CBSA IS THE NEW AGENCY THAT REPLACES THE FORMER CUSTOMS AND IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS
We have just received notice of a new “Fairness Initiative” that is being undertaken by the Canadian Border Services Agency. CBSA is the new agency that replaces the former customs and immigration officials at border crossings.
It is no secret that NOTO has been highly critical of the quality and fairness of service at many border crossings. The creation of this new agency, with a more focused law enforcement orientation has heightened these concerns. NOTO has probably not been the only organization worried about our border problems becoming even worse with the creation of CBSA, and this initiative is likely a reaction to this.
The stated goals of the initiative are encouraging. As Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan states in a recent new release “Everyone should expect to be treated fairly by the CBSA. By implementing this initiative, the CBSA will be strengthening its accountability to all Canadians and visitors at the border. CBSA Officers are the first point of contact at the border and we want to ensure that people entering Canada are treated fairly”.
Of course, NOTO wants to be part of the upcoming consultations associated with this initiative. The stated goals of the “Fairness Initiative” address the set of concerns that NOTO has been raising with officials for many years. Despite repeated talks and several promises, we have seen no real progress, up to now. In fact, if experience this summer is any indicator, things have gotten worse. Where most of our complaints used to come from a few problem border crossings, rude service and inappropriate comments by border staff appear to be becoming more widespread.
Despite the ongoing problems, we have had some real support on the political front. Jim Bradley, our provincial tourism minister, has been a strong advocate on this issue. At the federal level, Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Ken Boshcoff has been working with us to move our issues forward, and has been instrumental in getting our concerns heard in Ottawa. I’m hopeful that he can help make sure we get a seat at the table for the upcoming consultations.
Border issues have been one of the biggest long-standing irritants to our industry and a serious impediment to growth. Perhaps the changes being brought about by the creation of this new agency will finally provide an opportunity to work toward real solutions. There is absolutely no reason that keeping bad people out of Canada needs to make good people feel abused and unwelcome.
This article was taken from page 10 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, Summer/Fall 2005 Issue