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Ailing, 67-Year-Old Akwesasne Mohawk Man Claims Canada Border Guard Brutality

A 67-year-old Akwesasne man claims Canadian border guards assaulted him when they tried to search his truck for tobacco as he went to the hospital.
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The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is investigating a case of alleged brutality after a 67-year-old man who was trying to drive himself to the hospital was put in a cell when he refused to leave his vehicle for a search.

"He didn't get out of the vehicle because he was sick. And he didn't feel he was going to be able to get out," the man’s wife, Donna Delormier, told CBC News Ottawa after the September 23 incident.

She said that border agents threw her husband, Antoine Delormier of Cornwall Island in Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, to the ground and pinned him there, ignoring his pleas for an ambulance. The territory, the Kawehno’ke district of the Mohawk community of Akwesasne, falls within Ontario, Quebec and the United States. Cornwall Island is a little more than 60 miles southeast of Ottawa.

Antoine Delormier told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) that border control agents had said they “caught a whiff of tobacco in his truck,” as the network put it. He was eventually taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted, APTN reported. But not before he was held in a cell while the guards waited for the ambulance.

Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Grand Chief Abram Benedict said in a statement the incident is being “reviewed and investigated” by the CBSA, CBC News reported, and that the council would follow developments closely.

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Delormier told APTN that it started on Tuesday morning September 23 when he felt ill. Having recently survived a heart attack and having five stents implanted to widen his arteries, he didn’t want to wait for an ambulance. Rather, he decided to drive himself to the hospital.

At the border area, when ushered into the secondary inspection area—even though he was simply traveling from one part of Ontario to another, without leaving Canada—he was at some point told that an agent had smelled tobacco coming from his truck, APTN said. Agents demanded he leave the truck, and he refused. Suddenly, he told APTN, five CBSA agents were surrounding his truck.

“I said no, so one of the guys reached in and grabbed the key of the ignition and the other guy grabbed my arm and twisted it backwards while I was sitting in the truck,” Delormier told APTN. “I think he almost broke it.”

He was knocked down and landed face-first on the pavement, he said. His wife told CBC News that one officer stuck a knee into Delormier’s back and another stepped on his head.

“I couldn’t breathe because of my heart condition and I told them, ‘I can’t breathe,’ ” Delormier told the network. “So finally the other guy said, ‘Let him go.’ They grabbed me by my two arms behind my back and picked me up, which was really painful.”

All the while, he said, he was requesting an ambulance. They eventually granted his request, he said, then stuck him in a cell to wait for it, telling him he was arrested for hindering the officers, CBC News said. CBSA officers came to his hospital room later and told him he was “unarrested,” the couple told CBC News.