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Customs union blasts border search quotas

The union representing Canada's customs officers today accused Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) of playing a "numbers game" by setting quotas that result in unnecessary vehicle searches.

The union representing Canada's customs officers today accused Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) of playing a "numbers game" by setting quotas that result in unnecessary vehicle searches.

"CBSA uses a border management plan to set artificial numerical targets for vehicle and vessel searches, without regard to the goal of finding contraband or any result beyond the search itself," Ron Moran, national president of the Customs Excise Union, said in a submission today to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.

"Literally, this 'numbers game' is a public relations exercise that focuses on having more searches performed rather than on finding anything," Moran said.

"In fact, intelligence-based, targeted high-risk searches are routinely discouraged because of the time involved to carry out such searches and so that easier searches – to pad the numbers – can occur.

"As you know, more security is not necessarily better security, although it does permit unreliable claims to be made."

"Linked to that deceit is a system of management bonuses based on managers achieving ... numerical quotas and for running operations under budget. Providing financial incentives to managers in this fashion is an outright encouragement to avoid doing enforcement related duties, which does nothing short of corrupt the law enforcement mandate of CBSA," Moran testified.

The customs union chief also accused CBSA of ignoring objections from front-line customs officers in introducing a "widespread" practice of admitting individuals into Canada even after they are caught trying to smuggle guns or drugs.

Moran today called on the federal government to create a new, 500-person Customs Border Patrol to be responsible for unofficial crossing points between official points of entry.

"The RCMP clearly does not want to do the work of patrolling the border but the work must be done," Moran said.

"Customs can do that work, has the expertise, infrastructure, and management team already in place along the border, and our members know the terrain and travellers better than anyone. We make this recommendation above and beyond our mutual position that there also needs to be an armed presence at border crossings. CEUDA also fully supports the call to re-open RCMP Detachments along the border."

The new Customs Border Patrol proposed by Moran would have an annual budget of $80 million, including $50 million for salaries, benefits and overtime (average of $100,000 per employee) plus $10 million for 200 vehicles and $20 million for operating costs.

Another $25 million would be needed for first-year start-up costs including refurbishing of port office space and the new sidearms, outfitting vehicles, radios and other needs.

Job applicants would come from varying law enforcement backgrounds, with priority going to those already working for Canada Customs.

"The Customs Border Patrol should be the first-response team, mandated to patrol the border between points-of-entry and working in partnership with the RCMP and other police forces, the latter of whom would act as the second-response partner along the border at and between points-of-entry," Moran said.

CBP staff could also provide help to regular customs employees at official points-of-entry, especially in smaller operations, Moran suggested. "We have no doubt Americans would see this step in a very positive light and highly reflective of a growing commitment on the part of Canada to enforce its shared border with the U.S., where gun and cannabis smuggling as well as the ever-growing fear associated with terrorism are becoming major problems for citizens and politicians on both sides."

Moran pointed out that at least 48 Canadian border municipalities have adopted resolutions this year calling for a Customs Border Patrol.

David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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