Liberals now in favour of arming border guards?

On December 3rd, 2008 Liberal MP Mark Holland wrote in Embassy Magazine:

Canada doesn’t have a billion dollars to waste on border security measures that don’t work.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what the current government has offered Canadians with its decision to arm Canada’s border guards.

May 14th, 2009, from the Montreal Gazette:

Arming Canada’s border guards will cost taxpayers about $1 billion and is likely to endanger the lives of innocent people, Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland says.

In an interview yesterday, he called the Conservatives’ firearms plan a ploy to pander to fears about border security.

“When you take a look at the fact that there hasn’t been any instance that has been documented where a gun would have been helpful to a border agent, it seems that throwing guns into the mix could create some serious problems,” Holland said.

He added that the government is also responding to what he called “overheated rhetoric” in the United States about the U.S.-Canada border. “Frankly, us taking this kind of move just adds to the problems of perception in the United States that somehow this is a dangerous border.”

A letter that landed in my inbox today dated September 23, 2010:

I spoke to Steve Pellerin-Fowlie, the 3rd VP of the Customs and Immigration Union, and he told me that he asked for the Liberal Party position in writing. Clearly, despite Holland’s explicit language on the issue, an update was sought by the union whose members work to secure the Canadian border.

The Conservative position on the issue has always been clear. According to the Conservative election platform of 2006, the Conservatives promised that they would,

“Provide our border officers with sidearms and the training required for their use, and ensure, for the safety of these officers, that there are no “work alone” posts.”

The government announced the policy in 2006. The Canadian Border Services Agency explains:

In 2006, the Government of Canada announced its decision to provide funding for training and equipping Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers with firearms. In total 4,800 CBSA officers at all land and marine ports of entry, as well as officers who perform enforcement functions within Canada, will carry a firearm in the line of duty. There are currently 1,386 armed officers that have been trained and deployed throughout the country.

Providing CBSA officers with duty firearms enhances border security and helps protect our communities. It improves their effectiveness at the border by enabling them to have a broader range of options when responding to dangerous situations and to pursue enforcement activities to a greater extent.

Pellerin-Fowlie also explained that in meetings with the union, Mark Holland, Sen Mitchell and Peter Donolo have stressed that the arming initiative is Liberal Party policy and that Holland expressed that the Liberals want to move faster than the Conservative plan.

According to a spokesman at the office of the Minister of Public Safety, the Liberals have not made any public statement regarding this change in position.