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Exploring the Rise in Seizures at the Canada-US Border as Travel Increases

As travel between Canada and the US gradually resumes, the Southern Ontario region has witnessed an increase in border crossings. However, despite processing over 17.8 million travellers in 2023, the numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels. This article delves into the recent trends at the Canada-US border, highlighting the rise in seizures of illicit goods and the preparations being made for the opening of the Gordie Howe International Bridge at the end of 2024.

Travel Numbers Gradually Picking Up

According to Michael Prosia, director with the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA), the Southern Ontario region has experienced incremental growth in travel numbers month over month. Although still shy of the 2019 figures, as people become more accustomed to traveling again, it is anticipated that the numbers will continue to increase1.

The CBSA’s Southern Ontario Region covers various cities, including Niagara Falls, Fort Erie, London, Sarnia, and Windsor. In 2023, the border crossings in this region processed over 17.8 million travellers and more than 9.8 million commercial conveyances, accounting for 42% of the national total of all highway travellers1.

Rising Seizures of Illicit Goods

With the increase in travel, there has also been a surge in seizures of illicit goods at the Canada-US border. In 2023 alone, border agents in the southern region confiscated significant amounts of drugs, firearms, tobacco, and alcohol1.

Drug Seizures

The CBSA reported a total of 1,312 kg of drugs seized at the border in the southern region. These seizures reflect the agency’s efforts to combat drug smuggling and protect the safety of both countries’ citizens1.

One of the notable drug seizures occurred at the Ambassador Bridge in March, where border agents confiscated 300 kg of methamphetamines during a commercial operation1. This substantial seizure led to criminal charges being filed against a Toronto couple.

Firearms and Tobacco Seizures

In addition to drugs, border agents also seized 352 firearms and a staggering 556,993 units of tobacco1. These seizures highlight the ongoing challenge of preventing the illegal trafficking of firearms and tobacco products across the border.

Alcohol Seizures

The CBSA’s efforts to combat the smuggling of alcohol were evident in the seizure of 8,705 liters of alcohol in the southern region1. This significant quantity underscores the agency’s commitment to enforcing regulations and maintaining the integrity of cross-border trade.

Preparing for the Gordie Howe International Bridge

As travel continues to pick up, the CBSA is making preparations for the opening of the Gordie Howe International Bridge at the end of 20241. This major infrastructure project will provide an additional crossing point between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan, further facilitating cross-border travel and trade.

Recruitment and Staffing

To ensure the smooth operation of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, the CBSA has initiated recruitment efforts. Prosia mentioned that recruits are now coming into the region from the CBSA’s college in Quebec, and approximately 72 employees, including managers and support staff, are currently staffed for the new border crossing1.

The recruitment process is ongoing, with plans to hire over 200 officers to efficiently manage and staff the Gordie Howe International Bridge1. This expansion of personnel will enable the CBSA to maintain security and facilitate the movement of travelers and goods between Canada and the US.

Conclusion

As travel between Canada and the US gradually returns to pre-pandemic levels, the Southern Ontario region has witnessed a rise in border crossings. This increase has also led to a surge in seizures of illicit goods, including drugs, firearms, tobacco, and alcohol. The CBSA’s efforts to combat smuggling and maintain border security have been instrumental in ensuring the safety of both countries’ citizens.

Looking ahead, the opening of the Gordie Howe International Bridge in 2024 will further enhance cross-border travel and trade. The ongoing recruitment process for additional officers demonstrates the CBSA’s commitment to efficient operations and the facilitation of safe and secure border crossings. As the world continues to navigate the challenges of travel in a post-pandemic era, the Canada-US border remains a vital gateway for both nations’ economic growth and cultural exchange.

Footnotes

Reference Article 1: Windsor-Detroit tunnel. July 2, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Border Services SOR)WindsorDecember 27, 2023 – 9:00amEven though border crossings in the Southern Ontario region processed over 17.8 million travellers in 2023 travel between Canada and the US is still below pre-pandemic levels.The Canadian Border Service Agency’s Southern Ontario Region covers the cities of Niagara Falls, Fort Erie, London, Sarnia, and Windsor, as well as surrounding communities.”Still shy of what our numbers were for 2019, but it’s growing incrementally month over month so I would envision that as people get used to back to travelling once again that those numbers are just going to continue to increase,” said Michael Prosia, director with the CBSA.In addition to 17.8 million travellers, the crossing processed over 9.8 million commercial conveyances. This represents 42 per cent of the national total of all highway travellersWith the increase of travel comes an increase of seizures of illicit goods. In 2023, border agents in the southern region seized 1,312 kg of drugs, 352 firearms, 556,993 of tobacco and 8,705 litres of alcohol.One of the largest seizures was at the Ambassador Bridge in March where border agents seized 300 kg of methamphetamines in the commercial operations. This led to criminal charges against a Toronto couple.The CBSA is preparing for the opening of the Gordie Howe International Bridge at the end of 2024.”We’ve started to have recruits coming into our region from the CBSA’s college in Quebec. We have approximately 72 employees right now that are staffed up for the Gordie Howe, including managers and support staff, two of those cohorts are of new officers,” said Prosia.Recruitment is still underway, they plan to hire just over 200 officers to staff the new border crossing

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