OTTAWA, January 18, 2024 — The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) recently announced that it would only staff border services operations in Saint John, NB, on weekdays during daytime hours, eliminating the long-established, regular presence of border officers in the evening, on weekends, and on holidays.
This decision, which affects travellers, commercial, and marine operations, comes at a time of considerable growth for the Port of Saint John and the surrounding community. Tourism is up, marine trade is flourishing, and new rail lines are being built. The Port itself has undergone a significant modernization process, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visiting the updated installations this past January 17.
By eliminating the presence of border officers outside of weekday daytime hours, CBSA clearly goes against this trend, threatening to undermine both the economic growth and the security of the Saint John community.
“CBSA will say that their decision reflects the demand for service by the Port and the Saint John community, but this does not take into account post-pandemic volumes and completely ignores security issues,” said Customs and Immigration Union National President Mark Weber. “The last two years have seen CBSA and RCMP officers perform some of the largest drug seizures in the history of the Port” explained Weber, adding that “protecting the border is not just a 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday operation. It’s 24/7. The Agency should be increasing its presence in Saint John, not decreasing it.”
The Agency’s decision is not unique to Saint John, as other ports of entry face similar staffing and scheduling challenges. “It’s as if the Agency has given up and simply accepted that they will never be able to properly staff ports of entry with current federal funding,” said Weber. “It’s insulting to our members, to border personnel. Their job is to protect Canadian communities, to interdict dangerous goods and offenders. We really need the federal government to ensure border services can operate adequately at all times.”
“It’s concerning that the federal government finds it acceptable that the Agency, which runs the second-largest law enforcement force in the country, would choose to only staff daytime, weekday shifts. Imagine if the RCMP announced they no longer worked weekends — how would Canadians react?” asked Weber.