Kanesatake resident named in human smuggling ring bust

A Kanesatake community member has been charged in relation to an international human smuggling ring, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Shawna Etienne, 47, of Kanesatake was one of eight people named by the RCMP in a June 6 press release announcing the news.

A social media post by the RCMP the same day said Etienne was wanted for conspiracy to commit an indictable offence. She was one of four suspects still wanted by police; the other four had already been arrested.

The RCMP alleges that an international human smuggling ring was operated for nearly a year in the area around Cornwall, Ontario.

“Between July 2022 and June 2023, this group allegedly smuggled hundreds of desperate migrants through communities along the St. Lawrence River across borders into the United States. Migrants were allegedly charged thousands of dollars by the smugglers. Dangerous night-time crossings even cost some migrants their lives,” said the press release.

Police said they believe two of the eight people arrested are linked with a high-profile human smuggling incident in March 2023 when the bodies of two families of four, one from Romania and one from India, were recovered from the St. Lawrence River.

The body of Ahkhwesahsró:non Casey Oakes, who went missing at the same time, was identified by the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service more than three months later.

Etienne is not among those being accused of involvement in the incident. She is charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, each relating to allegations stemming from January 2-5, 2023, according to the RCMP.

When reached for comment, Etienne said “I can say that I absolutely had nothing to do with those deaths. I was back home taking care of (her son) Brayden’s funeral and deadfeast.

“And I am ready to defend myself to the fullest,” she added.

marcus@easterndoor.com

Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door