Results Of The CBSA Test Trial Court Case Defending Shenandoah And Thompson

Kentenha / October 6, 2015

Background

On August 30, 2011, Alicia Shenandoah was charged under the Customs Act for failing to declare dutiable goods in her possession and for falsely declaring she was travelling within Canada. Shenandoah was also charged under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with aiding and abetting her six year-old daughter and her cousin with entering Canada without appearing for examination by a border service officer.

On January 8, 2013, April Elaine Thompson was charged under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with aiding and abetting her daughter with entering Canada without appearing for examination by a border service officer.

Phase One

Phase one of the criminal test case involving Alicia Shenandoah and April Elaine Thompson was completed between Monday December 9, 2013 and Wednesday December 11, 2013. The Judge acquitted Alicia Shenandoah of the two charges under the Customs Act.

Alicia Shenandoah and April Elaine Thompson then faced the same charge under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for aiding and abetting individuals with entering Canada without appearing for an examination by a border service officer.

Phase Two

Phase two of the criminal test case started in December 2014 and finished in June 2015. During phase two, we argued for our Aboriginal and mobility rights. Both community and expert witnesses were called to testify.

Results

Judge Griffith’s written decision was released on October 2, 2015. In summary, the Judge found that the defendants acted in violation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and were found guilty of the charges. In his written decision, Judge P. Griffiths opinion was that:

  • The defendants, having dropped off their children on Kawehnoke prior to reporting to Customs, were simply avoiding the inconvenience of having to report first.
  • Entry into Canada at any border crossing brings with it the reasonable expectation that the traveler will be stopped and asked questions and their person or vehicle may be searched, according section 18(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
  • The defendants have not proven to the Court that they were prevented from associating with “any organization, individual or group as a result of” section 18(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

With the decision, Judge Griffith conditionally discharged both Alicia Shenandoah and April Thompson for a period of six-months. A conditional discharge is a finding of guilt, but not a conviction, and was the most minimal penalty available. If the individuals are not charged with or convicted of another infraction under the Criminal Code of Canada within the imposed time period, they will be cleared of the original charges.

Next Steps
The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, is disappointed with the decision made by Judge Griffith and is reviewing options going forward, though pleased with the minimal sentence of a conditional discharge of both women