Tag Archives: ArriveCAN

“We’re inundated with managers”: National President addresses Standing Committee on Public Accounts

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On February 29 and March 5, 2024, CIU National President Mark Weber addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts (PACP) as part of the Committee’s work related to the Auditor General’s report on ArriveCAN.

In his opening statement on February 29, the National President did not mince words, highlighting CBSA management’s lack of accountability — along with its tendency to retaliate against employees and its arbitrary internal investigative and disciplinary processes — and noting that the “glaring disregard for basic management practices” uncovered by the Auditor General was far from a surprise for those acquainted with CBSA management.

“The situation within the Security and Professional Standards Directorate, responsible for internal investigations, is especially egregious, with the directorate showing little understanding of the basic principles of procedural fairness” said Mark Weber. “Reform is badly needed to ensure the integrity of a process that should be fair, transparent, and unbiased, and yet is anything but.”

At the subsequent meeting on March 5, the National President answered questions from Committee members, touching on a wide range of subjects, including CBSA’s focus on facilitation and automated technologies such as ArriveCAN, which undermines the security of Canadians by removing crucial interactions between officers and travellers.

Committee members also heard about the overly broad CBSA code of conduct, the two-tiered approach to discipline between officers and managers, and the perennial issue of understaffing, which CBSA exacerbates by hiring more and more managers instead of frontline officers. “We’re already inundated with managers at CBSA” told Weber to the Committee, highlighting that “you could go the next decade without hiring another manager and you’d likely still have too many”.

The overarching message to the Committee is clear: CBSA and the federal government must learn from the ArriveCAN debacle and seize this opportunity to change course. Canadians are owed an agency built on solid principles where the frontline is properly supported to ensure the security of all.

See selected clips below. A full recording of the Committee proceedings can be viewed here (February 29) and here (March 5) (with interpretation language options).

“A glaring disregard for basic management practices” — Auditor General on ArriveCAN

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The Auditor General of Canada’s February 2024 report regarding the procurement process around the ArriveCAN application is as scathing as it is unsurprising for anyone familiar with management at the Canada Border Services Agency.

While the report focuses mainly on the contracting and development aspects of the application, much of what the Auditor General’s office found will surely resonate with CIU members who are all too well acquainted with the Agency’s bottom-of-the-barrel labour relations practices.

In her opening statement to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the Auditor General noted the “glaring disregard for basic management practices” uncovered during the audit.

As our members know, this disregard for proper managerial procedures is deeply embedded within the Agency, often with little consequence for the managers. Be it in terms of the profound lack of accountability found at all management levels, of the tendency to retaliate against employees for speaking up, or of the poorly run, arbitrary internal investigative and disciplinary processes — CBSA management’s track record speaks for itself. While keen on punishing its lower-level employees at the slightest allegation, the Agency is known to turn a blind eye to far more serious breaches within management.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the procurement process that led to the Agency’s ArriveCAN application would be fraught with issues. And it should come as no surprise that the resulting product has been found to be of poor value to Canadians. What should also be stressed is how this poor value extends far beyond the mere economic aspect. ArriveCAN, in its current form, actively undermines the security of Canadians by removing crucial interactions between officers and travellers. It is the cornerstone of CBSA’s ‘border modernization’ strategy, which focuses entirely on facilitation with no thought for the safety and security of our communities.

With important security matters at the forefront of national discussions — stolen car exports, gun smuggling, the opioid crisis — it is especially galling to see the Agency squander in the worst possible way nearly $60 million on an app that ultimately does very little. It is irresponsible for the Agency leadership and for the federal government to inject such funds into a project of this kind instead of hiring much needed additional staff or seeking to improve existing infrastructure, which would bring real value to Canadians.

This is to say little of the Agency’s decision to spend dozens of millions of dollars on the private sector instead of choosing to invest in its workers and reinforcing their capacity to act on behalf of Canadians. At a time where our members are being nickeled and dimed at the bargaining table, this is nothing less than a slap in the face.

CIU members are proud of the work they do to serve Canadians and of their role as Canada’s first line of defence. Yet CBSA management’s actions continue to cast a shadow on the organization as a whole. The Auditor General’s report brings to light what many of our members have known for a long time, and we call on CBSA President Erin O’Gorman to seize this opportunity to overhaul the Agency so that debacles of the sort are no longer the norm.

ArriveCAN: Border officers were never consulted, says CIU National President to House Committee

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On Thursday October 20, 2022, the National President of the Customs and Immigration Union, Mark Weber, addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates as part of the Committee’s study on the ArriveCAN application.

Speaking to the Committee, the CIU National President was critical of the Agency, pointing to the utter lack of consultation with frontline officers — both in the context of  ArriveCAN and in general. “What’s perhaps most vexing about ArriveCAN is how it was developed without any meaningful consultation with, or input from, frontline officers. Not when the idea was first proposed; not when the app was initially developed; and definitely not at any point during one of the more than 70 updates that the app had to undergo” the National President told the Committee, explaining that it “defied reason” to develop an application designed for the frontline without involving those who serve at the border. Had officers been involved, they would have been able to flag potential issues — of which ArriveCAN saw plenty — before they arose.

‘Like putting up wallpaper before pouring the foundation’

The CIU National President also pointed to the decision to fund the development of ArriveCAN at the expense of more pressing issues, such as the ongoing severe staffing crisis, as highly problematic, comparing it to “putting up wallpaper before pouring the foundation”, and highlighting that “by choosing to sink dozens of millions of dollars into ArriveCAN while its border services workforce is understaffed and overworked, the federal government is simply gambling with Canada’s ability to maintain a safe and properly functioning border.”

ArriveCAN is not the only issue

ArriveCAN is certainly not unique at CBSA. It is only one example in a long line of technological band-aid solutions that ultimately fail to enhance border security and effectiveness in any real way: Primary inspection kiosks, E-Gates, remote reporting, etc. What these also have in common is that they are always developed without involving the frontline personnel who actually works at the border.

“What the government and CBSA can learn from the ArriveCAN experience is that, if they want to effectively and properly manage our border, while ensuring that the projects designed to do so are sound, they must rely on and seek out the expertise of frontline border officers in a meaningful way” concluded Mark Weber. “Our members are proud of the work they do, they’re proud of serving Canadians, and I know they would jump at the opportunity to help improve our border processes.”

A recording of the Committee proceedings can be viewed here.

CIU National President meets with Public Safety Minister

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On Friday, August 5, 2022, National President Mark Weber met with the Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, to discuss ongoing issues affecting CIU members and border services across the country.

During this first meeting with the Minister, Mark Weber highlighted several areas of concern, ranging from the effects of the implementation of the ArriveCAN app and other automated processes on the work our members do, to the lack of consultation by CBSA’s upper echelons with frontline officers when it comes to policy and procedures. “All over the country, what we’re hearing from our members is that they are no longer doing the work they are trained to do to ensure the security of our borders” explained Weber to the Minister, adding that “CBSA’s plans are made by people who have never worked at the border” and that the Agency could only benefit from consulting with those who have first-hand experience with what works—and what doesn’t—on the frontline.

Minister Mendicino acknowledged that the last two years had been difficult for many, especially for those on the frontline, including border officers, and expressed his gratitude for the work CIU members do. The Minister further highlighted that he was keen on avoiding disconnects between people on the ground and decision makers and that he wished to maintain an open line of communication with the union moving forward.

This meeting, which took place on the eve of the anniversary date of last year’s ground-breaking FB mobilization, made it clear that the Minister is aware of the many issues CIU members are facing, and we are hopeful that this sets the stage for a constructive relationship between the union and the Ministry of Public Safety.

Urgent action needed to address border delays: Automation is not the solution

The situation at airports and ports of entry across the country continues to deteriorate, and it’s clear the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the federal government have no plan to get international travel back on track anytime soon.

While travellers returning to the country are piling up in airports and cars are lining up at ports of entry, the Government of Canada would rather double-down and expand the poorly-implemented ArriveCAN application than rely on the expertise of the border officers who have continued to serve the Canadian public throughout the pandemic.

At the same time, with too few officers across the country, CBSA prefers to introduce heavy-handed measures towards staff, such as imposing overtime and denying leave. Instead of finding effective long-term solutions, the Agency is further stretching an already thinned-out workforce with complete disregard for the impacts on workers’ mental and physical wellbeing. It also weakens border operations across the board when officers are pulled away from important security-oriented duties, such as intercepting dangerous goods.

Let’s be clear: These troubling staffing issues and considerable delays at the border have been years in the making. And at no point has the federal government—past or present—sought to consult the dedicated frontline officers on how to ensure smooth and efficient border processes.

If the government wants to get serious about avoiding lengthy delays and severe impacts on border security, tourism, and cross-border commercial activities for years to come, the solution is simple: Stop depending on inefficient automated technologies, hire more officers, and rely on their expertise.

We’ve been vocal about this: The government needs a long-term plan now, and automation is not the solution. The Customs and Immigration Union is set to meet with Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, in early August, and we’re hopeful he’ll listen.

In the meantime, sign the letter below to remind the government of the urgent action needed to give travellers and workers a much-needed reprieve.

This article was first posted on the PSAC website.