CBSA Southern Ontario Region: Operational and enforcement highlights from 2023

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

SOR is home to seven land ports of entry, two medium sized airports in London and Windsor, two ferry terminals, and over 100 private vessel marine sites. The region is also home to the Niagara rail station, which is one of three international passenger rail crossings in the country.

The SOR covers the southern portion of Ontario and includes the cities of Niagara Falls, Fort Erie, London, Sarnia, and Windsor, as well as surrounding communities. Currently, the region has 1,590 CBSA employees.

Welcoming travellers into Canada

The SOR is home to four of the busiest traveller land border crossings in Canada. The region processed 17.8 million travellers and 9.8 million conveyances this year – 42% of the national total of all highway travellers and the most by any single region.

As of October 31, 2023, the total number of asylum claims processed in the region was 6,418.

Building a modern border

The development of Canada’s largest land border port of entry, the Gordie Howe International Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, is well underway. This state-of-the-art port of entry will include 24 primary inspection lanes to handle both commercial and passenger traffic, as well as a dedicated lane for a multi-use path.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge District staffing efforts are in motion. The district is currently comprised of 72 employees including managers, support staff and two cohorts of new officers. As the Gordie Howe International Bridge prepares to begin operations, new officers are gaining valuable experience working alongside their colleagues at the existing ports of entry in the SOR.

Supporting a growing economy

The SOR is also home to four of the busiest commercial land border operations in Canada. The region processed 2.7 million commercial conveyances (trucks/vehicles), which accounted for 67% of the total national land border commercial conveyance volumes in highway mode, an increase over the same period in 2022. A total of 7.3 million commercial shipments were processed in the region.

In addition, the SOR collected 37% of all CBSA importer duty and tax generated revenue – $12 billion from January 1 to October 31, 2023.

Protecting Canadians

The SOR works hard to prevent illicit drugs, firearms and illegal contraband from entering Canada. The region seized 351 firearms from January 1 to October 31, 2023, an increase of 27% of seized firearms from 2022.

In April 2023, the CBSA’s Ontario Firearms Smuggling Enforcement Team (OFSET) was launched. OFSET combines intelligence and investigations resources from all of Ontario into one team, improving CBSA’s ability to identify, interdict, investigate and refer instances of firearms smuggling for prosecution.

In April, the OFSET was contacted by police partners regarding an investigation into domestic firearms trafficking, where information related to cross-border firearms smuggling was gleaned. OFSET members were assigned to work alongside our law enforcement partners in this joint investigation. In June, as a result of these efforts, search warrants were executed at four residences in various locations across the province and five firearms were seized. Five individuals were arrested and charged by police with firearms trafficking related offences under the Criminal Code, and by OFSET with firearms smuggling under the Customs Act.

As of October 31, 2023, the SOR seized significant amounts of suspected narcotics, tobacco, and alcohol at the ports of entry. There was a significant increase in the quantities seized in 2023 compared to 2022.

  • Approximately 1,312 kg of narcotics (including cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin) compared to 698 kg in 2022
  • 556,993 kg of tobacco (85% of all loose tobacco seizures by the CBSA in 2023) compared to 281,165.76 kg in 2022
  • 8,705 litres of alcohol compared to 3537.61 litres in 2022

The value of these seizures in 2023 is a staggering $289,302,880.

Officers in the SOR seized a total $1,347,113 in currency as suspected proceeds of crime, a significant increase over the same period in 2022 where $38,634 suspected proceeds of crime were seized.

In October, officers at the Queenston Bridge port of entry seized $227,453 USD in undeclared currency, and in July over $135,500 CAD in undeclared currency was also seized. Both seizures were suspected proceeds of crime with no terms of release.

Other notable enforcement actions include:

  • In September 2023, the Queenston Bridge port of entry seized 233 kg of cocaine and 42 kg of heroin. 
  • In August 2023, the Blue Water Bridge port of entry seized 298 kg of methamphetamines via the commercial mode.
  • In July 2023, an individual wanted by policing partners in connection to two counts of attempted murder with a firearm was apprehended at the Rainbow Bridge port of entry.
  • In June 2023, working with policing partners, the SOR assisted in dismantling a human trafficking ring that was operating across Southwestern Ontario. CBSA criminal investigators in the SOR played a crucial role in this investigation which resulted in the rescue of 31 victims who were being criminally exploited. Criminal charges were brought against the perpetrators for human trafficking and related offences.
  • In May 2023, the Rainbow Bridge port of entry seized 181 kg of cannabis along with $602,985 USD in undeclared currency. Criminal charges were laid.
  • In March 2023, the Ambassador Bridge port of entry seized 300 kg of methamphetamines in commercial operations which led to criminal charges against a Toronto couple. Another significant seizure involved 60 kg of cocaine in April.
  • In March 2023, the Peace Bridge port of entry seized 70 kg of cocaine.
  • In February 2023, the Windsor Tunnel port of entry seized $100,408 USD in undeclared currency.
  • Between January 1 and October 31, 2023, SOR intercepted 311 individuals wanted on outstanding warrants, arrested 141 individuals for impaired driving related offences, and refused entry to 1853 individuals for serious criminality.
  • The SOR also returned a missing child to their family.

Collaborating with Indigenous communities

  • In 2023, the SOR Regional Indigenous Affairs Advisor (RIAA) engaged with Indigenous representatives from Caldwell, Walpole, and the Grand River First Nations with a view to strengthen ties between the CBSA and these communities. The RIAA took part in the Maamaawi Gidoozhichigemin land ceremony in Windsor Essex, at the site of the future Windsor Regional hospital, celebrating and paying tribute to the land.
  • With the ongoing development of the Gordie Howe International Bridge in Windsor, ON, the CBSA has conducted focused recruitment efforts in Indigenous communities in the region.
  • The RIAA delivered numerous Indigenous Sacred Bundle sessions to new recruits at regional ports of entry. These sessions focused on cultural awareness, part of the Agency commitment to the 57th call to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Report.

Protecting the environment

In April 2023, the SOR began a joint project with Environment and Climate Change Canada to ensure compliance in shipping and imports of hazardous materials. Inspections at the Peace Bridge, Queenston Bridge, and Blue Water Bridge ports of entry ensure that hazardous wastes and recyclable material are handled safely and in a manner that protects the environment and human health.

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