Tuesday, August 7, 2007

First Canadian border guards graduate from firearms school

As seen on CTV July 27, 2007

Some previously unarmed Canadian border guards held graduation ceremonies Friday after three weeks of firearms training and will return to work with sidearms on their hips.

"This is an ongoing step in equipping our border officers with the technology and the training to keep our border safe," Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said Friday in Chilliwack, B.C.

The plan is to eventually arm all 4,400 guards, a process that's expected to take a decade.

Twenty-four officers in Chilliwack and 28 in Ottawa went through three-week training programs on using Beretta PX4 Storm 9 mm pistols. The RCMP conducted the training, instructing the guards on the responses to threats allowed by the law.

"The work has gotten more dangerous," he said.

In January 2006, a U.S. police pursuit of two fugitives ended in a shootout only metres from the Canadian border at B.C.'s Peace Arch crossing .

If border guards think their safety is in jeopardy, they have the right to abandon their posts. The RCMP are expected to handle potentially violent situations.

The day after that Peace Arch incident, then-justice minister Vic Toews announced that border guards would be armed. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made yet another announcement in September 2006.

The former Liberal government thought arming guards would be too expensive and that having armed guards greeting visitors would send the wrong message. However, a 2005 Senate report found that arming border guards was a good idea.

U.S. border guards have been armed for years.

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