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Union President Testifies that Canada Border Services Agency is Severely Understaffed

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is facing challenges in addressing Canada’s increasing auto-theft crisis, particularly in maintaining adequate security at the nation’s ports and borders, according to the national head of the union representing CBSA personnel.

“We’re having a really hard time, and when I say that we’re desperately understaffed, we are desperately understaffed,” stated Customs and Immigration Union president Mark Weber during a Feb. 26 meeting of the Public Safety and National Security Committee (SECU).

“We’re essentially trying to fill 100 holes with 50 pegs all the time,” he added.

The committee met to discuss the rising issue of car theft in Canada. Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich testified that approximately 60 percent of stolen vehicles in Canada are exported internationally.

The stolen cars are leaving Canada through its ports and borders, but Mr. Weber highlighted several obstacles that the CBSA is encountering in addressing the problem, including understaffing, inadequate technology, and insufficient workspace.

“We only have one college; we cannot graduate or train even up to 600 new officers per year, which isn’t even covering attrition,” mentioned Mr. Weber, noting that the CBSA is short 2,000 to 3,000 staff and is operating with half the number of airport agents compared to a decade ago.

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The Tories have criticized the Liberal government for the staffing shortages, while Liberal MP Peter Schiefke asked Mr. Weber about the impact of the Harper government’s cuts to the CBSA. Mr. Weber acknowledged the cuts but stated that no actions have been taken to address the issue since then.

Mr. Schiefke highlighted that Minister of Public Safety Dominic LeBlanc recently announced $28 million in new funding for the CBSA to acquire new technologies and inquired about further steps.

“Technologies are only useful if you have the officers there to use the technology,” responded Mr. Weber.

“At the Port of Montreal again, specifically the issue right now is with space.”

Mr. Weber described the situation in Montreal, where CBSA officers have only six parking spots to hold stolen vehicles. It sometimes takes days before those cars can be moved to make room for more inspections, he explained.

Shifting focus to internal CBSA issues, Conservative MP Glen Motz asked Mr. Weber about addressing the reported “disconnect” between the organization’s upper management and frontline workers.

“I think the CBSA should consider promoting from within,” suggested Mr. Weber.

“So, you get people in positions where they can make decisions on how the border runs who’ve actually worked at the border previously.”

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