In its budget yesterday, the Trudeau government made reference to “modernizing travel and trade at our borders”, and spoke of “transforming the border experience” via “touchless and automated interactions”. This announcement raises several red flags and PSAC-CIU have been quick to react.
For years, PSAC-CIU have been vocal about the potential security pitfalls of border processes being centred around technology as opposed to workers and officers. Talks of further automation raise security and labour concerns that cannot be ignored. In 2017, CIU National President Jean-Pierre Fortin stressed that technology is no substitute for seasoned officers, and this remains true to this day. In correspondence with CBSA following yesterday’s announcement, Jean-Pierre Fortin was unequivocal: technology can support officers on the ground but cannot replace them. If the government is serious about border security, it must ensure proper workforce investments to match technological initiatives.
Automated screening can also disproportionately impact marginalized communities who continue to be subjected to racial profiling.
The government’s border announcements also come at a time when the FB bargaining team is waiting for the Public Interest Commission report. In the wake of these statements, PSAC contacted Treasury Board and put the employer on notice. Changes to working conditions of employees during negotiations without union consent is prohibited under federal law.
The union and management are scheduled to meet in May to discuss the announcement further. We’ll keep you appraised of significant developments.
This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.