Canadian border guards' union wants to add guns

| 1/12/2006

Duties for customs agents at North American border crossings have changed significantly since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Gone are the days when customs agents checked a few bags and concentrated on generating revenue.

But on the Canadian side, customs officials are still living in the past, union officials claim, because Canadian border guards still don’t carry guns.

The Customs Excise Union called a news conference this week to cite a study done by Northgate Group, a private security intelligence firm. The study claims lives are at risk because of a lack of first-line border protection.

The union is calling on the federal government to allow border guards to carry sidearms.

Government officials are paying attention, particularly since Canada ’s Parliament is in the midst of an election campaign.

Progressive Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper and New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton are both on record favoring the arming of border guards. They are both challenging the Liberal Party and Prime Minister Paul Martin, whose stance on the issue has not been made clear.

Past government studies, dating back to the 1990s, have recommended the arming of border guards, according to The Canadian Press.

The role of Canadian customs officers began changing in 2000, when they became empowered to enforce the Criminal Code of Canada, which includes the apprehension of fugitives.