Canadian border guards return after fleeing posts

| 9/26/2006

In a move Sunday that was part reactionary and part protest, 60 border guards in Canada left their posts in British Columbia when they learned an armed murder suspect from the U.S. was headed for the border.

The guards – unarmed – fled their posts at the Huntington, Aldergrove, Peace Arch and Pacific Highway border crossings in British Columbia, leaving their managers to occupy the booths and local law enforcement to provide backup.

The guards returned to work Monday, but their message was clear to the federal government: speed up the process of arming the front line, according to the Customs Excise Union, which represents 4,400 Canadian border guards.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it a campaign promise during the Conservative Party’s victory in January that ousted the Liberal Party after 13 years in power.

Harper promised to do what the Liberals did not accomplish in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that was to arm the Canadian Border Services Agency.

But Harper has been under fire since he made that promise, because the latest federal budget calls for a 10-year phase-in of the plan.

Border guards have held demonstrations and work stoppages to protest the timeframe, which the union views as unnecessary delays.

Sunday’s walkout of 60 guards at four prominent West Coast crossing points was the latest action by the union guards to change their situation.

Canadian Border Services Agency relies on local law enforcement agencies as armed backup when threats approach the border.