Settlement Reached in CBSA Strike
UPDATE 8/7/21: A tentative agreement has been reached by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) union which will bring an immediate end to the disruption it caused at Canadian ports of entry. The agreement still must be ratified by the union membership in the coming weeks but at this point that appears likely to happen. This is good news for the Covid-19 border re-opening plans that were put in jeopardy by the strike.
8/6/21: Employees of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) that work at Canada’s ports of entry have begun a “work-to-rule” strike action. The 9,000 CBSA staff members are now following the exact letter of the law on all rules and regulations in order to slow down traffic. As part of this action, they will not answer questions from travelers about border regulations and will not collect duties or taxes that are owed.
This strike action will impact airports, land borders, commercial shipping ports, postal facilities and headquarters locations. The strike will not close the Canadian ports of entry because CBSA staff are considered “essential workers” and they cannot walk off the job completely. Hence the “work-to-rule” is the step they can take to try and improve their negotiating position. Be sure you are prepared for this new border crossing experience!
We will update this post with new information as the effects on the border become clear. Updates will be shown in RED.
CBSA Strike Impact on Land Ports of Entry
Peak period delays as long as 4 hours are now common at major land border crossings between the U.S. and Canada because of the strike action. High volume ports are seeing backups lines as long as 5 miles. Commercial truckers should be prepared for much longer than normal processing times as Customs officials work through every detail of their checklists.
Border officials are asking travelers in personal vehicles the full list of questions from their manuals. This can easily take 5 minutes per vehicle rather than the normal 30 seconds. Be prepared for the border inspection! These questions will include things like whether you have been convicted of a crime, whether you have alcohol, tobacco, food, plants, or animals in the vehicle. You will be asked about the amount of currency you’re carrying. You will get the full list of questions about about COVID-19. Review our border crossing checklist so you are fully prepared when you arrive at the border.
If you shopped across the border you should expect to have all of your receipts checked closely to ensure you comply with personal exemption limits. If you are travelling with pets, you will most likely be sent for a secondary inspection to examine the animal and all of their health records.
CBSA Strike Impact on Airports
Screening protocols at airports are also being followed to the letter of the law and are expected to significantly lengthen processing time. You should leave for the airport earlier than usual so you arrive with enough time to deal with the longer lines you will face. Airports are recommending that you arrive 90 minutes early for domestic Canadian flights and 3 hours early for international flights. You should be prepared to answer many more questions than you normally would at security and Customs.
If you are arriving from an international flight you should be prepared for waits as long as 3 hours at Customs and Passport Control as all passengers will be asked the full list of available questions. You may be moved to a holding area if the Customs area is full.
CBSA Strike Impact on Covid-19 Reopening Plans
This strike comes at a bad time for Americans that were hoping to enter Canada starting August 9th for recreation or other “Non-Essential Purposes”. It remains to be seen how this will affect the relaxation of Canada’s Covid-19 travel restrictions scheduled for Monday the 9th.
Approval to enter Canada could be much more difficult if Canadian officers “work-to-rule” action leads to a very detailed examination of the format or authenticity of everyone’s proof of Covid-19 vaccination. Make sure you have all your documentation in perfect order! Be prepared for confusion and problems if you are one of the first to try and enter Canada under the new policies.