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Reduction of Hours of Operation at Ports of Entry: Customs and Immigration Union Expresses Concerns

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Press Release – Ottawa, November 12, 2018 – The National President of the Customs and Immigration Union which represents 10,000 members, most of whom are front line border services and inland immigration enforcement officers, has raised concerns regarding the recent announcement that effective November 26, 2018, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will be reducing the hours of operation at nine ports of entry in New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba and British-Columbia.

CIU National President Jean-Pierre Fortin provided details of the looming closures, outlining the larger issue of CBSA’s continuing reduction of operational capabilities:

“Hours of operation will be reduced in the future at the Fosterville, Milltown, Morses Line, South Junction, Tolstoi, Piney, Snowflake, Carson and Nelway ports of entry. In August 2017, CIU had expressed concerns regarding a similar reduction in hours of operation in New Brunswick and had predicted that CBSA would expand this practice to other ports of entry. This month’s reduction in hours is clearly a continuation of what began last year. The only explanation provided by CBSA is that this is being done to harmonize Canada’s hours of operation with those at US facilities. No consideration is being given to the bordering communities who will be impacted by the reduced hours of service, or to the overall safety of Canadians.”

On the latter point, Fortin highlighted the clear contradiction between reducing hours of operation at ports of entry and the Government of Canada’s stated aim of wanting to increase security at the border.

“In a recent press release, the Government of Canada announced additional funding for CBSA to invest in new resources and technology that will stop the flow of illegal firearms into Canada. While we welcome the additional funding, we know that technology cannot replace seasoned officers. It is baffling to us that on the one hand CBSA would put in place new technology to stop the flow of illegal goods, while on the other reduce the hours of operation at nine ports of entry. The recent weapons seizure in Fort Erie should serve to remind us all – the country’s first line of defence must not only be well-equipped, it must be properly staffed.”

Fortin further calls upon the Canadian Government and CBSA to use the increased funding to invest in additional border officers and expand their role to ensure the integrity of the Canadian border. He added that if there was no other alternative to reducing hours of operation, border officers should at the very least have the authority to travel between ports of entry and monitor the ports after hours.

“While Americans benefit from a dedicated border patrol that can maintain their country’s security even when a port of entry is closed, Canadians do not.

Current events show that the border never sleeps. A dedicated CBSA border patrol would go a long way towards maintaining our border’s integrity. Whether we’re talking about asylum seekers crossing outside of designated ports of entry or the trafficking of dangerous goods such as firearms and drugs, border officers need to be able to react quickly and efficiently. A dedicated border patrol would see border officers better equipped to perform their duties to protect, and hence ensure the safety, security and well-being of Canadians.”

The Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) is a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represents Canada’s Front-Line Customs and Immigration Officers. CIU also represents Investigation, Intelligence and Trade Customs Officers, Immigration Inland Enforcement and Hearings Officers, as well as all support staff – all of whom work at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Government Must Address Staffing Issues to Smooth Refugee Process

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PSAC is calling on the federal government to address organizational and workload issues resulting from the influx of asylum seekers from the United States. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen must take responsibility for fixing these persistent problems.

“There are not enough front-line workers,” said PSAC National President Robyn Benson. “And, from what we are hearing from our members, it is an organizational nightmare.”

Employees at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) have been given new assignments, made family arrangements to accommodate their new schedules, and are then told the plans have changed again. Confusion over assignment of duties and failures of communication in the workplace are also putting undue stress on these PSAC members working on the front lines.

Our members at Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) say more resources are needed, including more Border Services Officers. The number of new workers being hired is insufficient. Harper-era job cuts have not been restored by the current Liberal government, and these workers are being asked to do more with less.

“People arriving in Canada, particularly those in duress, deserve to be treated with dignity,” said Benson. “Our members are doing their best. However, without additional resources, clear directions from management, and adequate facilities, these workers will continue to face a workplace crisis.”

PSAC encourages the Ministers responsible for IRCC, IRB and CBSA to listen to their employees about the specific issues that need to be addressed. As always, listening to the people doing the work, and the unions representing them, is crucial to delivering quality public services.

This article was first published on the PSAC website.