By Michael Boriero
It was a hectic year for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), as border officers and managers scrambled to adjust to constantly changing pandemic measures.
CBSA Director for the East Border District Miguel Bégin said it was a positive year, given the circumstances, and all of the border officers were engaged and committed to upholding their duty, such as keeping an eye on gun trafficking, as well as implementing new measures.
The CBSA has dealt with hypothetical threats in the past, including Ebola and SARS, but in 2020, officers came face-to-face with the reality of the pandemic, Bégin explained, so it required a lot of communication, and comprehension of new border protocols.
“They had to stay well-informed of the new procedures, sometimes the officers had to leave for a week, or a few days, because they wanted a day off and when they came back, well the situation had evolved, so it was a constant adaptation for officers,” he said.
Despite dealing with numerous challenges at the border caused by the pandemic, Bégin, the former CBSA chief of operations in the Stanstead district, told The Record he was proud of the way officers handled the situation, and managed to enforce laws to protect Canadians.
There was pushback at times, though, as Canadian and American residents struggled to cope with the sudden changes to the border regulations. Many of them refused to accept shutting down the border to leisure travel, but border officers maintained order.
“We see at the border mostly what we see in our society. There are some people who will comply and who will accept and some others that don’t and our officers, they have to deal with those situations, they deal with them very professionally,” said Bégin.
When asked about the stress levels of border officers throughout the past year, Bégin said officers were able to use the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). But, he added, the officers in his district also did their best to stay close to each other, and care for each other.
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