National security will suffer from cuts — border guards' union
1,026 jobs cut will directly impact public safety and national border security, says CIU.
by Samantha Bayard, Straight Goods News staff
OTTAWA, ON, Straight Goods News, April 12, 2012: The union representing Canada's customs agents is warning $143 million in cuts from the Federal budget will mean more congestion, more contraband and more criminals crossing Canada's borders.
"These proposed budget cuts would have a direct and real impact," said Jean-Pierre Fortin, National President of the Customs and Immigrations Union (CIU). "More child pornography, more weapons and illegal drugs will pass through our borders. Not to mention terrorists, sexual predators and hardened criminals," said Fortin.
The greatest impact will be felt by the roughly 100 intelligence positions lost across the country. "These people have the difficult task of surveillance and gathering intelligence critical to intercept hardened criminals from entering the country," said Fortin. If these cuts are done, there will be little — and in some cases, no — investigating being done on our side of the border.
Ironically, the CIU has often supported Harper government policies in the past. Fortin said he supported many of the Conservatives choices including doubling up their officers in certain places where they were vulnerable.
Jean-Pierre Fortin warns of impending threats to border security
"I was at a certain time applauding the government for what they are doing. This is non-political. I want to be very clear with that. They are changing their minds right now and taking away what was positive for the public's security. That's why we're in front, and probably that's why we're screaming more than the others, because we don't understand what's going on," said Fortin.
"These cuts fully contradict the government's supposed commitment to improved border security and completely undermine the announced emphasis on intelligence-led border security in the Canada-US Beyond the Border Agreement."
With frontline staff being cut from across Canada, new programs like Nexus and Canpass cannot be appropriately monitored. "The success of all of these programs remains by the fact that it has got to be monitored on a regular basis, otherwise it becomes a license to come into the country illegally," said Fortin.
NDP trade critic Brian Masse spoke out in support of these essential jobs. "With fewer officers on the front lines, we will be leaving it up to computers to ask importers if they're smuggling," he said. "When a border services officer reviews the paperwork, they go over routing, cargo, quantities and any other criteria that would raise suspicion. Increasingly, we will leave this up to computers. It's unacceptable."
"The two biggest concerns Canadians have about their borders is faster crossing and strong public safety. It's hard to see how these cuts to staff and resources will help Canada move forward on either of these important objectives."