CBSA Northern Ontario Region: Operational and enforcement highlights from 2021

Pigeon River Border Crossing
Pigeon River Border Crossing

Thunder Bay – NEWS – The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Northern Ontario Region (NOR) are sharing some of this year operational and enforcement highlights covering the period from January 1 to October 31, 2021.

With its boundaries stretching from the Arctic Circle in the north, to the Manitoba border in the west, the Quebec border in the east, and the outskirts of Metropolitan Toronto in the south, the Northern Ontario Region is the second largest administrative area in the CBSA covering almost 3,000,000 square kilometres.

Border management and border enforcement services are delivered at seven land ports of entry, two rail crossings, three seasonal ports of entry, two marine ports of entry, over 100 marine reporting sites, one ferry crossing, and more than 25 airports and air reporting sites.

Keeping our communities safe

On January 16, Border Services Officers (BSOs) at the Pigeon River port of entry (POE) conducted an examination on a commercial vehicle. The search resulted in the discovery of narcotics residue, including fentanyl, as well a manual pill press, which tested positive for amphetamine residue. The pill press is prohibited to import under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The driver and the pill press were turned over to the RCMP for follow-up within their mandate.

On January 28, the NOR’s Intelligence and Enforcement Operations Division (IEOD), in collaboration with the Cornwall Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Border Integrity, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police, executed search warrants were simultaneously in Cornwall, on Cornwall Island and in Hogansburg, New York as part of Project Hammerhead.

Consequently, over 510 kg of marijuana were seized along with $467,480 CAD, $3,000 USD, three loaded handguns with their magazines, and five vehicles. Initiated and led by the CBSA NOR, Project Hammerhead involved an investigation into an alleged sophisticated cross border smuggling organization, utilizing the Akwesasne territory as a transit point to facilitate the smuggling of firearms, marijuana, and currency across the Canada/United States border. This led to the arrest of two residents of Cornwall, one resident of Cornwall Island, one resident of St. Regis, Quebec, and three residents of Hogansburg, New York. The Cornwall Police Service arrested Mark Rudolph, of Cornwall. Rudolph entered a guilty plea and is awaiting sentencing. The other individuals were arrested by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

On February 17, with the support of the OPP, the NOR’s IEOD executed a search warrant at a residence in the Kawartha Lakes area. The search resulted in the seizure of the following: one restricted handgun, one replica handgun, one shot gun, two rifles, one Taser, one stun gun-flashlight, one set of brass knuckles, one butterfly knife, two switchblades, three nunchakus, 21 throwing stars and one blow gun. The CBSA charged Lawrence Brazeau, from Kawartha Lakes, with 27 charges under the Criminal Code of Canada and the Customs Act. Brazeau is still before the court.

On March 25, in partnership with the OPP Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit, the NOR’s IEOD executed a search warrant at a residence in the Town of Greater Napanee, Ontario. The search resulted in the seizure of: a set of brass knuckles, a loaded zip gun, an estimated 1.5 ounces of suspected crystal meth, 200 suspected Schedule 1 pills, and 11 bottles of suspected methadone. Darryl Vanalstyne faced 12 charges following the warrant execution. Vanalstyne is still before the court.

On March 28, a Quebec resident arrived at the Cornwall POE and was referred for a secondary examination. During the examination, officers discovered one assault rifle, 17 prohibited handguns, eight restricted handguns, one suppressor and 44 magazines. Christopher Jacobs was arrested on March 28, 2021 and kept under detention until his bail hearing. He was released with conditions on May 20, 2021. The case is proceeding and Jacobs is facing three charges under the Customs Act and 74 charges under the Criminal Code of Canada.

On March 29, the Prescott POE conducted an export examination project. Though the project was non-resultant for contraband, Prescott was instrumental in conducting this innovative pilot to determine feasibility, best practices, and expansion opportunities for future commercial export examination opportunities. More than 30 commercial drivers were interviewed upon their exit from Canada, and 16 commercial vehicles were examined by both border services officers and the CBSA Detector Dog Service.

On May 28, in partnership with the OPP Lanark, Leeds and Grenville Community Street Crime Unit, the NOR’s IEOD executed multiple search warrants in Lanark and Perth, Ontario. The searches resulted in the seizure of the following: ten switchblades, ten suspected firearms, two Taser Batons, three Tasers, twelve Taser cartridges and one spring loaded baton.  Devon Cutmore is facing 24 charges following the warrant execution. His father, Keith Cutmore, is facing 18 charges. Both are still before the court.

In August, an American citizen travelling with her minor child was referred for a secondary examination at the Lansdowne POE. During the examination it was determined that the mother had previously kidnapped the child and departed Canada, despite an Ontario court ruling that awarded the child’s father full rights and custody. With the assistance of the OPP, the CBSA was able to reunite the child with their father at the Lansdowne POE. CBSA officers and the OPP oversaw the father’s joyful reunion with his child.

The Fort Frances Flexible Response Team made 30 trips on the boundary waters this year (both winter and summer). The team encountered 38 vessels that had illegally entered Canadian waters. Following CBSA policy, the information was shared with the RCMP.

The Cornwall POE made several large tobacco seizures in 2021. The cycle of production, distribution, sale and end-use of contraband tobacco is a crime with significant impact on Canadian society and on global and domestic health objectives. Proceeds of illicit tobacco fuel organized crime and undermine the safety of our communities. These seizures are an excellent example of the work done by our officers to keep contraband tobacco off our streets and safeguard our communities:

  • September 7: 31 cases of chewing tobacco/snuff and two cases of cigars
  • September 16: 10 bags weighing approximately 147 kg
  • October 1: 20 garbage bags weighing approximately 295 kg

Facilitating a strong economy

While traveller volumes were lower due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, officers in the NOR still processed approximately 177,094 commercial trucks, 162,396 air shipments, and 847,667 courier shipments and 1,664,749 travellers. During this same period, 423,490 commercial shipments were released.

From January 1 until October 31, the Fort Frances POE processed a total of 2,363 trains, carrying more than 101,126 shipments.

In May, the CBSA enforced trade and border legislation when members of the CBSA at the Sault Ste. Marie POE facilitated the repositioning of a vessel. The client indicated that they were returning their boat to Canada after having stored it in the United States for the winter. Border Services Officers questioned the client and determined that the boat had not previously been imported into Canada. It was seized and the client paid over $51,000 for its release. Had they properly declared their vessel originally, they would have paid just $27,460.

The CBSA collects customs duties as a way to protect certain sectors of the Canadian economy. The CBSA also uses Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS) to issue penalties to commercial clients for violating trade and border legislation, such as failure to pay duties. A total of $330,950 AMPS were issued to commercial importers who violated trade and border legislation.

Supporting other government departments

The Ottawa Cargo Services ensured consistent tracking and clearance of COVID-19 vaccines entering the country.

On the evening of August 16, officers at the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport completed the clearance of Canadian Embassy members, Global Affairs Canada employees, and Canadian Forces personnel who had been evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan.

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