Tag Archives: staffing

Border Services: CIU National President urges federal government to address ‘severe deficit’ in personnel

Border crossing

On Tuesday September 27, 2022, the National President of the Customs and Immigration Union, Mark Weber, addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade for the second time this year as part of the Committee’s study on the potential impacts of the ArriveCAN application on certain Canadian sectors.

Speaking to the Committee, the CIU National President did not mince words: “What the failure of ArriveCAN shows us is that our government must continue to invest in people to best serve people and reconsider its pursuit of a one-size-fits-all technological panacea” Weber explained to Committee members, highlighting the urgent need for more officers.

“What I urge the government and the Agency to do now is to turn their attention to the severe deficit in personnel afflicting border services throughout the country. The reality is bleak: The Agency needs thousands more officers if it wishes to fulfill its mandate” told Weber to the Committee, adding that with current staffing levels, the Agency struggled to adequately curb the smuggling of dangerous goods, despite the sustained efforts of its officers.

A recording of the Committee proceedings can be viewed here.

Delays at airports: CBSA & Minister Mendicino must ensure proper staffing at customs

Airplane seen from above.

OTTAWA, May 18, 2022 — As travellers arriving at Canada’s international airports continue to experience extensive delays, the National President of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) is calling upon the Minister of Public Safety and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to increase the number of border services officers assigned to passenger operations in Canadian airports and alleviate the pressure on both airport personnel and travellers.

“It is absolutely irresponsible of the federal government to let the situation stand as it is” said Mark Weber, CIU National President. “These delays are a source of frustration for all and contribute to the considerable overcrowding of already busy airports. I urge Minister Mendicino and CBSA to increase the number of border officers and review the infrastructure in place in order to speed up the processing of travellers.”

This situation was foreseeable: Over the past decade, the number of officers assigned to passenger operations has decreased dramatically. At present, at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport alone, CIU estimates that fewer than 300 officers are active in the passenger operations section — nearly half of the number needed to process inbound travellers in a timely manner, and far less than were present just six years ago. This is not unique to Toronto either, with both Vancouver and Montreal facing similar staffing issues.

“The reality is that even with the eventual lifting of current public health measures, significant delays will likely persist, not only due to the critical shortage of officers in most border operations across the country, but also due to an over-reliance on inefficient technologies” explained Mark Weber, adding that the union estimates that an officer can process a traveller twice as fast as the automated Primary Inspection Kiosks.

During busy times, such kiosks also take away valuable space from travellers waiting to go through customs, causing an overflow of travellers outside of the customs area. In addition, many have noted that the new ArriveCan application makes the process more complex for travellers, adding to already substantial delays. While both these technologies may have their role to play, they are no substitute for the expertise of a trained officer, undermining in many ways the security of the country.

Ultimately, it should come as no surprise that there are significant delays in inbound traveller operations when few officers are assigned to primary inspection, with many booths remaining empty at peak times. With travel resuming in force, the situation is likely to worsen, and the primary solution is to ensure that enough border officers are available to process travellers at all major international airports in Canada.