CBSA Officers Hit With Hundreds of Misconduct Complaints
Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) officers have sworn to protect our borders and protect our citizens. Despite this sworn oath, there have been over 500 allegations of serious misconduct investigated over the past two years. From theft and mischief to sexual assaults and bribery, the allegations are significant and alarming.
Officers have been accused of bragging to co-workers about making travelers touch themselves during intimate searches, soliciting bribes at the border and luxury items and money going missing from CBSA safes.
Documents obtained by CBC News show a laundry list of allegations against CBSA officers ranging from sexual harassment to excessive force. Between January 1, 2018 and early 2020, the CBSA investigated over 500 allegations against staff members across the country.
As anticipated, the documents provided by CBSA were heavily redacted so names, dates and locations are unavailable. Despite the heavy redaction, the investigations reveal a disturbing trend in abuse of power across Canada at various points of entry.
One disturbing allegation was brought as a result of a whistleblower. An agent was bragging to colleagues about forcing a male to grab his testicles and then immediately after put his fingers into his mouth to open it. The agent bragged that he had done this on numerous occasions and only relents if the detainee protests. CBSA told CBC that the agent had been fired, but nothing about criminal charges being brought.
In another described incident, a cleaner found $9,000 in a CBSA office. After turning it in, the money somehow disappeared from a superintendents locked safe. It was either Harry Houdini or someone with knowledge of the safe combination.
In another disclosed incident, an agent was under investigation for bribery after another agent found an e-transfer receipt to the other agent in a vehicle during a border search. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if you are going to be involved with bribery, don’t keep receipts.
Other issues that came to light involved widespread sexual harassment at the border. In one such incident, a CBSA officer was accused of demanding and collecting phone numbers of women crossing the border from the Philippines. Once they settled in Canada, the officer would call and insist on going on dates.
Other incidents involved officers requesting women touch themselves in various parts of their body under the guise of checking for contraband.
The investigation revealed that the CBSA reported 255 “founded” misconduct cases in 2018. Of the founded cases, four ended in termination of the officer while 79 led to various levels of suspension.
Despite the complaints, the head of the union representing CBSA border officers says the number of complaints should be weighed against the significant numbers of interactions border agents have daily.
I can tell you that people I…represent are extremely professional. Like any other organization in laws enforcement, sad situations do happen but it’s certainly not the culture in the majority of the people that I do represent.
Oversight Bill Stalled
In 2019, a bill that would have addressed the situation by increasing the mandate of a civilian oversight body that handles public complaints failed to clear the Senate. It was reintroduced in 202 but stalled at second reading during the COVID pandemic.
As it currently stands, Canada is the only country in the Border Five allies that does not have an independent review body for complaints about the conduct of border agency staff.
Cory Wilson is a criminal defence lawyer based in Calgary. If you have been charged with a criminal offence or are a suspect in a criminal investigation, call today for a free, no obligation consultation.