Student recruits unfit for service, say former border guards
Facebook postings show drinking and partying while officers in uniform
Canada Border Services Agency officers who work in B.C. are being accused of posting inappropriate and offensive material,some of it directly related to their jobs, on the internet.
The material includes jokes about guns and passports,an allegation thatPrime Minister Stephen Harper is a "serial killer"and insults directed at French-speaking Canadians.
"It's just revolting what is being posted … and the lack of action to stop them from doing that," said Chris Hughes, a former border officer from Victoria who revealed the material, captured on Facebook and similar sites, to CBC News.
The postings also raise questions about whether some of the people trusted to guard Canada's borders are qualified to keep out terrorists and other criminals, he said.
"This is a huge security issue," said Hughes.
Hughes and his former colleague, Levan Turner, both in their 40s, worked summers at the border until the government decided not to hire them permanently.
They claim they were passed over in favour of younger, cheaper, student recruits.Hughes claimed he has been tracking website postings by several of those recruits ever since.
In numerous posted photos, new recruits are seen drinking and partying at a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) centre in Rigaud, Que., where they train to become full-time officers, on taxpayers' money.
One recruit wrote, "My tolerance for alcohol that I built up at Rigaud … is insane."
"It looks like you do a bit of learning and a lot of drinking," Hughes told CBC News.
"I understand if they want to party," said Turner, "But to put that out there for the public to see isn't proper."
Facebook photo shows recruit drinking in uniform
One photo, apparently taken in B.C., shows a Canada Border Services Agency officer drinking from a keg while in uniform.Consuming alcohol in uniform, on or off duty, is a direct violation of CBSA's code of conduct.
Another alleged officer, also pictured in uniform on the web, posted responses to a quiz — answering that she has cheated on a test, smoked pot and felt like killing someone.
When a friend apparently asks her, online, if she has been issued a gun, the officer answers, "I don't have a gun ... YET!!! You will be the first one to hear about it when serial killer Harper gives me one."
"I think the prime minister should be getting on the phone, and calling a few people and getting that straightened up real quick," said Turner.
It seems the officer also didn't like training in Quebec.In postings, the writer refers to the province as "the land of poutine and frog," and "f---ing French bastards."
"If they are playing around with Facebook, saying those things, what are they going to do when they get a gun?" asks Hughes."What kind of jokes and pictures are they going to take with firearms?"
A male officer, who posted his CBSA job title as "Bad Ass," did post a picture of the type of gun he expects to get, with the caption, "Soon enough, baby.Soon enough."
That same officer wrote he is "incredibly excited that he got to arrest someone again."There are pictures of men necking and holding each other down, apparently as a joke.The photos are labelled "Victoria Rape."
"It shows immaturity among people and that's exactly what it is," said Turner."If this person is going to get a gun I think I would be really nervous if I were the traveller."
The former B.C. officers are also raising alarm bells about how new recruits performed on the job.
"Most of them lack the maturity, they lack the experience," Hughes said. "I've seen so many students that should have been referring so many prime candidates for secondary inspection and have just let them into the country."
According to the Customs Excise Union (CEUDA), which represents border services officers, the majority of staffers trusted to guard Canada's borders are either part-time students or new, full-time recruits, many who started as students.
The CBSA hires some 1,200 students each summer.Those being kept on, as full-time recruits, get nine weeks of training.
Part-time students are not issued firearms, but all recruits hired on full-time eventually will be. The minister responsible for public safety, Stockwell Day, has just announced a $50-million expansion of the Rigaud centre, to increase the number of recruits that can be trained.
CBC News asked Day for his reaction to the internet postings.
"The overall program of training our border officers is a very successful one," Day said.
"We have a highly credible, highly professional force of Canada Border Service agents, men and women. I meet with them on a regular occasion and get out to the borders themselves to meet with them.
"I'm very proud of what they do.There's always going to be a case where one or two or a few may be upset but when you are looking at 4,800 men and women across the country occupying those border station they are doing a great job."
Union says students not qualified
Last year, the CEUDA submitted a report to the Senate committee on national security and defence that said, "Students are not qualified to perform the duties to which they are being assigned, which compromises their own safety, that of other officers, the travelling public and Canadians at large."
The website postings Hughes found show confusion over passports.
One student asks others online, "Did anybody else panic when they saw their first Dutch or (insert weird foreign country) passport?"
Another answers, "Ha, ha.I totally freaked when I saw Österreich (Austria).It was the oldest, most sketch looking thing ever."
Turner's reaction was, "You can make up a phoney passport.If they don't know what it is and they don't know what they are looking at, then they could just let somebody in or let anybody in."
"If you were a terrorist and you wanted to get into Canada," said Hughes, "come when the students first go on the job."
Hughes said he has been sending letters of complaint to the CBSA and to Day for months.He claims most of his concerns have not been acknowledged.
"Anybody can see there is a problem," said Turner."But nobody wants to do anything about it and that's the reason we had to come to [CBC News] and go public is because nobody else would listen."
The Canada Border Services Agency circulated an internal memorandum to employees on Aug. 24, warning about their participating in social networking websites.
"Even off-duty conduct becomes a work-related matter if it jeopardizes the agency's reputation or programs," said the memo obtained by CBC News.
"For these reasons, we would like to remind you that inappropriate behaviour by employees on such websites could result in administrative and/or disciplinary action," it said.