Q&A with CBSA

Mar 15, 2013

Q. After two years in a very dynamic realm of major change at the CBSA what do you view as the three major accomplishments of your agency in securing our borders in an efficient manner and what, in your view, are the three greatest challenges in the next three years?

In 2010-11, the CBSA adapted rapidly and responded effectively to planned and unforeseen major events, including the G8 and G20 Summits as well as the arrival of the Sun Sea migrant vessel. These alone resulted in large increases in workload volumes. Simultaneously, traveller and commercial workload volumes increased at the busiest ports of entry across the country, many of which were already operating at, or in excess of, their full capacity during peak periods.

Major achievements included:

  • advancement of the eManifest project;
  • the development of a new Targeting Business Model;
  • improvement of pre-arrival risk assessment systems for people and goods; and,
  • intelligence gathering with domestic and international partners.

For example, resources within the CBSA’s international network of Liaison Officers were realigned to better carry out the CBSA’s mandate abroad, while the Agency began to implement the National Targeting Centre at home. The National Targeting Centre will result in a centralized targeting process that allows the CBSA to identify and mitigate threats more effectively before they reach the border.

Internally, the CBSA continued to entrench a culture of service excellence, to attract, retain and develop the right people with the right skills. The Agency's programs and services are managed more consistently through rigorous financial management and performance monitoring. As a more integrated organization, we are better positioned to carry out our mandate.

Furthermore, CBSA also strengthened the security of our border by: carrying out critical policy work related to refugee reform, admissibility review, and human smuggling; launching the “Wanted by the CBSA” program; and contributing to the Government of Canada’s migrant vessel prevention strategy.

In the years ahead, the Beyond the Border Action Plan will facilitate trade and travel across the Canada-U.S. border while enhancing the CBSA’s ability to protect Canada’s population from border-related risks. They Agency will also continue to advance progress toward implementing the structure, capacity, processes and corporate culture needed to continue to improve on the delivery of the CBSA’s mandate. As its staff works to modernize the Agency’s business processes, they will work to enhance the security of Canada’s population through better internal and external harmonization of systems and approaches.

Q.What initiatives has the CBSA been assigned the responsibility to lead under the BTB Agreement and what is the status of those projects?

On 7 December 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama released the Beyond the Border Action Plan, setting forth a vision for Canada and the United States to work together within, at, and away from our borders to address threats as early as possible, and in a way that supports job creation, economic competitiveness and prosperity within a secure environment.

The Beyond the Border Action Plan is a priority for the CBSA and the implementation of its initiatives will allow the Agency to better deliver its mandate – to protect national security and facilitate the flow of legitimate travel and trade. The CBSA is the lead on 10 initiatives in the Beyond the Border Action Plan.

The CBSA’s emphasis is on measures to “push out” border operations away from the Canada-U.S. border to identify high or un­known risks earlier in the process, to allow for smoother and more efficient of low-risk people and goods across our shared border.

The CBSA plays a critical role in Canada’s partnership with the U.S. on issues of national security, trade facilitation, intelligence-sharing, cross-border law en­forcement, immigration and cooperative border management. Work on the Action Plan is further strengthening this collaboration.

2012 “BEYOND THE BORDER” accomplishments

Launch of Cargo pilot project at the Port of Prince Rupert
On 1 October 2012, Canada and the U.S. launched the Port of Prince Rupert pilot ­project which focuses on marine cargo arriving from offshore that is destined by rail to U.S. locations. The pilot is based on a harmonized approach developed by Canada and the United States which allows for the screening of inbound cargo arriving from offshore. As a result, there is increased security and the expedited movement of secure cargo across the Canada-U.S. border under the principle of “cleared once, accepted twice”.

This pilot is the first of a number of which will be undertaken by Canada and the U.S. to shape and inform the implementation of the Integrated Cargo Security Strategy (ICSS). This ICSS will address security risks associated with inbound shipments from offshore and lead to expedited crossings at the land border.

Launch of the Entry/Exit pilot project at four land ports of entry
On 30 September 2012, Canada and the U.S. began implementation of a pilot project exchanging the data of third-country nationals (those who are neither citizens of Canada nor of the United States), permanent residents of Canada and lawful permanent residents of the United States, at four ports of entry.

The Phase I pilot project will allow Canada and the U.S. to test IT capacity to exchange and reconcile biographic information on the entry of travellers such that a record of entry into one country could act as a record of exit from the other.

By establishing a coordinated Entry/Exit system, the CBSA will be able to identify persons who potentially overstay their visa, better monitor the departure of persons ­subject to removal orders, and verify that residency requirements are being met by applicants for continued eligibility in immigration programs. It will also serve to establish a history of compliance for legitimate travellers.

NEXUS accomplishments
The Canada-U.S. Action Plan on Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness (Action Plan) builds on existing initiatives to accelerate the flow of people across the border. As part of the Action Plan, Canada and the U.S. have agreed to a number of enhancements to improve Trusted Traveller Programs with a focus on NEXUS. Action Plan items implemented include:

  • conducting enrolment blitzes to assist with increasing application volumes;
  • streamlining the membership renewal process;
  • lifting the three-year residency requirement for Canadian and American citizens to apply to NEXUS;
  • delivering on a commitment to expand NEXUS lanes and booths by June 2013 at nine agreed locations – Abbotsford, Pacific Highway; Douglas, B.C.; and Sarnia, Ontario are now completed;
  • expanding the trusted traveller Canadian Air Transport Security Agency (CATSA) security screening lines in ­pre-clearance areas at 14 major and ­mid-sized Canadian airports; and
  • expedited clearance through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Pre-Check lanes at 27 participating U.S. airports for domestic travel.

FAST pilot project
A pilot started 17 October  2012 in Sarnia, Ontario, to evaluate the impacts of allowing Partners in Protection (PIP) members access to Free and Secure Trade (FAST) lanes. The pilot grants trusted traders easier access to FAST lanes and booths when crossing the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia and aims to reduce wait times and speed up trade across the border. The FAST expansion pilot will allow members of PIP or Customs Self-Assessment (CSA) Trusted Trader programs access to Sarnia’s FAST lanes or booths without having to be members of both programs.

This is an example of one of the border enhancements for industry taking place over the next few years that allow the CBSA to manage risk at the border and focus its efforts on goods of unknown or higher risk.

More information on progress made over the past year can be found in the Beyond the Border Implementation Report at: http://actionplan.gc.ca/en/page/bap-paf-bbg-tpf/2012-beyond-border-imple....

Q: In light of the priority our Government has placed on enhanced border security and facilitated trade and travel, which is now so clearly laid out in the BTB Agreement with the US, is it simply the 1932 Order In Council policy decision that is preventing CBSA from participating in joint force patrols and the Shiprider program between ports of entry, and is it true CBSA declined to participate in Shiprider despite being asked?

The CBSA and the RCMP share an enforcement mandate and collaborate with one another including detecting and investigating offences under border legislation in Canada. Shiprider operations take place on the water which is the responsibility of the RCMP together with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Q: A big issue in the BTB Agreement has been the need for improved screening to prevent the entry of persons who are inadmissible to Canada, especially on security, criminality or a fraudulent immigration basis, such as previous deportees or failed refugee claimants. The current government committed to creating a face recognition biometric lookout system in 2006. Yet, seven years later we still don’t have one. What is the status of this initiative and when might Canadians look forward to having that promised improved border screening tool in place?

Starting in 2013, travellers, students and workers from certain visa-required countries and territories will be required to provide their fingerprints and have their photo taken before they arrive in Canada. When a visa holder arrives at a Canadian port of entry, the CBSA will verify that the visa holder is the person to whom the visa was issued and determine if they are admissible to Canada. Under the BTB Action Plan, Canada has also committed to implementing the Interactive Advance Passenger Information initiative to make “board/no board” decisions on all travellers flying to Canada prior to departure.

Q: What coordination is taking place by CBSA with Immigration Canada and other government agencies on pre-clearance of people and goods entering Canada at ports of departure outside Canada?

The CBSA and its government partners are committed to ensuring a more open, secure and efficient border and facilitating the flow of low-risk people and goods.

Traveller continuum
We are working together on several initiatives under the BTB Action Plan that will strengthen security and enhance the ability to identify, screen and mitigate risks in the country of departure. For instance, by 30 June 2014, Canada will develop a system to establish exit, similar to that in the United States, under which airlines will be required to submit their passenger manifest information on outbound international flights. In 2015, the Government of Canada plans to introduce the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), a new electronic document required for entry to Canada, to screen out and prevent inadmissible foreign nationals from travelling to Canada while facilitating travel for those who are low-risk. The Interactive Advance Passenger Information (IAPI) initiative, scheduled for implementation in 2015, will provide the technical means to conduct advance screening of all commercial air travellers prior to boarding an aircraft bound for Canada. Following a thorough risk assessment, CBSA will communicate, via electronic means, a “board/no board” recommendation.

Trade Continuum
Canada and the United States enjoy the largest bilateral trading relationship in the world, and the secure and efficient flow of legitimate goods is vital to our economic competitiveness and mutual prosperity. As part of the BTB Action Plan, the CBSA and other government departments, such as Public Safety are:

  • working together to provide traders with a single window through which they can electronically submit all information required to comply with customs and other government regulations;
  • implementing pilot projects to push out the border, help reduce barriers to trade and strengthen our economic competitiveness, job creation and prosperity; and
  • developing a comprehensive approach to pre-clearance and pre-inspection covering all modes of cross-border trade and travel.

More information on pre-clearance can be found on Public Safety Canada’s web site.

Q: There have been myriad claims and counterclaims about whether or not CBSA positions of front line border officers, intelligence officers and dog inspection teams are being cut to meet the Government’s spending reduction goals. Will any of these front line positions be cut and, if so, in what numbers and what if any equivalent numbers of positions are being cut in management and at regional and national headquarters?

As part of the Government-wide efforts to reduce the deficit, the CBSA reviewed spending with a focus on operational costs and will deliver $143.4M in ongoing savings by 2014/15. The CBSA remains unwavering in its commitment to deliver on its mandate of protecting Canadians while facilitating travel and trade.

Safety and security will not be compromised through the implementation of any of these budget reduction initiatives. The CBSA will reduce spending in areas of declining and lower priority and derive savings from business transformation and organizational restructuring.

There will be little to no impact on front line services for travellers and traders who are crossing our borders. As changes are introduced, service excellence will continue to be an Agency priority.

CANINE Detectors
CBSA uses the most effective tools for each job. Detector dogs are a great tool in the right circumstances, but they will no longer be used when there is a better tool available. However, all drug detector dogs at land border crossings have remained in place.

Intelligence officers
Using a risk-based approach, the Agency will focus intelligence activities on priority areas and enhance the oversight and monitoring of intelligence program activities. Our priority remains ensuring a safe and efficient border.

Q: As recent events in Quebec have shown, human smuggling now includes driving past manned ports of entry and fleeing into Canada. The law clearly permits border officers to pursue and apprehend such ‘port runners’ but does CBSA policy expressly permit this?

People who illegally enter or are smuggled into Canada threaten the integrity of our border and the safety of our communities.

It is important to note that the CBSA has jurisdiction at designated ports of entry. The RCMP is responsible for the enforcement of laws between ports of entry. The authority to pursue port runners rests with local law enforcement. The CBSA does not engage in the pursuit of port runners.

In Quebec, the CBSA has installed an automatic security gate near its border crossing on highway 143 in Stanstead to stop vehicles trying to enter Canada illegally using the outbound lane (the south bound lane). Barriers such as this have already proved effective at other border crossings in Quebec and across Canada.

The CBSA works closely with local law enforcement agencies, the RCMP, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to prevent the illegal entry of individuals into Canada. Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBETs), which include the CBSA, RCMP and U.S. CBP, work to deter criminal activity and to stop high-risk people entering Canada between the ports of entry. In instances where the CBSA is aware of people failing to report to the CBSA at a port of entry, the CBSA immediately alerts the RCMP and/or local police of jurisdiction so that these individuals can be apprehended.

Q: The last Auditor General Report on the subject confirmed that over 40K people have been ordered removed from Canada and are the subject of arrest warrants, and that we have no idea where they are or if they’ve left the country. Can you explain how such a situation developed, what steps are being taken to address it, and if we are likely to see other changes? Can you tell us how many crimes have been committed in Canada by people: who entered or re-entered Canada despite being inadmissible; who could have been removed for previous crimes but weren’t; or who had warrants out for them after having failed to appear at some point in their removal process?
The CBSA is always on alert for inadmissible people in our continued commitment to protect the safety and security of all Canadians. On a daily basis, the Agency works closely with our law enforcement partners, including the RCMP and local police, in locating, detaining and removing individuals who are inadmissible to Canada.

Here is some additional information on how the CBSA’s works to ensure the safety of Canadians:

Pushing the Border Out
The CBSA screens people at several points along the travel continuum: at the earliest opportunity overseas, in transit, and on arrival at the Canadian border. Receiving and reviewing documentation in advance improves the CBSA’s ability to target and interdict inadmissible people, and acts as a deterrent to those contemplating illegal immigration and who pose a threat to public health and safety.

CBSA has Liaison Officers (LO) deployed in strategic locations around the world to identify and mitigate threats at the earliest point possible from Canada. The LO’s role is vital in identifying improperly documented people before they board a plane destined for Canada. The LO’s work protects the integrity of our border and the immigration system for people who come to this country lawfully.

As part of their duties, these officers, who are experts in document integrity, verify the validity of travel documents and work with local authorities and airlines to prevent those who are inadmissible and pose a security threat from reaching Canada. LOs intervene in the cases of approximately 6,500 improperly documented travellers annually and, at the same time, facilitate through direct intervention approximately 3,000 legitimate travellers, the majority of whom are Canadians returning home. By “pushing the border out” admissibility screening takes place before a person departs their country of origin, and those who are found inadmissible are prevented from entering Canada in the first place.

At the border
CBSA border services officers at ports of entry are responsible for assessing the admissibility of persons seeking entry to Canada. The CBSA places a high priority on the detection and interdiction of inadmissible persons and plays an important role in their identification at designated Ports Of Entry. The patrol of areas between designated POEs, including unguarded roads, is the responsibility of the RCMP.

Dedicated and professional border services officers use proven indicators and advance information, innovative technological tools, information sharing and training to carry out their mandate to target high risk goods and people.

CBSA officers receive extensive, specialized training which focuses on passport and document fraud, intelligence collection and reporting, identifying inadmissible persons and threats to national security, detecting migrant smuggling and human trafficking. Officers have information on lost and stolen documents as well as fraudulent document trends. The CBSA utilizes technology such as document readers and other specialized equipment, in order to identify and intercept fraudulent documents.

The CBSA works closely with all of its law enforcement partners both in Canada and the United States. The CBSA contributes to cross-border security and cooperation through its participation in partnerships such as the Integrated Border Enforcement Teams and Border Enforcement Security Taskforce teams. Drawing on the expertise of and participation of partners, which include the RCMP, the CBSA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection / Office of Border Patrol, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Coast Guard, these multi-agency teams detect, investigate and disrupt threats to national security while deterring criminal activity between Canada and the U.S.

The CBSA is always looking at innovative ways to focus our enforcement efforts on where it matters most—investigating and removing those who pose a danger to Canadians, while helping maintain the integrity of our immigration system.

Our inland enforcement officers perform several different functions which include investigating and reporting inadmissible persons in Canada; arresting and detaining inadmissible persons; investigating the location of persons wanted on warrants for arrest; and removing or escorting high-risk inadmissible persons from the country.

The CBSA is committed to removing all those persons found inadmissible to Canada as soon as practicable. The CBSA places highest priority on removal cases involving national security, organized crime, crimes against humanity and criminals. CBSA employs Inland Enforcement officers across Canada to investigate people who may be inadmissible under the Act. CBSA makes every effort to locate individuals who fail to show up for their removal or any immigration proceedings.

The "Wanted by the CBSA" web page, launched in 2011, has proved a successful tool in assisting border services officers to locate individuals who are wanted for removal. The page features the names and photos of individuals who are inadmissible to Canada and have failed to make their whereabouts known to immigration authorities. Since the launch of this initiative, the CBSA has been able to locate 37 individuals in Canada and four individuals abroad. The CBSA has removed 26 of these individuals from Canada.

In 2011-2012, the CBSA removed a record 16,514 individuals who were inadmissible to Canada, an increase of 8 percent over the previous year. Of these, a record 1,911 were criminals, making up 12 percent of overall removals, and 11,947 (or 73% of total removals) were unsuccessful refugee claimants. This is the fifth consecutive year that the CBSA has increased its removals levels and demonstrates the Agency’s innovation in detecting, apprehending and removing those who no longer have a right to stay in Canada.

Q:Given China’s clear espionage history in Canada, and recent U.S. and Australian decisions not to deal with China in such realms, and appreciating that you can’t get into specifics, can you explain the reasons you decided to brief a Chinese border delegation on CBSA border practices?

As leaders and innovators in border management, we value our strong domestic and international relationships and are dedicated to working together on critical safety, security and trade issues. The CBSA needs to be engaged internationally in order to ward off transnational threats and provide the services necessary to help keep our nation safe.

Any action taken by the CBSA is done in conformity with Canadian law. Meetings held with Chinese officials in 2012 were sanctioned by CBSA and fully consistent with standard practices concerning cooperation with our international counterparts.

Modern border management is increasingly a global enterprise that depends on our working with the international community. The CBSA routinely works with international counter­parts both within Canada and abroad. This work is essential in detecting and interdicting threats and ensuring the safety and security of our respective borders and people.

The work we do makes a difference in the lives of Canadians and contributes to global security. Simply put, we cannot work alone. Working with our international counterparts, including growing economies such as China, enables us to better carry out our mandate to protect Canadians while facilitating legitimate travel and trade from every part of the globe.

These responses were provided by a CBSA media liaison.
© FrontLine Security 2013