Canada’s border agency plans to hire more summer student staff than usual to work at airports this year to free up regular officers to focus on the continued influx of migrants crossing the border between official points of entry.
The RCMP intercepted more than 7,600 irregular border crossers from January to April of this year, with the majority of them walking across the border at St-Bernard de Lacolle in Quebec. As the weather gets warmer and the school year comes to an end, Canadian officials are anticipating the numbers will go up dramatically, in part because the Trump administration is ending the temporary protected status of over 300,000 people from countries including Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras.
To deal with the influx, the government plans to reassign regular border officers to help manage irregular crossings at Lacolle, and to temporarily bring in students to fill the void.
That means students will work with regular officers to “determine the admissibility of people and goods to Canada.”
They don’t carry guns and can only work at international airports and mail processing centres in 16 cities across the country, including Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.
The Toronto Pearson Airport, for example, will have 26 percent more summer student staff, the public safety minister’s office confirmed to VICE News in a statement. Staff are reassigned every year, and the agency also uses overtime and leave restrictions to deal with summer volumes, the statement continued.
“We know the volumes this summer everywhere are going to be big. They always are in summer,” Mr. Goodale told reporters in Saskatoon on Thursday. “We were anticipating a big surge last year and managed it with virtually no complaints and we are certainly intending to keep the standards high this year.”
The agency’s goal at the Toronto airport is to keep wait times under 20 minutes for travellers, and re-assigning border officers to manage irregular border crossings at St-Bernard de Lacolle will have no impact on operations at Pearson, the statement stressed.
“Opposition parties are playing politics by spreading fears about wait times that are totally divorced from reality and by proposing simplistic slogans that won’t work,” said the statement. “Our government is managing the pressures at our border efficiently and securely.”
The paid full time placements last from May to the end of August, and some part time positions are available from September to April, with preference given to students in fields related to the job, like criminology law, security, law enforcement, psychology, sociology or police studies, according to the website.
The student officers receive a mix of classroom and online training, as well as coaching on the job. According to the union of border and customs officers, student staff only get two weeks of training, as opposed to the 18 weeks of training regular border agents have to go through.
“They are hiring students so they can free resources to go and help at the land border, but the problem is the expertise at those major airports is getting diluted,” Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, told the Globe and Mail. “There will be less inspection and less enforcement actions that are taking place.”
According to Fortin, about 100 students will be sent to the Montreal and Vancouver airports, while the Toronto airport will receive about 150.