Protecting and supporting Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic

News release

CBSA 2020 operational and enforcement highlights

December 10, 2020
Ottawa, Ontario 

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) today released operational and enforcement highlights that demonstrate how the CBSA has safeguarded our health, security and economy during these unprecedented times.

The Agency has worked closely with its federal, provincial and territorial partners to implement and enforce public health directives, to keep commerce and trade moving and our communities safe.

Despite new and complex challenges posed by the pandemic, CBSA officers continued to fulfill the Agency’s mandate, stopping a substantial amount of drugs, firearms and other contraband from entering our communities.

The 2020 enforcement and operational highlights cover January 1 to October 31, 2020.

National Highlights

CBSA employees adjust quickly to new realities of border management during pandemic
CBSA employees were quick to adopt and integrate the directions of over 30 Orders in Council issued by the Government of Canada to restrict travel and keep Canadians safe during the pandemic. The CBSA adjusted its posture in response to this pandemic and worked closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to ensure border measures were enforced, including onboarding in June an additional 35 PHAC health screeners to work alongside the CBSA in high volume ports, under a Memorandum of Understanding.

Shifting resources to respond to courier shipment increases
The CBSA reprioritized resources in its courier facilitation and screening to adjust to a surge during COVID. The volume of courier shipments increased by almost 33% in the first 10 months of 2020 when compared to the same period in 2019. That increase is expected to continue to rise as we enter the busiest month of shopping for the holiday season.

Touchless process creates savings and speeds processing of commercial imports
By pivoting to replace paper processing with “touchless” methods, the CBSA created cost savings and reduced a three day process to 30 minutes for brokers to clear goods. This helped keep supply chains strong and merchandise on Canadian store shelves with commercial goods imported from around the globe.

CBSA responds to a sharp spike in information requests about new COVID border measures
Border Information Service (BIS) handled 629,752 calls compared to 355,825 during the same period last year, an increase of 77% in call volumes compared to 2019. Also, from January to October 2020, the BIS received 67,417 e-mails compared to 25,320 e-mails last year, which is an increase of 166%.

NEXUS program upgrades and new tech features added to airports kiosks
The CBSA completed its NEXUS Modernization Initiative in October upgrading kiosks at airports across Canada with new, modernized  NEXUS facial verification kiosks and eGates. The new technology will help make crossing the border smoother and enhance the traveller experience while maintaining border security and keeping Canadians safe.

CBSA continues to recover missing or abducted children – 24 this year adds to almost 2000 children over the past 3 decades
Since January, 24 missing children were reunited with the parents or legal guardians. The Our Missing Children Program (OMC) is comprised of four federal Government Departments including the CBSA, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Department of Justice Canada (DOJ) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC). Founded in 1986, CBSA officers have reunited 1,959 missing or abducted children with their parents or legal guardians. 

Keeping Canadians safe by stopping weapons and firearms at the border
Stopping weapons and firearms at the border continues to be a high priority for the CBSA. Border Services Officers kept over 39,000 weapons off the streets of our communities in 2020. This represents a 135% increase over the total number of weapons seized for all of 2019. Additionally, 437 firearms were seized for the period of January 1 to October 31, 2020. 

CBSA provides guidance to businesses to offset economic impacts of COVID
The Government of Canada took immediate, significant and decisive action to support Canadians and businesses facing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The CBSA issued guidance on a number of temporary measures such as an extension of time frames, late accounting penalties, the importation of emergency goods and system changes to provide assistance to businesses and individuals most affected by the economic impacts of the pandemic through the COVID -19 Economic Response Plan.

Regional Highlights

CBSA Regional operations have had a number of enforcement successes and other achievements throughout the year as they remained focused on our mandate and managing through the COVID pandemic.

Atlantic Region 

Over $3.8 million worth of stolen vehicles intercepted
CBSA officers have been busy intercepting stolen vehicles destined for overseas. So far this year, 85 stolen vehicles valued at $3,825,000 were seized in the Atlantic Region. Vehicle types include pick-up trucks, cars, SUVs and various luxury vehicles. Our officers work with the Insurance Bureau of Canada and local law enforcement to identify, intercept and investigate these cases.

Quebec Region

Project Butane shuts down tobacco smuggling operation
On September 25, charges were laid against 13 individuals tied to a criminal organization at the Longueuil (QUE) courthouse following a major contraband tobacco investigation called Project Butane. According to the evidence collected by the CBSA during the investigation, this organization imported 88 loads of bulk tobacco to Canada between September 2, 2017, and May 27, 2019. The fraud strategies of this organization allegedly led to an estimated $450 million in lost tobacco duties and taxes.

Teamwork keeps $30 million of opium off the streets
On February 17, CBSA officers at the Port of Montreal (QUE) seized 507 kg of suspected opium found in a marine container arriving from Pakistan. The drugs, valued at approximately $30.4 million, were found thanks to astute information sharing and targeting methods.

Northern Ontario Region 

Employees help repatriation efforts
In our role to assist with the repatriation of Canadians from some of the first COVID-19 quarantined zones, officers, superintendents, and chiefs from the CBSA’s Northern Ontario Region volunteered to deploy to Canadian Forces Base Trenton (ON). In total, close to 600 passengers and crew from four flights originating from Wuhan, China’s Hubei province, and Japan landed and were processed at the air force base.

Greater Toronto Region 

CBSA expedites the release of PPE shipments
At the height of the first wave of the pandemic when Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was in critical demand, CBSA officers in the GTA ensured the expedited release of these shipments while remaining vigilant for any fraudulent or substandard products that could be harmful for Canadians. This was a collaborative effort between the CBSA and many partners and stakeholders such as the PHAC, Health Canada, the Department of National Defence, airport authorities, airlines, ground handlers and warehouse operators at both Toronto Pearson International Airport (ON) and John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport (ON). This combined effort resulted in approximately 80,000 shipments of PPE being facilitated by CBSA during the period from January and November 2020.

Southern Ontario Region 

Tobacco seizures are way up in 2020
From January 1 to October 31, 2020, the total amount of tobacco seized in the Southern Ontario Region (SOR) increased by 313% compared to the same period in 2019 (92,956 kg in 2019 compared to 383,497 kg in 2020) equating to a total value of $68.1 million. Officers at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor (ON) alone seized 282,161 kg of tobacco products accounting for 74% of the region’s total tobacco seizures in 2020.

Value of narcotics seized doubles
The value of narcotics seized in the SOR increased by 98% to $64 million in 2020 with a combined weight of 589 kg compared to the same period in 2019. That includes a record amount of 255 kg of cocaine with a value of $31.9 million seized at the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia (ON) on September 8, 2020 and 117.7 kg of cocaine worth $14 million was seized at the Queenston Bridge in Niagara Falls (ON) on August 18.

Prairie Region 

One person charged for immigration scam
After dismantling a fraudulent immigration scheme in Saskatchewan, the CBSA announced charges against Gurpreet Singh on January 21 for his alleged involvement in exploiting work permit exemptions afforded to certain temporary foreign workers. The CBSA alleges that Singh, 34, impersonated registered charities by falsifying job offer letters and then selling them, for profit, to individuals seeking to gain entry to or remain in Canada.

Fake bus pass find leads to charges for Edmonton man
On June 26, CBSA officers at Edmonton International Airport intercepted more than 1,000 fraudulent bus passes, worth more than $100,000 total, which resulted in further investigation of the importer. On October 7, the regional Criminal Investigations Section and the Edmonton Police Service jointly announced charges against Yuexuan Wu of Edmonton, Alberta. 

Pacific Region

Officers from NTC and Tsawwassen Container Facility team up to take over 100 kg of methamphetamine off Canadian streets
On February 4, 2020, after receiving information from the CBSA National Targeting Centre (NTC), CBSA officers at the Tsawwassen Container Examination Facility (Tsawwassen, BC) examined a container from Mexico using a wide range of detection tools and technology. During the examination, bags of white crystal were discovered and the CBSA laboratory confirmed the results were positive for methamphetamine. The CBSA estimates the value of 106 kilograms of methamphetamine to be approximately $13.5 million.


“Working on the front-lines, CBSA employees across the country have assisted with on-going efforts to keep food and goods on store shelves. They have also enabled the entry of personal protective equipment for the health care industry and our families. They protected our communities limiting the spread of COVID-19, while continuing to keep inadmissible people and goods from entering Canada. We are very grateful for the work they have done and continue to do to keep Canadians safe during this global pandemic.”

– John Ossowski, President, Canada Border Services Agency

Quick facts

  • The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is working closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 into Canada at all international ports of entry. PHAC is responsible for advising the CBSA of any required enhanced measures to be implemented at the Canadian border to help prevent the spread of serious infectious diseases into Canada. 

  • Cross-border supply chains are vital to ensure the continued flow of goods, including food and medical supplies for all Canadians. As such, the CBSA is working with other federal partners to share information with commercial stakeholders to provide assurances that commercial traffic is not impeded.

  • For information on current border measures and requirements during COVID-19, visit the CBSA website or call the CBSA’s information line (1-800-461-9999) or visit

  • Travellers are encouraged to keep up-to-date on matters related to COVID-19 by checking with the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Web page.

  • All travellers (asymptomatic and symptomatic) are required to provide their contact information using the Traveller Contact Information Form (paper or online), the ArriveCAN mobile application, or to a border services officer verbally (land mode only) and follow the 14-day quarantine or isolation requirement. All information collected in the Traveller Contact Information Form is provided to PHAC. The App is available on the Apple App and Google Play stores.

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