Canadian airport, port workers soon may have to take it all off
By Elizabeth Thompson, iPolitics.ca November 22, 20
Read more: http://www.canada.com/news/Canadian+airport+port+workers+soon+have+take/3866603/story.html#ixzz163b0AFxj
OTTAWA — Canada's border guards could soon get new powers to strip search employees in airport and ports across Canada in a bid to crack down on the smuggling of illegal drugs, such as marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine.
CBSA officers also would be allowed to frisk employees and to use various types of scanners and detectors to examine goods in their possession. The proposed new regulations, which do not have to be passed by Parliament, would apply to everyone whose work requires them to be in proposed new customs-controlled areas, regardless of whether they are baggage handlers or ambulance attendants responding to an emergency.
All that would be needed to frisk employees or trigger a strip search would be for a CBSA officer to have reasonable grounds to believe a worker in a customs-controlled area is smuggling something illegal. While the proposed regulations can require CBSA officers to require someone to open their mouth during a strip search, they also would have to conduct the strip search in a private area.
Currently, border officers have limited powers to search employees as they leave a customs area. Under the proposed changes, they will have the power to search employees within a customs-controlled area and those areas will cover more of an airport or port than the current customs areas.
The regulations are part of the government's efforts to stem the tide of illegal drugs being smuggled into Canada by organized crime. It's a multimillion-dollar trade the government says is flourishing with the help of airport and dock workers who are either planted in jobs or recruited after they start.
"Some individuals with unrestricted access to secure areas of airports and marine terminals, such as mechanics, baggage handlers and longshoremen . . . are suspected to be involved in internal conspiracies," the government says in the notice of the proposed regulation.
The government points to a 2008 study by the RCMP that concluded 58 organized crime groups were using Canada's major airports for illegal activities.
For example, in 2007, eight people were arrested and charged with drug offences relating to the trafficking of 39 kilograms of ecstasy tablets, three kilograms of cocaine and eight pounds of marijuana. About $106,000 in cash also was seized.
"This group had members of their criminal network operating within the airport who were able to use their positions to move drugs and money to and from Canada," the government wrote.
In a bid to attack the problem, the government amended the Customs Act in 2009 to set up new customs-controlled areas (CCA) in locations where travellers and domestic workers could come into contact with people or goods that have not yet been cleared by the CBSA.
The controlled areas, which are not yet in place, will be phased in over three years starting with Canada's three largest airports: Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal and Vancouver International Airport.
In the second year, customs-controlled areas will be set up at six other airports and three marine ports. In the third year, the customs-controlled areas will spread to other highway, rail and postal ports of entry and in some duty-free shops and sufferance warehouses across the country.
However, setting up controlled areas won't work unless CBSA officers have the right to frisk or strip search workers, the government argues.
"Without the proposed regulations, the CBSA would be unable to effectively implement the CCA regime and reduce the risks associated with internal conspiracies, and airports and marine ports would continue to be exploited by organized crime groups that succeed at corrupting existing airports and marine port workers or positioning criminal associates within their workforce."
While the new powers come with a cost to both business and the CBSA, the government argues they are outweighed by the benefits of reducing the supply of illegal drugs which it estimates cost Canada $8.2 billion per year in illness, lost productivity and death.
The proposal will cost CBSA about $214,900 annually to train officers and to enforce the regulations and an average $11,800 for the business community due to questioning of employees during work hours.
As for the employees, the impact "consists of the potential loss of privacy and inconvenience that may result from the CBSA questioning and conducting searches of employees suspected of being involved in illegal activities in a CCA."