Friday, November 11, 2005

Canadians On Strike for the Right to Bear Arms in Canada?

Not exactly.

The Canadian Border Guard personnel walked off the job yesterday protesting the fact that they are not allowed to be armed at the border checkpoints. I can find no written articles on this, my source was solely a radio report.

Yes, the Border Guards you interact wiuth at the Canadian Border are not allowed to carry guns, they have to call for police backup if threatened. However, the border guard personnel is allowed to refuse "dangerous work" so they walked off the job yesterday for at least some time.

The Border guards have likewise walked off on 5 other occaisions this year, typically when warned that a dangerous and armed fugitive was heading their way.

Oh, Canada, you're not taking border security, or the security of your border guard personnel seriously, are you?

Note: The only printed reference I can find relating to this issue is this older Canada Press Report:
Major delays at border
By JONATHAN MONTPETIT November 7, 2005

MONTREAL (CP) - American tourists and Canadian residents had a tough time entering Canada through Quebec on Saturday after a New York state trooper was shot and the suspect was believed to be headed for Canada. Following word of Friday night's shooting near Plattsburgh, N.Y., Canadian customs agents working along the Quebec-U.S. border left their positions, said a spokesperson for the Canada Customs Excise Union, which represents border guards across Canada.

Managers took over from the guards at 15 border stations but travellers faced delays of two to three hours Saturday. At certain stations, traffic cones were put in place to block access, according to all-news channel RDI. New York State Police, who described the shooting suspect as armed and dangerous, captured Vladimir Kulakov, 48, early Saturday afternoon.

Border guards returned to work soon after. Kulakov was allegedly driving a stolen pickup truck when he was stopped by New York state Trooper Sean Finn, 34. Police allege Kulakov ran into a wooden area fired at Finn, hitting the officer's hands and the side of his head. Finn is in stable condition in a New York hospital. Kulakov, who has been living in the U.S. for more than 10 years, is said to have been is a highly trained weapons expert with the Russian army.

The union says its workers were exercising their right to refuse dangerous work when they walked off the job. The union is an ongoing dispute with the Canadian Border Services Agency. Unlike their American counterparts, Canadian border guards do not carry guns but they have been pressing the agency for the right to arm themselves.

The agency maintains that border guards don't need to be armed. "In light of the fact that this individual... shot at a law enforcement officer, once again border agents are saying we're not putting our lives at risk in these kinds of situations," said Ron Moran, national president of the border guards union.

Late last month, union members at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ont., walked off the job after being asked to watch out for an armed and dangerous criminal police thought might attempt to enter Canada. Under the Canadian Labour Code, workers are allowed to refuse to work if they believe it's too dangerous. Moran said despite Kulakov's capture, the union will still seek a ruling from Labour Canada on whether border guards faced a risk.

A spokesperson for the Canadian Border Services Agency said they are not considering Saturday's walkout a pressure tactic. "The employees refused to work because they felt it was dangerous. That's their right," said Dominique McNeely. "It was a decision taken by the employees." However, Moran is using the walkout to raise the issue of unarmed border guards. Moran called the guards' inability to carry a gun a "tragedy waiting to happen."

"They get issued bullet-proof vests, so obviously there's a danger," said Moran. "They're dealing with individuals with nothing to lose." Moran cites a recent report by the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence that recognizes the union's safety concerns and the need for an armed presence at the border.

This is the fifth time since last year that border guards have walked off the job over the firearms issue.

Oh Canada indeed.

Update: Just found a mention of the walkout in the Detroit Free Press:
Following a disastrous evening commute Thursday, drivers should find crossing the Canadian border much smoother this morning after Canada Border Services Agency officers who walked off the job Thursday morning were ordered back to work late that night.....the result of a bid to pressure the government to allow armed border officers.
Late Thursday, Canadian labor affairs officials settled the dispute, improving traffic flow around 10 p.m. The labor officers ordered the border officers back to work, ruling that there was no danger....The officers said they should be armed because of dangers at the border , but Danny Yen, spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency's Windsor office, said the Canadian government believed the workers are adequately trained and equipped. They are armed with batons and pepper spray.

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