RCMP seizes vessel carrying 76 off B.C. coast
Passengers may be from Sri Lanka
An RCMP emergency response team boarded and took control of a vessel carrying 76 people off the British Columbia coast and piloted it to port on Saturday.
The action capped a large-scale, two-day police and military operation that kicked into gear following a tip that the ship had sailed unannounced into Canadian waters.
Assistant RCMP Commissioner Al MacIntyre said officials received reports on Thursday of a vessel in waters off Vancouver Island behaving in an inconsistent manner.
On Friday afternoon, the frigate HMCS Regina approached the Ocean Lady near Port Renfrew and an armed team boarded it and took control, MacIntyre said.
No shots were fired and there were no injuries.
The RCMP vessels Higgitt and Lindsay, along with HMCS Regina, escorted the vessel to port at Ogden Point on Vancouver Island.
Rob Johnston of the Canada Border Services Agency told a news conference Saturday evening that 76 men were led off the ship and were believed to be in good health, considering the voyage they had just undertaken.
"However, even though we're satisfied, we are making arrangements for medical examinations as we process them through," Johnston said.
He wouldn't say if there were any children on board, only that the migrants were of a "variety of ages."
The migrants told Canadian officials they wanted to go to Canada. They are being detained and processed under Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Officials wouldn't say where they're being held.
In an interview with CBC News, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said early information indicated that the people on the boat may be from Sri Lanka, but that was still unconfirmed.
"Obviously they're arriving in an unconventional fashion, so that raises concerns and the potential of human smuggling or concerns of that nature," Van Loan said.
Officials at the news conference couldn't say where the men are from.
With files from The Canadian Press