Don’t arm border guards on reserves: natives

Posted by admin on Apr 25th, 2008

The Grand Chief of Akwesasne is pushing for the border crossing on the reserve to be exempt from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announcement yesterday to arm customs officials starting next September. The Mohawk council has lobbied the federal government to give special consideration for the eastern Ontario reserve which straddles Ontario, Quebec and New York and where a customs building is situated directly on First Nations land.

“We hope they will exempt this border crossing … because of all the confrontations we’ve had with them,” Tim Thompson said shortly after Harper’s announcement was made at a border crossing in Surrey, B.C.

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne has sent letters of invitation to discuss the tense situation with the Ministry of Public Safety but have not had a reply.

Customs Excise Union president Ron Moran said all border guards should be armed — no matter the geographical area nor other circumstances.  Canadian Border Services Agency spokesman Derek Mellon would not speculate on what may happen at the reserve crossing following Harper’s announcement.

Harper said Canadian border guards will be armed starting in September 2007 but it will take 10 years to fully implement the plan.

The federal government will have at least 150 officers with side arms deployed by the end of March 2008. After that, officers will be armed at a rate of 500 to 600 a year over the next decade.

Harper also reiterated a $101-million promise from the federal budget to hire 400 additional officers. They will be used, among other things, to double up on Canada-U.S. border crossings that have only a single officer on duty.

The Conservatives had indicated earlier this year they intended to arm border guards, following a number of B.C. border incidents in which guards left their posts when they felt threatened by reports of armed fugitives headed their way from the U.S.

Under the border agents’ collective agreement, the unarmed officers have the right to walk away if they believe their safety is jeopardized.

Canada has about 4,400 border guards, who have been demanding to be armed to help them deal with cross-border criminal activity.

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