There are many career options in the field of law and security in Canada. One of the most dynamic and essential is the role Border Services Officers (BSOs) play in securing the flow of people and goods across our borders. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) employs approximately 14,000 public servants across Canada, maintaining a constant vigilance against the entry of contraband goods, inadmissible individuals and illegal substances.
About the Canada Border Services Agency
Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Canada has worked much more closely with the United States in common areas of national security, such as securing our extensive shared border, which runs approximately 8,891 kilometers (including the border with Alaska). Not long after Sept. 11, the Canadian government responded by streamlining its border enforcement operations from within various government agencies and departments in the form of a new agency: The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA):
The Agency was created on December 12, 2003 (the same day Paul Martin became Prime Minister of Canada), by an order-in-council amalgamating Canada Customs (from the now-defunct Canada Customs and Revenue Agency) with border and enforcement personnel from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The Agency’s creation was formalized by the Canada Border Services Agency Act, which received Royal Assent on November 3, 2005. Wikipedia
The Role of Border Services Officers (BSOs)
Border Services Officers are the first line of defence against a variety of threats to the Canadian public attempting to infiltrate our borders on a daily basis, such as drugs, illegal weapons, child pornography, illegal immigration, human trafficking, bio hazards, fugitives escaping justice elsewhere and cheap knock off goods from other countries, just to name a few. Every year, BSO’s are also responsible for processing a large volume of travellers and collecting significant duties and taxes on applicable goods imported across the border:
Border Services Officers (BSOs) welcome and process more than 97 million travellers, 200,000 immigrants and refugees, and over 12 million commercial releases; collect several billion dollars’ worth of duties and taxes; and administer import and export requirements for some 30,000 animals and plants. They are Canada’s first line of defence in preventing inadmissible people, contraband and other illegal substances from coming into the country. BSOs also contribute to the fight against international terrorism and illegal immigration. CBSA
Raising the Profile of the CBSA Through Popular TV Shows
In recent years a couple widely aired Canadian TV series have raised the profile of the CBSA and BSOs. The Border, airing from 2008 to 2010, used a fictional agency to explore trans-border issues such as smuggling and terrorism. In 2012, a reality TV series, Border Security, took to their airwaves depicting real life scenes of BSOs in action. There’s been some controversy around this series as it films real life situations and individuals (with their consent) encountering various issues with the CBSA:
The CBSA grants the production company exclusive access to border crossings, including airports, land and marine crossings. In two seasons, the cameras have captured drugs stuffed into art packaging, guns in diaper bags and self-proclaimed tourists being turned back at the border because the CBSA didn’t believe they were “genuine” – including one woman who said she was visiting family, but who raised suspicions because she had hairdressing supplies packed into her suitcase. Globe and Mail
CBSA Border Services Officer Job Requirements
The CBSA is a vital agency for Canada’s overall security, ensuring that our laws are followed and respected by importers and travellers often before they are allowed into Canada. Becoming a BSO can be challenging due to the high standards for admission, and ongoing requirements of the job, but working within the Canada Border Services Agency can also be a highly reward career in law enforcement.
At a minimum, BSOs must be at least 18 years old, possess a secondary school diploma, a valid driver’s licence, a firearms safety certificate and be prepared to work anywhere in Canada and in shifts that can extend into all hours of the day or night. BSO’s must also have good people and service skills dealing with the public, and possess sound moral judgment and a solid character disposition given their role of trust and the sensitive nature of the job.
Once hired, new recruits will go through a two-year period as an officer trainee, but officers at all levels of experience must be prepared for ongoing training requirements throughout their career, as new policies and procedures are developed and new technologies are added to the Canada Border Services Agency’s arsenal.
A CBSA officer trainee (FB-02) can expect to earn an annual salary ranging between $58,078 and $64,859. The salary range for a fully commissioned Border Services Officer (FB-03) is currently between $62,697 and $70,120.
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