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Opinion: CBSA officers deserve a fair agreement — and should be taken seriously

This letter writer, a former CBSA officer, believes Canada's security will be at risk if members choose to picket.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has put its potential strike on hold as meditation continues. | File photo

The Editor: 

As a former officer in the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), I am deeply concerned about the current impasse between the CBSA and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).

The potential strike last week stems from the failure to reach a fair agreement, and it is imperative that we address this issue with the seriousness it deserves.

The CBSA officers are the first line of defense for our nation. They are responsible for protecting our borders, ensuring the security of our citizens, and facilitating legitimate trade and travel. Their role has become even more critical in recent years with the rise in global security threats and the increasing volume of cross-border activities.

Despite the crucial nature of their work, CBSA officers have long faced challenges that undermine their ability to perform their duties effectively. Issues such as understaffing, inadequate training, and outdated equipment have plagued the agency. In addition, the lack of a fair and comprehensive agreement with PSAC exacerbates the situation, leaving officers feeling undervalued and unsupported. The crux of the matter lies in the need for better working conditions, fair wages, and sufficient resources to carry out their duties.

These demands are not unreasonable; they are fundamental to maintaining the integrity and efficiency of our border services. CBSA officers put their lives on the line every day to protect our country, and it is only fair that they receive the support and compensation they deserve.

CBSA did not make this decision lightly.

Striking is only ever a last resort and one that was taken because the government has refused to address glaring problems that CBSA officers face. The CBSA members have been without a contract for over two years. When the CBSA was last at the negotiating table with the government two years ago, they were told that their grievances could only be solved through legislation.

However, last month, treasury minister Anita Anand passed back the buck, saying that the issues aren't for the legislature to solve. The Liberals are kicking the can down the road because they think that Border Security Officers will put up with it indefinitely, which is why the CBSA had no choice but to strike.

A strike by CBSA officers would have significant repercussions. It could lead to delays at border crossings, trade disruption, and increased security risks. The impact on our economy and national security could be substantial. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the government and the public to ensure that an agreement is reached promptly. 

A fair agreement would not only address the immediate concerns of the officers but also contribute to the long-term stability and effectiveness of our border services. It would demonstrate a commitment to valuing the people who work tirelessly to keep our country safe.

As someone who has been on the front lines, I know firsthand the dedication and resilience of CBSA officers. They deserve better than to be left in a state of uncertainty and frustration.

It's time for the government to step up and negotiate in good faith, ensuring that our border services remain robust and our officers feel respected and supported.

In conclusion, the CBSA and PSAC must reach a fair agreement without delay. Our nation's security and the well-being of our border officers depend on it.

People must take the opportunity to show that we value and respect those who protect our borders and, by extension, our way of life.

- Cinnamon Bhayani, Burnaby