Canada to arm border officers

| 9/1/2006

In a changing world, many North Americans have found it hard to believe that Canadian border guards have gone without being armed for as long as the border with the U.S. has existed.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose Conservative Party won the January election, announced this week he will commit 400 new permanent Canadian Border Services Agency officers into service and change the old way of thinking.

All 4,400 officers at ports of entry will be equipped with firearms over the next decade, Harper stated Thursday on the federal government’s Web site.

The program will cost $101 million for the first two years.

“Arming CBSA officers and eliminating situations where these officers work alone will allow them to do their jobs better and more effectively,” Harper said.

He said border security is vital to Canada’s economy and security.

The first 150 officers will be trained and armed by March 2008, with the full implementation expected to take up to 10 years.

According to the government’s Web site, an average of 260,000 people cross the border into Canada every day.

Statistics from 2004 show Canadian border officers had 621 weapons seizures, 8,711 drug seizures valued at $290 million and about $13 million in currency seized from suspected criminal activity.

Gun control has always been a major issue in Canada. The Conservatives, who ousted the Liberal Party in January following a 13-year Liberal reign, banked on the campaign issue of arming border guards and increasing funding for border security.