More staff needed to reduce border delays, warns union

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The president of the customs and immigration officers’ union says long lines at the border won’t necessarily disappear magically when using the ArriveCAN app becomes optional, starting Saturday.

Mark Weber, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, warned Tuesday that due to a chronic labor shortage, there will be « significant delays » at Canada’s border crossings if the number travel is starting to increase dramatically.

Weber addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade, which is looking at the « potential impacts of the ArriveCAN app on certain Canadian sectors. » The app was designed to provide travel and public health information before and after people enter Canada.

The cabinet order that makes vaccination proof at the border and the use of ArriveCAN mandatory for inbound travelers expires Friday evening, and the government confirmed on Monday that the order would not be renewed.

Weber says the Canada Border Services Agency needs thousands more officers to carry out its mandate. He therefore urges the government to hire more staff to ensure the movement of people and goods across borders, and not to rely on technology like the ArriveCAN application, which is “poorly designed”, according to him.

« I urge the government and the agency to address the serious labor shortage affecting border services across the country now, » he told MPs. The reality is really grim.”

Mr. Weber maintains that despite the best will of its members, the Border Services Agency cannot adequately curb the smuggling of dangerous goods into Canada.

This summer, he said, at some of the busiest land border crossings, the agency sometimes had to choose between properly screening goods or screening travelers.

ArriveCAN at Duty Free Shops

Separately, the president of the Borders Duty-Free Association reminded committee members on Tuesday that duty-free shops at land border crossings were forced to close almost completely at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

« Without exaggerating, we have been the hardest hit of the hardest hit, » said Barbara Barrett, the association’s chief executive.

In recent months, as the Canadian economy has recovered, sales at duty-free shops have remained well below pre-pandemic levels, she argued. Barrett attributes the crisis to federal health restrictions and the mandatory use of the ArriveCAN app at duty-free shops.

She said many American seniors found the ArriveCAN app too complex and shunned it, while others either didn’t have a smartphone or needed help from duty-free shop staff to find it. utilize.

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