to operate the Smuggler’s Inn, though under strict court-ordered conditions.

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Those conditions include placing a prominent sign on the lawn of the bed and breakfast, reading, “Warning: It is illegal to enter Canada directly from Smugglers’ Inn Property,” and a court order requiring him to report anyone who does try and cross the border.