Tag Archives: frontière

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.

PSAC-CIU raise border automation concerns with government

Border crossing

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.

Stopping the flow of illegal firearms at the border: Letter to Minister Blair

Photo of CIU flag

CIU National President Jean-Pierre Fortin sent the following letter to the Hon. Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, on May 12, 2020.

Dear Minister,

Recently, the Government of Canada announced that it was instituting a ban on several firearm models in an effort to curb gun violence across the country. As the issue of firearms-related
violence is intrinsically linked to concerns of illegal weapons being smuggled into the country, I wanted to reach out and discuss further possible avenues to address this problem.

It is clear from our previous conversations that you are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of Canadians everywhere, and I believe that tackling gun violence in Canada requires us to consider all sensible solutions to reduce the potential for further tragedies.

In that spirit, I would like to stress the importance of improving enforcement measures at the border in order to prevent unauthorized or illegal firearms from being smuggled into the country. Adopting a two-pronged approach — by regulating both the flow of firearms within Canada and intercepting illegal shipments at the border — can only result in more effective prevention.

Based on your government’s funding commitments, there is no doubt that border security is of considerable importance. Over the years, I have often stated that investment in new resources and technology only go so far and cannot replace the expertise of seasoned officers. As law enforcement officers, analysts, and investigators, many of our members possess unique insight into border security matters, including the smuggling of illegal goods such as firearms. I firmly believe that the Government of Canada would strongly benefit by further involving these men and women who are trained to act as our country’s first line of defence.

Statistics vary, but it is no secret that firearms flowing in from the United States still make up a large proportion of weapons used in violent incidents. Indeed, based on recent developments in
the investigation into last month’s tragic Nova Scotia shootings, it would appear that a majority of the firearms used came from the U.S. With the world’s longest land border between Canada and the U.S., tackling the flow of illegal firearms is no easy matter, and it only makes sense for the Canadian government to continue to improve its investment in border services.

Gun violence is a complex matter that affects a wide range of communities throughout the country, and the strategies used to put an end to it must also be diverse. I have always been a vocal proponent for the creation of a dedicated border patrol to better empower border officers to perform their duties and help protect their fellow Canadians. That is only one possible such strategy. Perhaps more narrowly targeted endeavours, such as a dedicated smuggling task force, should also be considered. No matter what avenue your government chooses to pursue, I urge you to rely on the Border Officers who, every day, work diligently to safeguard the integrity of our border.

As always, I look forward to continuing to work with you to build solutions to make our communities and our country safer.

Yours truly,

Jean-Pierre Fortin
National President
Customs and Immigration Union

Click here for the PDF version.

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

CIU Flag / Drapeau du SDI

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).