Canada’s border officers need more support from government to fight coronavirus, union says

Border officers need more help from the federal government as they find themselves on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19, the head of Customs and Immigration Union said Tuesday.

“We need more support,” Jean-Pierre Fortin, the union’s national president, said after raising concerns about the urgency at the borders with Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s office.

Among the union’s concerns are that only two or three Health Canada officers are assigned to border locations — not enough to assist officers tasked with interacting with travelers, said Fortin.

“It’s not sufficient in light of what’s going on,” he said.

He also urged the government to place further restrictions on U.S. travellers, allowing only those performing essential tasks to enter Canada, in order to limit the risks to border staff and Canadians.

Only American citizens arriving for vital purposes, such as the flow of commerce and medicine, should be admitted, while those on daytrips and visits should be told not to come, he said.

That would reduce traffic at land borders — and the associated health risks, he said. A Canada Border Services Agency worker at Toronto’s Pearson airport is among those who have contracted the virus.

Fortin said there was a “lack of clear direction” from the government but added he was encouraged the minister’s office had committed to looking into the concerns the union had raised with them.

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