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Canada to Arm Border Guards for First Time

AP | September 1 2006

Canada announced Thursday it will outfit border guards with guns for the first time, moving to keep officers at their posts in the facing of increasing threats by armed fugitives.

Canada's guards along its 4,000-mile border with the United States do not carry guns, but many have demanded firearms.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the government plans to arm and train its 4,500 border agents over the next 10 years to use firearms. He said that starting in September 2007 some will be armed like their U.S. counterparts.

"There have been numerous examples of officers leaving their posts because they simply weren't equipped to deal with the kind of threat that was anticipated to come over the border," Harper said at a border crossing in Surrey, British Columbia.

Under the border agents' collective agreement, unarmed officers have the right to walk away if they believe their safety is jeopardized.

The guards' union says many officers briefly refused to work in recent months because of the dangers when criminals approached the border.

Officers abandoned four posts in British Columbia earlier this year when told two murder suspects from California were headed their way. The men were apprehended by armed U.S. law enforcement officers.


Canada's Conservative party defeated the Liberals in elections last January and promised to arm the border guards.


The Canadian side of the U.S.-Canada border is monitored by the Canada Border Services Agency. The CBSA mans about 1,200 points across Canada, handling an average of 260,000 travelers who enter Canada each day.


Erik Lupien, a guards union executive, called the decision to arm the guards long overdue.

"It's embarrassing," Lupien said. "Can you can imagine that the people guarding your border, who are first in line to stop suspect criminals, suspect terrorists - don't have guns?"

He called it "living in the dark ages."

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