Saturday, February 04, 2006

Armed Canadian Border Guards?

The U S is according to Canadian Press going to add sophisticated multi million dollar Blackhawk helicopters along the US and Canada border. Meanwhile we are debating whether we should give our Canadian border guards a handgun. How ludicrous.

Our border guards are not deployed as law enforcement but rather more as an extension of our customs, immigration and Revenue Canada’s taxation arm. In fact we should stop fooling ourselves by calling them guards. They are not guards; they are primarily immigration, taxation and duty specialists. With all due respect their focus seemingly is more on cigarette and alcohol smuggling and tax collection than on national security. I would not be very surprised if they have tax collection quotas at each border office. At least that is the way we see it from our trips across the border.

When I recently returned to Langley through the Aldergrove border crossing, their only concern was about how long I was away and what goods I bought in the US. Both of these questions where obviously only for customs and excise tax purposes only. When crossing back into Canada our concerns are more focused on our garment labels having been cut off than anything else and we remind our kids not to joke about our purchases. Compare this to when you are at the US border station where you almost literally feel physically endangered and have to remind the kids not to joke about bombs to the imposing US border guard. Think back to your recent car drive to the US border. After your uncomfortable in depth grilling by the US border guards you are more often than not required to open your car’s trunk and are searched for what obviously is more of a focus on criminal purposes, not duty purposes. I don't remember the last time the Canadian equivalent even got off his or her chair in their little booth never mind search my car. Heck, even the US uniforms, style and staff speak more to my personal fears as opposed to our kinder gentler Canadian border officers who appear more like our smiling neighbourhood teenage kids.

So de we arm our border guards, scratch that definition, border customs and immigration enforcement officers? We at Langley Free Press say no. They should not be Guards but remain customs & immigration officers which they are specifically well trained for. We don’t expect our nurses in hospitals to do two jobs such as nurse’s aides work, do we?

In fact we have two suggestions to make. The first is to add the same kind of already trained Special RCMP constables that you see in our Canadian airports. These are Special RCMP police officers who are not trained or paid as much as the regular RCMP police. Their focus and training is already truly focused on border guard work, at all our international airports. The border customs and immigration officers at our airports are not armed either. But they have Special RCMP constables to rely on when needed. We say put Special RCMP Constables at our handful of borders nationally as well. This would not be a great leap to put Special RCMP at our borders just as we do in airports and let them do what they are trained to do. Heck, give them machine guns at the same time if you have to just like the police in European airports to make our border customs officers more comfortable and also more palatable with their union. To further make the tourists happy make them wear their Red serge outfits with the Boy Scout hat to! Wow imagine, red outfits and machine guns! Talk about changing paradigms! This is the simple immediate answer.

Our second suggestion is to consider unifying our border offices with the US customs officers. Why have two set of border inspection offices? let's share a single set of buildings and share our customs people and security guard resources to do what they do best. This outside of the box type of thinking could provide efficiencies in communications, financially, national security, customs wise, etc. It may even create efficiencies in crossing the border especially for our trucks and mutual commerce. We bet that some bleeding hearts are obviously going to worry about losing our national identity. But, heck maybe we can maybe even use some of their expensive Blackhawk copters then too!

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