CBSA Atlantic Region: Operational and enforcement highlights from 2023

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Atlantic Region has released operational and enforcement highlights covering the period from January 1 to October 31, 2023.

CBSA Atlantic Region is home to over 150 service locations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. This includes 18 land border ports of entry, 28 commercial vessel sites, 26 airports, 5 cruise ship operations, 2 ferry terminals and a number of telephone reporting sites.

The Atlantic Region has over 800 employees who work to facilitate the free flow of people and goods, support the immigration system, and keep Canadians safe. This year’s highlights and achievements include:

Welcoming travellers into Canada

In 2023, the CBSA in Atlantic Canada welcomed nearly 2.9 million travellers, compared to approximately 1.8 million in 2022. These travellers entered Canada through one of the nation’s most geographically diverse regions via marine vessels, vehicles, planes and other modes of transportation.

Since the start of 2023, border services officers across the Atlantic Region welcomed 945 Afghans and over 5,000 Ukrainians. We are proud to support Canada’s commitment to welcome vulnerable Afghans, as well as immigration measures for those affected by the conflict in Ukraine.

In mid-July, border services officers at ports of entry across the Atlantic Region, including Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Woodstock, NB, and St. Stephen 3rd Bridge, NB, were instrumental in processing and welcoming hundreds of Indigenous athletes, their coaches and families to Canada for the 10th annual North American Indigenous Games. The games included competitions in 16 sports across Kjipuktuk (Halifax), Dartmouth, Millbrook First Nation and Sipekne’katik — the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People.

CBSA officers often support flights that aren’t bound for Canada. Flights crossing the Atlantic Ocean that experience medical, mechanical or other types of emergencies sometimes need to divert to airports in Gander, St. John’s, and Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), or to Halifax, NS due to their convenient geographic locations on the eastern side of Atlantic Canada. Border services officers in the Atlantic Region responded to 86 air diversions in 2023 so far. When this occurs, border services officers are there to provide the appropriate risk assessment and clearance services, examine travel documents and assist with processing travellers who need to remain in Canada.

The 2023 cruise ship season saw a 17% increase in the number of cruise ship arrivals throughout the Atlantic Region since 2022. A total of 182 cruise ships with over 500,000 crew and passengers were processed by border services officers in response to the growing tourism and cruising industries.

Building a modern border

St. Stephen Ferry Point Port of Entry in New Brunswick (NB) upgraded its primary inspection lanes with modern booths and an improved parking area. This allows for more efficient processing by CBSA officers and improves the flow of traffic. This upgrade was built with sustainability in mind, and plays a part in reducing CBSA’s carbon footprint.

In Edmundston, NB, CBSA is working closely with the State of Maine and the Government of New Brunswick on the construction of the new international bridge between Edmundston and Madawaska, Maine which will improve traffic flow.

In March, all NEXUS enrollment centres located at Canadian airports reopened, including the enrollment centre at Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Nova Scotia (NS). This followed the February opening of the Nexus enrolment centre in Houlton, Maine (Woodstock, NB) and Calais, Maine (St. Stephen, NB) where CBSA officers work with United States Customs and Border Protection officers to efficiently complete joint interviews and enrol applicants.

Supporting a growing economy

In 2023, border services officers supported Canada’s economy by processing 176,012 shipping containers in the Atlantic Region. As part of this, the Waterfront Cargo Inspection Unit in Halifax, NS completed over 937 exams of shipping containers pier side, 768 exams for soil, and 1,585 random verifications. Everything from coffee to car parts arrive in Canada via shipping containers. These important checks and verifications help keep drugs off our streets and Canadians safe.

Ships continue to be processed by border services officers in Atlantic Canada. So far this year, 2,508 commercial vessels were processed. This includes fishing vessels and aircraft carriers arriving at marine ports of entry across the region. Our officers work to support commercial and trade across the Atlantic Region, from small fishing communities to large commercial ports.

Protecting Canadians

CBSA officers in Atlantic Region seized a variety of contraband in 2023. This includes 71 firearms, 95 weapons and over 95 kg of opioids.

In January, CBSA officers executed a search warrant in Garnett Settlement, NB after CBSA intercepted two prohibited weapons destined for New Brunswick at the CBSA International Mail Centre in the Greater Toronto Area. At the suspect’s residence, CBSA seized four firearms and a large quantity of shot gun shells. In July 2023, the suspect was sentenced to 2.5 years of incarceration in Saint John Provincial Court, after pleading guilty to numerous firearms-related charges under the Criminal Code as well as a smuggling charge under the Customs Act.

In March, border services officers in St. Leonard, NB seized 1.2 kg of suspected cocaine following the search of a vehicle. The traveller was arrested and turned over to the RCMP.

In April, a resident of Halifax, NS was convicted for importing a prohibited device knowing its importation is prohibited and received a total fine of $6,000. This investigation began in July 2020, when CBSA Criminal Investigations Section executed a search warrant on a home-based business after a seizure and controlled delivery of a parcel containing 34 over-capacity magazines. In addition to the original seizure, another 40 over-capacity magazines, related documentation, and electronic devices were seized at the warrant site.

In April, CBSA Intelligence Officers in Newfoundland and Labrador liaised with national and international law enforcement partners to facilitate the extradition of a Canadian citizen back to Canada. In September 2021, CBSA became aware of a Canadian citizen that had abducted his twin daughters from the Niagara region and was believed to be in the St. John’s, NL area. It was later determined that the individual had taken his daughters to St. Pierre & Miquelon via the ferry from the Fortune, NL port of entry. An extradition order was later issued for the individual. The individual was extradited in April 2023. He was processed by CBSA and then turned over to the RCMP.

On May 3, an individual from Conception Bay South, NL was arrested as part of the joint investigation by the RCMP NL Federal Serious and Organized Crime Unit (FSOC) in St. John’s and the CBSA Criminal Investigations Section in the Atlantic Region. Following the arrest, RCMP officers obtained a warrant and conducted a search of the individual’s home, resulting in the seizure of 25 firearms. On July 26, CBSA laid five charges under the Customs Act. The matter is scheduled to appear in St. John’s provincial court on December 4. The RCMP has also laid various criminal charges.

In June, officers at St. Stephen 3rd Bridge, NB found a few unexpected “travellers” during a secondary examination. A stun gun and a prohibited firearm were found during the examination, along with two undeclared endangered Bourret Box turtles. The stun gun and firearm were seized, and a $1500 penalty was issued. An additional penalty of $650 was issued under the Health of Animals Act for attempting to import the turtles. The penalties were paid at the port of entry, and the travellers and turtles returned to the United States (US).

On June 5, CBSA detector dog Keo foiled an attempt to smuggle a prohibited handgun into Canada at the St. Leonard, NB port of entry. The gun was sealed in a plastic bag and buried in a box of cat litter. The firearm was seized and the individual was arrested for smuggling a firearm into Canada. There were no charges laid and the US national was required to pay a penalty of $2,210.

On June 29, four young campers from the US learning to canoe accidentally entered Canadian waters near the St. Croix, NB port of entry and their canoe flipped. Two border services officers from the St. Croix  port of entry responded without hesitation. They waded through the water to perform the rescue. The students were assessed and there was no need for emergency services. The four campers left the port of entry with their camp counsellor.

On July 12, a US national entering Canada via the Clair, NB port of entry was referred for a secondary examination. During the examination, border services officers located an undeclared loaded prohibited pistol in the vehicle. The firearm was seized and the individual was arrested for smuggling a firearm into Canada. There were no charges laid and the US national was required to pay a penalty of $1,000 before being released and returning to the US.

Border services officers at the Port of Halifax, NS conducted two large export seizures of cannabis this year. In August, an examination of a shipping container bound for the Caribbean resulted in the seizure of 165 kg of suspected cannabis. Following this, in late October, officers uncovered 377 kg of suspected cannabis and 1 kg of suspected hashish concealed in another container destined to the Caribbean.

Collaborating with Indigenous communities

In July, CBSA hosted an open house and information sessions on the Halifax Waterfront during the North American Indigenous Games. This provided an excellent opportunity for Indigenous participants and the general public to learn more about how border services officers  work with Indigenous communities to support smooth travel across the border. Participants viewed sacred Indigenous items, saw how detector dogs work, saw specialized equipment used to examine goods entering Canada, and learned about the many exciting job opportunities that exist with the CBSA.

In September, at St. Stephen 3rd Bridge, NB, the main crosswalk at the port of entry was painted orange in recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The idea came from officers in New Brunswick and demonstrates meaningful steps on CBSA’s path of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in the region. This work was coordinated by CBSA’s National Real Property and Accommodations Directorate.

In October, CBSA Atlantic Region employees, along with Indigenous communities from across the region, attended the first United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (UNDA) Regional Roundtable in Fredericton, NB. The roundtable members discussed solutions to address barriers faced by Indigenous communities at the border.

Over the last year, our Regional Indigenous Affairs Advisor travelled throughout the Atlantic Region to conduct 13 sacred Indigenous Bundle awareness sessions at ports of entry. These training sessions teach CBSA employees about sacred items from Inuit, Metis and First Nations cultures as part of the Indigenous Training Strategy. The sacred items have not gone through ceremony and provide a practical learning approach, where employees can touch, smell, feel and learn about the cultural significance of these items.

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