By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on December 21, 2023.
The Canada Border Services Agency is celebrating its 20th year anniversary this month.
Corporate chief for the Southern Alberta, Southern Saskatchewan district Scott Kienlen said the purpose of the CBSA is to keep harmful goods out of Canada while ensuring legitimate trade can be done efficiently.
“It’s an ideal time for the CBSA to reflect on the last 20 years where officers have gone that extra mile to ensure Canadian communities are safe and prosperous. Across the frontline employees are keeping harmful goods out of Canada, while ensuring the legitimate travel and trade can continue efficiently and safely,” said Kienlen.
He said the CBSA has a workforce of about 17,000 with about 8,700 frontline employees within different areas that play a specific role in detecting and intercepting contraband.
He said drug and weapons seizures increased by 75 per cent this year from 2022.
CBSA kept nearly 2,200 weapons off Canadian streets and on the Prairies alone, they facilitated 5.5 million travellers.
Kienlen said the CBSA is modernizing border operations with more digital tools for travellers and businesses alike.
“We’re in the midst of some exciting changes.”
One of those is the CBSA Assessment and Revenue Management (CARM) system which changes how the CBSA assesses and collects duties and taxes on commercial goods imported into Canada.
CBSA is also introducing some traveller modernization initiatives, next- generation handheld devices and more.
“These changes will ensure we keep providing vital services for Canadians and all our clients for the many years to come,” said Kienlen.
He said an upgrade to the Advance Declaration feature and the expansion of that are also coming.
Both Canada and the U.S. will benefit with reduced border congestion, and the increased expediency of low-risk, pre-approved travellers.
Now available for air travellers at certain Canadian airports, Advance Declaration will be expanded for travelers arriving by land so they can be expedited as well.
“We expect the use of this technology will continue to grow as availability increases, and new features are added,” he said.
Kienlen said in the Prairie region there have been more than 463,000 commercial trucks crossing the border along with over 8.3 million courier shipments and small packages.
Kienlen noted from January 1 to October 31 that 189 weapons were seized, 77 of those being firearms, as well as 241 miscellaneous parts for firearms along with magazines, 249 illegal knives and another 155 other prohibited weapons within just the Prairie region alone.
“We had 17,167 seizures of illegal narcotics,” added Kienlen.
Kienlen described the narcotics to be 866 kilograms of methamphetamine with over 100 kilograms of cocaine, 307 kilograms of cannabis, and 17 kilograms of opiates along. CBSA also seized more than $1.9 million in currency – nearly $193,000 of that which was suspected to be proceeds from crime.
Kienlen said from January 1 this year to October 31, 953 refugees have been processed in the Prairie region with 27,748 of them Ukrainians and just over 1,900 from Afghanistan.
“We’ve been keeping out thousands of criminals, hundreds of thousands of firearms and weapons, and thousands of kilograms of drugs and stuff off our streets. But the other good news story is that we’ve also helped millions of immigrants become citizens, facilitating hundreds of millions of legitimate travellers and goods crossing the border, and collecting billions of dollars and duties and taxes, which benefit our whole country,” said Kienlen.