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

The union for border service officers in Windsor, Ont., says it's seen a "disturbing" rise in aggression from Canadian travellers, "making the job much harder during an already stressful situation" amid the pandemic.

Union says vaccine registration has opened up for border workers

Canadian and American flags fly near the Windsor, Ont.-Detroit Ambassador Bridge. A union rep for Canadian border officers says there's more 'hostility' from Canadian travellers regarding pandemic rules. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

The union representing border service officers in Windsor, Ont., says it's seen a "disturbing" rise in aggression from Canadian travellers.

"It's making the job much harder during an already stressful situation," Ken Turner, 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 from the U.S. to Canada. 

Amid quarantine requirements and ever-changing rules, officers at border points are seeing a lot more belligerence, he said.

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

CIU Local 18 president Ken Turner, left, is shown with MP Brian Masse. Turner spoke with CBC Windsor Morning on Thursday. (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.

Ottawa 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 border officers are facing isn't unique to Windsor, which borders Michigan. 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 officers to get vaccinated

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

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."

With files from Windsor Morning


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