Border guards in Windsor seeing 'a lot more hostility' from Canadians

·2 min read
Canadian and American flags fly near the Windsor-Detroit Ambassador Bridge. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Canadian and American flags fly near the Windsor-Detroit Ambassador Bridge. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The union representing border guards in Windsor says they've seen a "disturbing" rise in aggression from Canadian travellers.

"It's making the job much harder during an already stressful situation," Ken Turner, the president of Customs and Immigration Union Local 18, said on Windsor Morning on Thursday.

Turner said a certain level of conflict comes with the territory of being a Canada Border Services Agency officer, but in the past, this has been largely in dealing with criminal activity or travellers denied entry to the country.

Amid quarantine requirements and ever-changing rules, guards are seeing a lot more belligerence from Canadians, he said.

"We're getting a lot more hostility from Canadian residents," he said.

CIU Local 18 President Ken Turner, shown with MP Brian Masse.
CIU Local 18 President Ken Turner, shown with MP Brian Masse.(Dale Molnar/CBC)

Crossings between Canada and the U.S. have been limited to essential travellers for more than a year as the COVID-19 pandemic batters both sides of the border. The shutdown was recently extended to May 21.

The federal government has implemented COVID-19 testing for incoming travellers, and is requiring them to present a recent negative test, as well as a plan for how they will complete a 14-day quarantine.

Those who don't take a test or have a suitable plan may be directed to a quarantine facility.

The stress that border officers are facing isn't unique to Windsor. It's happening at crossings across the country, Turner said.

One officer in Niagara told CBC Toronto that they're seeing more and more people who are upset, refusing to quarantine and take COVID-19 tests.

"We're taking a lot of abuse at the border right now," said the officer, whom CBC News agreed not to identify.

Local border guards to get vaccinated

The union represents 540 staff in Windsor, 300 who are on the front lines. Up until this point, they've been doing their jobs without COVID-19 vaccinations, aside from a few who may have qualified for other reasons, Turner said.

But that changed on Wednesday, when vaccine registration was opened for local border workers.

Throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 cases among border officers have been "in the double digits," though Turner said it's only been a few cases at a time.

"If we had a massive outbreak, it would have had serious repercussions for the local economy [and] supply chain," he said.