Statement from John Ossowski, President of the Canada Border Services Agency 


OTTAWA – March 13, 2020 – Today, John Ossowski, the President of the Canada Border Services Agency, issued the following statement:

“The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)  is committed to limiting the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. Health and safety remains our top priority. Canada’s border services officers are professionals and have experience ensuring the health and safety of Canadians and Canada’s economy.

We take our role of protecting Canada extremely seriously and are proud of the work we do. The CBSA operates in a complex and dynamic environment, processing about 250,000 travellers on a typical day. That’s why we are constantly monitoring evolving threats such as this one, and adapting our procedures as needed to achieve our mission. CBSA officers remain vigilant and are highly trained to identify travellers seeking entry into Canada who may pose a health and safety risk.

The CBSA is part of an overall Government of Canada approach that has been measured, proportional, and responsive — based on the best available scientific evidence on the disease transmission and the World Health Organization’s recommendations. We are working closely  with our international border partners, including the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

COVID-19 exposure does not differentiate by borders. Enhanced screening has been in place at all airports since the beginning of February and at all land, rail and marine ports since early March.  Any traveller arriving from an affected area or who has been exposed may be at risk. The CBSA has strong procedures in place that takes this into account. Travellers — no matter their country of origin — are assessed on arrival to Canada.

Additional measures that we have taken in response to this outbreak include:

  • providing instructions for travellers who have been to locations classified at level 3 on the Travel Health Notice webpage, including the Province of Hubei, China; Iran; or Italy to monitor themselves for symptoms, to self-isolate at home for 14 days, and to contact local public health authorities in their area if they develop symptoms within 14 days; 
  • displaying additional signage to raise traveller awareness at airport;
  • offering travellers a general COVID-19 information handout at all ports of entry;
  • using health screening questions to identify travellers of concern;
  • providing travellers of concern a mask kit consisting of a surgical mask and one-page instructions on how to use a surgical mask;
  • working with the support of Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) officers to screen travellers who may pose a risk; and
  • screening of travellers who may be unwell in the customs hall and at ports of entry.

We are closely monitoring COVID-19 developments and just as we have done over the last number of weeks, we will adjust our posture as the situation warrants. We have capacity to add additional measures as required to keep Canada safe.

The CBSA response is coordinated with other government departments and agencies. We are working closely with Health Canada and PHAC. While CBSA officers conduct initial screening of travellers, anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms is referred to a PHAC staff member for further evaluation.

Our own border services officers have the tools they need to keep themselves safe. In addition to their regular protective equipment, occupational health officials from Health Canada have been providing ongoing training on COVID-19 and on the proper use of personal protective equipment. The CBSA is also in regular communication with the Customs and Immigration Union regarding safety measures for our officers.

If a situation arises where a CBSA officer must be in close proximity to a potentially infected traveller for a prolonged period of time, officers have access to gloves, eye/face protection and a mask.

Our organization remains ready to adjust and adapt as needed to protect the health and safety of Canadians, ensure economic resilience, and contribute to the international response on COVID-19.”

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