SK-L: Honduran children in Canada selling drugs to pay off (fwd)

Leslie Schentag (
Sun, 6 Sep 1998 17:49:01 -0700 (PDT)

Here is what is happening in Vancouver.
And this Drug War...

  "When Freedom Is Outlawed Only Outlaws Will Be Free"

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 05 Sep 1998 20:45:00 +0100
From: Debra Guzman <>
Subject: SK-L: Honduran children in Canada selling drugs to pay off

Streetkid-L: Promoting awareness of the plight of street children
and other children at risk worldwide. Your participation is welcome.
## author     :
## date       : 26.07.98
Drug ring lures kids as dealers:  Hondurans as young as 11
deal crack in Vancouver By Adrienne Tanner

Ottawa Citizen, July 20, 1998

VANCOUVER -- A professional drug ring is luring underage
children from Honduras to Vancouver, where they are being
turned into indentured street-corner crack dealers.

As many as 100 Honduran children have been smuggled overland
into Canada from the impoverished Central American country,
says Staff Sgt. Doug MacKay-Dunn of Vancouver police.

The Honduran smugglers pay their transportation costs and
help them across the Canadian border, which Staff Sgt.
MacKay-Dunn admits is "like a sieve."

Once in Vancouver, the ringleaders set the children up in
apartments, help them file refugee claims and sign up for
welfare. In return, the children are turned out on the
street to deal drugs.

"It's like something Charles Dickens wrote," says John
Turvey, director of the Downtown Eastside Youth Activities
Association. The children feel indebted to their benefactors
and see no other way to survive.

Some work the downtown strips of Vancouver, while others
sell along the suburband Skytrain routes. "Some of them are
as young as 11 or 13 -- and they have this huge debt," says
alcohol and drug outreach worker Ingrid Mendez.

Most come from dust-poor families and are illiterate. They
have cagey street-smarts. They vanish at the sight of police
and are reluctant to talk to the community youth workers.
Police, immigration officials and provincial child welfare
workers have for months been looking for ways to get the
children off the streets. But unless they are caught dealing
drugs, there seems little anyone can do.

Children who make refugee claims are entitled to the same
treatment as adults, said Canada Immigration spokesman Dale

They are given a date for an Immigration and Refugee Board
hearing and are not detained unless they are determined to
be a danger to the public or unlikely to show up.

British Columbia's Ministry of Children and Families will
provide housing, food and clothing to children who seek
help, said Elaine Murray. "But to my knowledge, we haven't
had one come forward."

Ms. Murray said the ministry is aware of the Honduran street
kids and is working with the police and immigration
officials to find some way to repatriate the children.

Police are attacking the problem on many local fronts and
also turning to their American counterparts for advice.
About 100 police officers and community workers attended a
meeting in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby this week to meet
with Portland, Oregon, police officers who dealt with an
identical problem in 1996-97.

"In our downtown area we had a very large group of folks
selling Mexican tar heroin and powdered cocaine," said
Commander Bob Kauffman of the Portland Police Bureau. The
majority were Honduran and Mexican nationals who enticed
children to the U.S. to deal drugs, he said. "They think
that if kids get arrested, not much will happen to them."

Portland police cracked the ring by staging 3,400
"hand-to-hand" buys and for a time arrested as many as 35
people a day, Cmdr. Kauffman said.

The city now has a reputation for taking a hard line on
foreign drug dealers, a victory Vancouver police suspect
contributed to the northern migration.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Rocky Rockwell said his officers do what
they can to stop the Honduran children from walking,
hitching, swimming and hopping trains into Canada. But with
only four officers covering the entire B.C.-Washington
border, it's almost impossible to stop the flow.

Vancouver police say they're not going after the kids. "They
are young people being victimized -- we're focusing on the
predators," said Staff Sgt. MacKay-Dunn.

Meanwhile youth workers like Ms. Mendez will continue their
efforts to reach out to the children. The key is to let them
know there are other options and they don't have to deal
drugs, she says.

It's a tough sell. "Once they get here and start seeing the
money, they don't want to get out of it."

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