CBSA Chief Holly Stoner stands with some of the 81 firearms

CBSA Chief Holly Stoner stands with some of the 81 firearms

Toews drops by for a show of force

Public safety minister wants taxpayers to know how their money is spent

It was a show of criminal weaponry and smuggling ingenuity – and a show of the new technology and increased efficiency with which the Canada Border Services Agency hopes to defeat it.

But most of all, federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ visit to the Pacific Highway Commercial Operations port of entry Friday – as he freely admitted – was a show for the media.

Among the things they saw was a display of 81 firearms – many of them sophisticated automatic weapons – seized at the border between January and July, a 40 per cent increase over the same period last year.

But they also saw scanning technology with which CBSA hopes to step up detection of contraband, including illicit drugs and firearms, among commercial shipments, as well as speed the processing of vehicles.

“I happen to believe the media has a very important role to play to send out a message about what the Canadian government is doing with taxpayers’ money,” Toews told a dozen print and broadcast reporters and photographers who toured the facility with him.

What the federal government is doing principally at the Pacific Highway port of entry is investing in an upgrade of the facility – planned for 2012 – that will include a gantry-mounted Heimann CargoVision (HCV) X-ray scanner that will enable CBSA officers to see inside trailer trucks and other commercial vehicles during drive-through inspections.

A full value of the project, which has yet to go to tender, is still to be announced, but the mobile version of the HCV – brought in from CBSA’s Delta Port-based marine operations division for the demonstration – is worth some $2.5 million alone.

“That’s amazing,” Toews said as he watched the computer monitors’ scan of a truck carrying lumber. “You can see the texture of the wood.”

Following the demonstration, Marine Operations superintendent Grant Hornby explained the machine, which CBSA has been using for two years, is not a magic solution that catches every smuggling attempt, but another resource to use alongside more traditional methods such as dogs and physical searches of trucks.

“It will be our vehicle of choice for at least five years,” he said. “We try to use a multiplicity of tools, but this has been very beneficial.”

CBSA Pacific Highway District director Kim Scoville said the agency is hopeful the installation of an HCV will increase efficiency and reduce lineups at the crossing, which is, by volume of business, the third largest commercial port of entry in Canada.

In his formal comments, Toews said the port last year handled some 325,000 trucks, 340,000 people and 540,000 commercial shipments.

But he said current discussions with U.S. authorities are focused on facilitating movement of goods and travellers, while still ensuring security is at a high level.

“We want to take steps to protect the borders of both nations against international terrorism and international crime generally,” he said.

Toews was shown the interior of a large trailer, seized at the border around five years ago that had a false floor concealing a series of metal drawers for transporting large quantities of contraband drugs.

CBSA officer Scott Byhre explained that smugglers had moved to constructing false trailer floors after false noses on trucks were beginning to be discovered with regularity.

“They evolved and we have evolved,” he said.

Also on display for Toews were all 81 of the firearms seized at the crossing in the first seven months of this year, as opposed to 51 during the same period of last year.

“What surprises me and what I find unsettling is the type of weapons we are finding,”  Scoville told Peace Arch News about the haul, which, as well as handguns, includes assault rifles and heavy-calibre automatic weapons with high-capacity magazines.

“It used to be that we would get Ma and Pa gun owners from the U.S. who were coming into the country unaware of our regulations.”

But Scoville said it is a matter of conjecture why such sophisticated weaponry is increasingly being smuggled into Canada.

“It’s hard to characterize it,” he said, although he acknowledged the suspicion that it’s linked to drug gangs and organized crime on the Lower Mainland.

“It may fit in with the sudden surge of gun activity in Vancouver,” he added.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

White Rock Rotary Club president Mauricio Browne de Paula (front right) with other club and community volunteers at the launch of the free hot lunch program at the city parking lot at Russell Avenue and Johnston Road on May 21. (File photo)
Daily demand for White Rock Rotary, city lunch program surpasses 40

Recipients ‘are very good people… going through some tough times’

Surrey Fire Service responded to a fire in the industrial area of 192nd street and 54th Avenue early Saturday morning (Jan. 23, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews respond to fire in industrial area

Fire happened early Saturday morning

Students at Creekside Elementary in Surrey wrote letters to seniors over the holidays, and are planning to write more for Valentine’s Day and Family Day. (Photo: surreyschools.ca)
Surrey elementary students connect with seniors through letter writing

Creekside students planning to send more cards for Valentine’s Day

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Police called to Surrey home for report of weapon, man taken into custody

Surrey RCMP say people evacuated from house, one found in a bedroom ‘hiding from police’

Judy and Ken Reid share a smile at Peace Arch Hospital in 2018. Judy raised concerns last month about how the COVID-19 vaccine would be rolled out. Now, she says no one is telling residents or families when they will start to see restrictions ease. (Contributed photo)
Timeline for reduced restrictions in long-term care a concern for spouse of South Surrey senior

‘We’re not yet at that point,’ says provincial health officer

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment Mission, has break-out year

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Giants defenceman Bowen Byram has recorded his first NHL career point (Rob Wilton/special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Vancouver Giants Bowen Byram records first NHL career point with Colorado Avalanche

Player with Langley-based WHL franchise assisted on goal against the Ducks

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Most Read