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CBSA looks for actors to play smugglers, be struck for recruit training program

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OTTAWA — The Canada Border Services Agency is looking once again for a handful of stunt actors to be thrown down, handcuffed, searched and beaten to help train new recruits.

The agency has posted bid documents online, looking for a company to supply actors for its training centre in Rigaud, Que., between Ottawa and Montreal.

The documents outline how the stunt actors will act out up to 15 situations a day, such as feigning nervousness while trying to smuggle drugs across the border in a car, to help the agency assess the skills of new border agents.

The people hired can expect to be handcuffed, thrown, held down using “pain compliance techniques,” and hit by trainees’ fists, feet or batons.

They also must avoid any personal relationships with the recruits or CBSA staff “in order to keep it at a professional level only.”

Bidding for the one-year contract closes in early September, but the documents don’t list an expected price.

The CBSA has yet to respond to questions posed to the agency this morning.

It’s the second time this year that the agency has gone out looking for a company to supply it with actors, and it appears that some of the feedback from that earlier work has been incorporated into the new contract offer.

For instance, the bidding company has to have at least 12 months experience over 10 years finding professional stunt actors, instead of the 36 months over five years after the CBSA was told the latter target would be difficult to hit.

The government’s procurement website doesn’t list a contract awarded for the last offer, which closed in early April.

The bid documents posted Monday say actors will need to know how to use a pistol, speak both official languages, and have completed the national firearms-safety course.

During simulations, they will have to wear their own clothes, along with safety gloves, forearm pads, knee pads and shin guards, among other safety gear provided by the winning company.

The goal is to have “professional stunt actors” on hand to “act out the scenario while taking into account the reactions of the persons being assessed,” the bid documents say.

“The actor must be able to recreate different behaviours while respecting the context established by CBSA instructors and being able to be physically restrained using the prescribed control and defence tactics related to the use-of-force continuum and CBSA policies.”

Border-agent recruits spend 18 weeks in training after completing up to 50 hours of online distance learning. They then work in various spots across the country as officer trainees.

More than 300 recruits are trained annually by the CBSA.

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Mendicino: foreign-agent registry would need equity lens, could be part of ‘tool box’

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By Dylan Robertson in Ottawa

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino says a registry to track foreign agents operating in Canada can only be implemented in lockstep with diverse communities.

“There is a historical context when it comes to some communities within this country and their relationship with [security] agencies and the law-enforcement community,” Mendicino told the House committee on Canada-China relations Monday evening.

“We need agencies to be inclusive, diverse, culturally sensitive.”

Two months ago, the Liberals said they will eventually consult the public on the possible creation of a foreign agent registry, to prevent outside interference in Canadian affairs.

But the government has yet to formally launch that consultation.

The United States and Australia have public registries that require people advocating for a foreign state to register their activities, under penalty of fines or jail time.

Mendicino told the committee that Ottawa has to be careful to not isolate communities who have felt under the microscope of security agencies. He also told reporters after his testimony that Ottawa is taking the idea to its own advisory panels before soliciting public input.

“I wouldn’t describe it as a hesitation; I think we need to be diligent and thoughtful and inclusive, when it comes to bringing all Canadians along in the modernization of the tools and the arsenal that we create for our national security and intelligence communities,” he told the committee.

Mendicino also told MPs a foreign agent registry alone would not drastically alter Canada’s ability to detect and confront national-security threats, and would only be launched as part of “a tool box” of other measures.

“While there is attention to looking at each of the examples of tools we might consult on, including the foreign-agent registry, I would discourage the members of this committee from quickly concluding that any one of these in isolation will work by itself,” he said.

Conservative public-safety critic Raquel Dancho accused the Liberals of stalling on launching a registry.

“Anything that is stopping it would just be an excuse at this point. I think any government that’s operating through legitimate diplomatic relations in Canada should welcome an official registry,” she said in an interview between witness testimony.

“That should be sort of the cost of doing business in Canada through diplomatic relations.”

Mendicino appeared at the committee based on a request last October from MPs to have senior officials testify on three allegedly illegal police stations operating in the Greater Toronto Area.

Since then, advocates for Chinese democracy have alleged China is running two other police stations in Canada, including one in Vancouver.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told MPs that Mounties are only aware of four alleged police stations and that officers have attended the scene in uniforms to gather information and be seen.

She believes that has yielded tips from the public, and noted that at least one of the apparent police stations seemed to have operated in the backroom of a commercial business.

Lucki noted that no one has been charged in connection with these so-called police stations, and suggested the public would be informed if that was the case.

Similarly, Mendicino said the public would be made aware if any diplomats had been ordered to leave Canada in relation to the issue.

Yet NDP foreign-affairs critic Heather McPherson questioned how police are handling tips from communities who allege they’re being targeted by foreign countries.

The Edmonton MP said constituents who are Uyghur or originating from Hong Kong have reported being passed between the RCMP, local police and an RCMP-run hotline, and that local police seem unaware how to handle the reports.

“We’re hearing a very different story form people who are living in these communities,” McPherson said.

More officials will testify Monday night from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP and Public Safety Canada.

The evening meeting follows the appearance of a Chinese balloon that drifted over Canadian territory before it was spotted over the skies of Montana, leading opposition parties to ask why Ottawa didn’t alert Canadians earlier.

Last November, the federal Liberals unveiled their Indo-Pacific strategy, which calls for stronger ties with countries other than China to counterbalance Beijing’s approach to human rights and trade.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2023.

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McKinsey doesn’t meet criteria for banning company from federal contracts: bureaucrat

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By Nojoud Al Mallees in Ottawa

The deputy minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada says the federal government’s ethics rules do not disqualify consulting firm McKinsey & Company from doing business with the federal government despite scrutiny of the firm’s global track record.

Paul Thompson answered questions about the firm’s government contracts at a House of Commons committee Monday.

He said a Canadian company would be barred from federal contracts if one of its affiliates has been convicted of a crime, which is not the case for McKinsey.

The company has faced scrutiny for its work around the world, including its alleged involvement in the opioid crisis in the U.S. and its work with authoritarian governments.

The House of Commons government operations committee is digging into contracts awarded to McKinsey since 2011 following media reports showing a rapid increase in the company’s federal contracts under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.

The government says McKinsey has received at least $116.8 million in federal contracts since 2015.

At a news conference Monday, Conservative MP Garnett Genuis said the federal government shouldn’t be contracting with McKinsey. “We cannot work with a company that’s behaving in the way McKinsey has.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2023.

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