Sep 3, 2012 / 7:30 am
A complaints system run by the Canada Border Services Agency is documenting cases of travellers enduring rude behaviour and lengthy interrogations, as well as one case where someone was falsely identified as a person "with criminal ties."
According to quarterly reports obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act, there were 1,105 complaints, about six per day, about the services provided by the agency's employees from Jan. 7 until the end of June last year.
A report by the agency on the revamped complaints system obtained under freedom of information legislation says .0025 per cent of all travellers complain about the service from its employees, adding "this rate will be used in future media calls as it puts the Canada Border Services Agency in a positive light."
However, a civil liberties advocate says he is concerned about the incidents that have emerged and believes it demonstrates an independent oversight agency is needed, similar to arms-length commissions that oversee the RCMP and other police agencies.
In a separate record created from its database, the agency has documented 129 cases where complaints about "employee or officer conduct" were found to be valid by internal investigators.
Esme Bailey, a spokeswoman for the agency, says that doesn't necessarily mean officers conducted themselves improperly, as there are cases where the agency ruled the officer behaved properly but there was still an unnecessary wait or delay for a traveller.
"It means the client's concerns were generally founded on some level," she wrote in an email.
One of the records says that a highway border agent accused a traveller of "being someone he's not."
Bailey says in an email the record shows the clerk's early description of the complaint and it may have been revised later.
In the email, Bailey says: "(The) client name matches one with criminal ties. (The) client is required to obtain documents from his/her local FBI office and have them present the next time he/she is seeking entry into Canada."
There were also cases of clients upset about their interviews at border crossings.
One traveller said they'd gone through an unreasonably lengthy interview after being taken into an office for questioning. Bailey writes in an email: "the delays for the secondary examination were found to be lengthy. Therefore the allegations that the procedures were not followed properly were found to be valid."
"The client alleged it took three hours for the examination, but documentation shows that it took one hour and 12 minutes."
Bailey declined to give dates, locations or indicate what discipline officers received, citing privacy concerns..
The agency, which has 5,500 uniformed officers, processed more than 90 million travellers in 2011 and the complaints total only a tiny fraction of the total, she says.
The agency also says it had 217 compliments through the feedback system in 2011.
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