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Man who smuggled people over B.C.-Washington border gets probation, no jail time

The man who helped Syrians and Afghanis cross into Canada from his Washington State Smuggler's Inn has been sentenced to a total of 30 months probation and no jail time while those he helped have all filed refugee claims and are immune from prosecution.
Robert Boule will serve no extra jail time but will be on probation for 30 months for aiding and abetting people crossing into Canada from his Washington State inn at the international border.

An innkeeper who pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting human smuggling on the B.C.-Washington State border won't spend any more time in jail.

Robert Boule, 72, was given 30 months probation after admitting to helping Syrian and Afghani foreign nationals enter Canada from the United States through Smuggler’s Inn, located on Canada View Drive in Blaine.

The inn abuts Surrey’s 0 Avenue with marked rocks spanning the inn’s backyard indicating the border.

Boule, an American citizen, was charged and later arrested in 2018 for nine violations of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act related to helping foreign nations illegally enter Canada in April 2016 and September 2017. 

Boule was put on bail but later breached those conditions when he was caught once again assisting people to cross the border, something the judge considered the more serious offence.

“This suggests he had no regard for Canadian law at all,” said B.C. Supreme Court Justice Nitya Iyer.

She sentenced Boule to 30 days in jail and 30 months probation for the breach. As he had already been jailed for 22 days before trial, he will spend no more time behind bars. For the smuggling, Boule was sentenced to a 15-month suspended sentence and 15 months probation.

Boule was contrite in addressing the court prior to sentencing.

"I should have not helped anyone cross into Canada," he said. "I made a bad mistake. That's why I'm pleading guilty. I'm truly sorry for my actions."

The judge found his apology sincere.

The court heard that Boule charged $200-$700 for his services, which included telling people how to make asylum claims, the best times to cross and how to get to a Surrey gas station to call a taxi.

Iyer said all those who crossed made refugee claims and cannot be prosecuted for entering Canada with Boule’s assistance.

In seeking 12-15 months in prison, the Crown noted that smuggling of people into Canada poses both border security and national safety risks, as well as the costs borne by taxpayers in dealing with that issue. Despite that, Crown lawyer Molly Green also noted the judge needed to take Boule's health into consideration. Among other conditions, he is dealing with challenges from dementia, diabetes, heart issues and depression.

The court heard Boule’s doctor has said it is unlikely he will live to 75.

Earlier ruling

Earlier in the case, Iyer declared part of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act invalid on a challenge from Boule. The section of the act entitled “Human Smuggling and Trafficking.” 

Boule, an American citizen, claimed the law violates Charter of Rights and Freedoms section 7, which says, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

Iyer agreed with Boule, saying the section of the act relating to three categories of conduct – humanitarian aid to undocumented entrants, mutual aid amongst asylum-seekers and assistance to family – was overly broad.