Throughout the summer of 2017, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) responded to an unprecedented surge of refugee protection claimants in a number of locations across the country, including particularly heavy increases at the Emerson port of entry (POE) in Manitoba, and the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle POE in Quebec. Working in co-operation with Public Safety Canada, the RCMP, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Public Health Agency of Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada, and the Department of National Defence, the CBSA contributed a significant amount of time and effort on this important humanitarian effort.
In the Quebec Region, more than 12,000 people made claims during this time. All of these individuals were processed efficiently, in a secure, controlled and humane environment. Specifically, the region established a special command structure at the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle POE, overseeing the logistical support for goods and services needed to support the refugee claimants. At the regional level, a “tiger team” was created to reduce pressure on regional employees and to ensure their well-being. It also provided the region with expertise and made the operation more efficient.
The CBSA’s ability to reallocate resources is critical to maintaining service integrity during times of extraordinary traffic volumes. Despite managing their own local surges in asylum claims, regions from across the country deployed officers and support staff to Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle in Quebec. This provided much needed support, as well as developmental opportunities for participating officers.
When the number of asylum seekers began to significantly increase at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle in mid-August, the Northern Ontario Region assisted in coordinating housing and processing of refugee claimants at the NAV Centre in Cornwall. They did so by working with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), IRCC, Public Safety Canada, the NAV Centre, as well as local and provincial emergency operations and health agencies. Additionally, the CAF put up tents to house up to 500 people to deal with the surge. These tents have now been replaced by temporary winterized trailers to be used in the event of arrivals over the winter.
In Ontario, the Southern Ontario Region (SOR) temporarily referred low-risk processing of refugees from the ports of entry to the Temporary Refugee Influx Processing Center (TRIPC) in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). This allowed CBSA front-line officers to focus on national security, public safety priorities and facilitate the free flow of legitimate persons and goods. Throughout 2017, the SOR and GTA regions worked closely with a number of partners, including IRCC, sharing file work and special projects, executing warrants and exchanging information.
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