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OTTAWA, ON, May 18, 2022 /CNW/ - As travelers 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 travelers.

Customs and Immigration Union logo (CNW Group/CIU-SDI)
Customs and Immigration Union logo (CNW Group/CIU-SDI)

"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 travelers."

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 travelers 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 traveler twice as fast as the automated Primary Inspection Kiosks.

During busy times, such kiosks also take away valuable space from travelers waiting to go through customs, causing an overflow of travelers outside of the customs area. In addition, many have noted that the new ArriveCan application makes the process more complex for travelers, 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 traveler 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 travelers at all major international airports in Canada.

The Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) is a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), and represents Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) personnel, including frontline border service officers at airports, land entry points, marine ports, commercial ports of entry and postal facilities, inland enforcement officers, intelligence officers, investigators, trade officers, hearings officers, non-uniformed members, and all support staff.



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