Canadian border guards have fired their guns only 18 times since the government equipped them with firearms a decade ago, and 11 of the shots were accidental discharges.
Another six were to euthanize wounded animals, and in one case, the weapon was used to fend off an attacking dog, according to data provided to CBC News by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
CBSA officers have drawn a duty firearm 299 times since July 2007.
Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union that represents border agents, said that figure is “significant” because it represents the number of potentially dangerous situations that were defused by firearms.
Fortin said the role of the border officer has shifted dramatically over the years. Now there is heavy focus on national security, counterterrorism and law enforcement, including intercepting impaired drivers, whereas the primary task was previously duty and tax collection.
“At the end of the day, we are the front line of defence for the country,” he said. “In past, you let them go and call the police, so these individuals who could be a potential threat actually are being dealt with at the border now.”
Fortin said guns serve as a deterrent and help calm individuals who are agitated, threatening or physically aggressive.
Guns at airports?
The union is now pushing to expand the authority of agents to carry weapons at Canadian airports. Right now only certain agents under “specific and limited circumstances” are authorized to carry firearms at Canadian airports, whereas in the United States and other jurisdictions most are armed.
“This is something we think is wrong right now, and it wouldn’t cost a dime,” he said, noting that it could enhance security in spots that could be targeted by terrorists.
The union also wants a specialized armed team to patrol the border, as the U.S. has.
But so far he has not seen any appetite from the federal government.
“We feel that…