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Canadian border agents consider strike amid talk of border reopening

Last Thursday, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) said its workers will start strike votes this Wednesday, further complicating the reopening process of the US-Canadian border. This group of workers includes about 5,500 border officers and around 9,000 employees in total. 

Border officers and other Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) members have been without a contract for almost three years. The union has been pushing for better protections for employees to better align them with that of other law enforcement officers in Canada. 

Members of the PSAC have called on the Canadian government to return to talks to renegotiate a contract, avoiding a strike. 

PSAC’s Customs and Immigration Union national president Jean-Pierre Fortin said in a statement:

“We’re ready and willing to return to the table to negotiate a fair contract that recognizes our commitment to Canadians. But we’re fed up with the disrespect our members have been shown by the employer.”

Talks of reopening the border have increased recently, as the US-Canadian border has been closed for nearly 15 months. The border closed in March of 2020 and has only been open to essential travel. 

Gov. Jay Inslee recently sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas calling for a full or partial reopening of the border. Inslee says he called for the reopening in hopes of providing relief to individuals and communities who have been affected by the closure of the border. 

“The state of Washington and our friends in British Columbia stand ready to assist the federal governments in the development of pilot programs to safely open the border. We share a sense of urgency in meeting the needs of our impacted communities, with more than 60 percent of BC residents having received a first dose of vaccination, and a similar percentage of Washingtonians vaccinated, we believe that we can significantly mitigate the health risks associated with reopening our border by continuing to follow a data-driven, science-based approach and the guidance of our public health experts.”

US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met at the G-7 summit yesterday to discuss a possible border reopening. Trudeau stated more Canadians must be vaccinated against Coronavirus for the border to reopen. He says his goal is to have 75% of Canadians get their first dose to ease border restrictions.

“The protection of Canadians will always be my number one priority and through the millions of vaccines we received this summer, our country will be able to put this virus behind us.”

The closure has been extended on a month-to-month basis, Trudeau recently stated he is considering a phased reopening, which would allow fully vaccinated international visitors. The current border closure is set to remain in place until June 21, 2021.

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