The owner of the Smuggler’s Inn Bed & Breakfast in Blaine, Wash., is facing a number of charges relating to the smuggling of people into Canada.
A bail hearing was held in provincial court in Surrey Wednesday for Robert Joseph Boule, who has been charged with 30 offences, including several under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. A final decision on bail is expected to be handed down April 25.
Among the charges, Boule is facing 16 counts of counselling offences relating to knowingly inducing, aiding or abetting 16 people in illegally attempting to enter Canada.
The offences are alleged to have occurred at various times between April 2016 and March 2019.
The Smugglers Inn is located on the U.S. side of 0 Avenue at 184 Street.
In 2010, Canadian Geographic published an article on Boule and his experience watching as people illegally crossed the border, which runs through the backyard of the Smuggler’s Inn.
“We see people in our yard almost every night. Just keep your eyes open,” Boule told the magazine, adding that, from time to time he would receive “vague” overtures from people asking whether he was interested in making some money.
“I tell them, ‘Sorry, you misunderstand,’” said Boule, who has named rooms in his bed and breakfast for historic criminals, and whose personalized vehicle licence plate reads SMUGLER.
Bellingham lawyer Greg Boos said outside court Wednesday that he has known Boule for “probably two decades” and referred to him as “a pillar of the Blaine community and all the of the economic development community of Whatcom County.”
“He’s been trying to do things to make the community a better place for tourism, a better place for business,” he said, adding that he was surprised to hear of Boule’s arrest.
“Bob is straight and narrow,” he said.
Boos said he was not surprised at the frequency of illegal crossings of the border on Zero Avenue in the vicinity of Smuggler’s Inn.
“Everybody knows. People cross all along the U.S.-Canada border. Peace Arch Park is notorious for people crossers; the area that Bob is in, so close to the border, is notorious.”
Asked to characterize Boule, Boos said, “Bob has a heart of gold. He’s had a family of five living in his carriage house for over a year without paying any money, because their trailer home burned down.”
While taking a photo of the Smuggler’s Inn property on Tuesday, a Peace Arch News reporter was pulled over by the RCMP. The officer, who was in the general area at the time, questioned him about why he was out of his car in the area, and subsequently let him go.
The officer told PAN he had been parked nearby.