The locals gathered in the Quebec border town of Hemmingford were upbeat.

If anyone was worried or scared about refugees illegally crossing the U.S. border into Canada, there was little sign of that at a special town hall meeting on March 6. Only the first person to ask a question to the panel expressed some safety concern. Instead, they were more concerned about the welfare of the people fleeing President Donald Trump's America into the town that is about a 45 minute drive south of Montreal.

Prominent Montreal activist Jaggi Singh was among the crowd and he questioned the methods employed by the RCMP, specifically the handcuffing of asylum seekers. But others lauded their efforts and initiative, including a decision by Cst. Marcel Pelletier to add a child seat to his police cruiser.

Residents of the Hemmingford township and the surrounding area come together for an information session in the town's recreation centre. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Organizers belonging to the Hemmingford United Church and Amnesty International invited representatives from the RCMP, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and Action Réfugiés Montréal to the afternoon gathering. They sought more information about what multiple media reports have described as a 'refugee crisis' ever since Trump's election.

Many of the reports have focused on border-crossers in Hemmingford, as well as the small town of Emerson, Man.

From left to right, Diane Otis of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Paul Clarke from Action Réfugiés Montréal, and Constable Marcel Pelletier of the RCMP. They each took turns to present information for about 20 minutes, which was then followed by questions from the crowd. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Local resident Melissa Pinsonnault-Craig said her only concern was about whether it was legal for her to offer help to the families crossing the border in their area. "Would I be in trouble if I were to bring them inside to warm them up, feed them, offer them a shower, before calling the police?"

Even if the residents of the area are not worried about the influx, Peter Clarke of Action Réfugiés Montréal noted that the number of refugees crossing the border has not actually increased significantly. They are expecting the 2016 total to be on par with the average of the years leading up to 2012, when the former Conservative government introduced new immigration laws that drastically reduced the number of claimants the following year. Since then, the numbers have once again started to climb, approaching their previous levels.

Resident Melissa Pinsonnault-Craig's main concern was about the legality of helping out refugees should they come across her property. The Ormstown, Que. mother only wanted to know if she could get into legal trouble for helping out refugees with some creature comforts before calling the police. Constable Pelletier was not able to recommend such a course of action, but did say it was not illegal. Photo by Alex Tétreault

The border itself used to be an official crossing, but was closed down in 1976. Today, it's a road ending in a trench that separates it from a residential unpaved road on the American side, with a white concrete pillar marking the line. It's a quiet area. Recently, the RCMP has posted its agents here in patrol cars. They are keeping watch and making polite first contact with crossers, but say the asylum seekers are not coming in droves.

While the recent uptick making the news is significant, according to residents it is only relative. The Town of Hemmingford remains quaint and quiet, far from a crisis zone.

More photos from the gallery:

Resident Hélène Gravel tells the crowd that refugees are not, and have never been a problem for her. When the border crossing closed down in 1976, she eventually purchased the property and the building that used to house the customs agents. She lives right on the line and says she always have seen border-crossers over the years. She says she waves at them and welcomes them to Canada as they pass. She only has two issues with the current situation: first, the now almost permanent presence of RCMP vehicles and noise disrupts the town's peace and quiet more than usual; second is the irritation that comes from journalists who visit to ask her if she's afraid. Photo by Alex Tétreault​

Attendees knit while listening in on a refugee safety information session in Hemmingford, Que. on March 6, 2017. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Jeanine Floyd says knitting is an easy way to help the refugees. Last year when the Liberal government announced it would welcome 25,000 refugees, Floyd joined the 25,000 Tuques movement, where people across the country took on the goal of knitting a toque for every Syrian refugee to come to Canada. Photo by Alex Tétreault

An RCMP veteran with 30 years of experience, Cst. Marcel Pelletier shares all the information he can on the current situation with refugees and RCMP response. He took questions from the crowd about safety issues and legal concerns. He said he even added a child seat to his police cruiser to ensure the safety of the young children crossing the border with their families. Photo by Alex Tétreault​

Local NDP MP Anne Minh-Thu Quach asks UNHCR representative, Diane Otis, what it would take for the U.S. to no longer be considered a 'safe third country.' Photo by Alex Tétreault

Roxham Road ends in a ditch a few kilometres south of Hemmingford, in what is technically the territory of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle. On the other side of the boundary, it is also named Roxham Road, but both have been disconnected since 1976. It is not an official crossing and appears quiet, but this is where the recent images of RCMP officers greeting refugee families have been taken. The RCMP now have agents parked there on a regular basis. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Roxham Road extends into the U.S. Refugees have come through this spot either by car, taxi, bus, or on foot, where they are met by the RCMP officers on the other side of the ditch. Unseen to the left is a well-worn path showing where most people walk across. Photo by Alex Tétreault

This stroller abandoned by the side of the road on the American side of the border is evidence of a recent border crossing. According to RCMP agents on site, it has been there for days, an ominous reminder of the composition of recent groups of asylum-seekers. Photo by Alex Tétreault

The sun sets on another quiet winter afternoon in the town of Hemmingford, Que. Refugees are not roaming the streets, bothering anyone. In fact, not a single refugee was seen that day. Photo by Alex Tétreault

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