The president of the union representing federal border agents says a continuing series of budget and personnel cuts represents a threat to the country’s security.
And Jean-Pierre Fortin from the Customs and Immigration Union singled out Stewart as a place where a change in procedure hasn’t worked.
This spring the Canada Border Services Agency closed the border between Stewart and Hyder, Alaska from midnight to 8 a.m.
There’s now a phone in place so that people wishing to enter Canada can call a border services officer in Beaver Creek in the Yukon during that eight-hour period.
“But they don’t know who they’re speaking with and they’re clearing them without knowing how many people there might actually be there or what they have,” said Fortin.
And if the border services agency told people this was a way to save money, that isn’t the case either, Fortin continued.
“What they have is two officers on standby. They’re paying them a premium. Frankly we don’t know where the savings is,” said Fortin.
Those officers would then be called out to the Stewart-Hyder border if the officer at Beaver Creek in the Yukon felt a physical examination was in order.
“This is all ludicrous right now,” added Fortin who said having those two officers at the border made more sense and would be just as economical.
Elsewhere, Fortin said there’s a push to clear people and goods without there being enough border officers on duty to do secondary checks and enough officers in places such as Prince Rupert to examine containers coming into the port there.
“That’s why we’re saying the country is at risk right now,” he continued.
Fortin said Canadians should be especially worried about two pilot projects ready to be tested at one crossing in in Manitoba and at another one in Quebec where border officers will be removed altogether.
Instead, people wishing to cross will be interviewed by agents in Hamilton, Ontario, he said.
“All they’re going to do is see you briefly on a camera,” said Fortin.
“I think what we are going to see is a shut down of all small border crossings in Canada,” he added of manned posts.
The Customs and Immigration Union represents approximately 10,400 people, a drop from 11,300 just several years ago.
Fortin said that while there may be no layoffs, agents that leave aren’t being replaced.
The union is a component of the much larger Public Service Alliance of Canada.
Fortin is touring the region with Public Service Alliance of Canada vice president Chris Alyward and Leanne Hughes who represents Customs and Immigration Union members along B.C.’s coast.