In late May of this year, CIU became aware that CBSA would not be authorising the border officers deployed to this year’s G7 meeting to carry their sidearm. This news was subsequently reported on by media outlets, and attracted quite a bit of attention.
That CBSA takes such a position is nothing new. Just as it did during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the Agency continues to insist that officers are not authorised to carry their sidearm outside of designated zones, or when they are not applying the Customs Act or the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
It has always been CIU’s position that CBSA’s opinion in the matter is wrong, plain and simple – and recently, we have heard from several members echoing our sentiment. Beyond simply being wrong, CBSA’s position is inconsistent, dangerous, and humiliating:
- It is inconsistent, as plenty of officers – often non-uniformed – carry their sidearm while performing their duties outside of designated areas;
- It is dangerous, as prohibiting border officers from carrying their sidearm while performing any of their duties undermines the safety and security of both the officers and members of the public. The reality is that the sidearm – and the muscle memory associated with it – is an integral part of the defensive toolkit that officers are trained to use. As law enforcement officers, they must be able to rely fully on this training, regardless of the task performed;
- It is humiliating, as it forces CBSA officers to rely on fellow law enforcement colleagues to protect them, and it reinforces the false perception – both within the law enforcement community and at large – that border officers are not law enforcement
The Agency’s position also flies in the face of our most recent collective agreement, which the employer accepted, recognizing that our members should be paid at a level commensurate with their law enforcement duties and in line with other agencies. Yet, as the G7 situation illustrates, CBSA continues to deny its officers the respect they deserve as law enforcement personnel.
In terms of immediate actions taken regarding the G7 situation, the CIU National President contacted the Agency on May 31, reiterating the union’s position to the Vice-President of Operations: It is imperative that CBSA officers be armed at the G7 – and in any other work environment.
As far as long-term solutions go, CIU will continue advocating on behalf of members, pressuring the Agency so that CBSA respects its own officers and ensures they are properly equipped at all times to perform their duties in a safe and healthy environment.
Finally, it is crucial to remember that it is the union and its members who fought hard to win the right to be armed. Without the solidarity and hard work of both the union leadership and the members, the employer would never have agreed to the arming of border officers. While we understand that large-scale events such as the G7 or the Olympics can be attractive to officers, participation in such events should not come at the expense of safety, security, and respect. As CBSA officers, it is imperative that we remain united and refuse to be deployed to perform any work without our full defensive equipment, including our sidearm. It is the first and most important step in ensuring that CBSA ceases to treat its own officers as second-class law enforcement officers.
Addendum: In 2010, the CIU National Office issued a memo on the same matter. Download the PDF here.