The third-party review looked at the CBSA’s business in Cornwall, Ontario. office, which crosses New York State and the Akwesasne First Nation, a territory of the Mohawk Nation that encompasses the islands of the St. Lawrence River and straddles the Canada-United States border. “During this review, which took place from March to June of this year, employees at the Cornwall Port of Entry told us that they face many challenges while working hard every day to manage the operation, ”CBSA President John Ossowski said in a memo to staff today.
“Many have reported disturbing and unacceptable behavior in the workplace, including instances of racism, discrimination, abuse, harassment and preferential treatment. “
Earlier this year, research firm ParriagGroup interviewed past and current employees of the office and conducted an online survey “to ensure that working conditions at the Cornwall port of entry were healthy for staff and contributed important work of reconciliation with the Akwesasne First Nation, ”said a slideshow of the report obtained by CBC News.
The report’s findings point to “occurrences of harassment, racism, homophobia – internal and external” and a “presence of fear of reprisal”.
The researchers also heard from employees about the need for increased accountability and support in mental health.
CBC News asked if the allegations involved conflict between CBSA staff or with members of the public, and asked for more details on the allegations of racism and harassment.
A senior CBSA official said the review did not go into detail as researchers only provided the agency with aggregate data to protect those who spoke openly.
“However, we have enough information to be able to start asking more pointed questions,” said the official, who requested anonymity.
“We are still conducting follow-up investigations and will take disciplinary action where appropriate, where appropriate. “
CBSA investigates allegations of abuse
ParriagGroup recommended that the CBSA ensure that all breaches of the code of conduct are documented and make it clear to staff that there will be consequences.
He also suggested more training on positive workplace culture and First Nations culture, especially Akwesasne Mohawk culture.
The CBSA said that since receiving the report, it has launched a separate investigation into potential abuse of power and sexual harassment and encourages staff to submit formal and more detailed allegations without fear of reprisal.
He also promised to step up his senior management presence at the transit office and brought in a human resources worker with training in conflict management to speak to staff.
The CBSA official said he was grateful to staff members who expressed their concerns.
“This is something that we initiated, we requested it, because it is so important for us to make sure that our employees work in a healthy environment, and that the environment in which they work is able to support the reconciliation at all levels, ”said the official.
The CBSA’s passage has long been an irritant for Akwesasne. In 2009, community members staged a six-week standoff around the Kawehno: ke (Cornwall Island) post in Mohawk territory to protest the arming of border guards.
Last year, an interior lane was opened for motorists traveling directly between Kawehno: ke and Cornwall to facilitate crossings.
According to 2018 figures, more than 1.5 million travelers were processed at the Cornwall border crossing, and more than one million of them resided in the Mohawk communities of St. Regis, Quebec. and Akwesasne.
Due to Akwesasne’s unique position, the Cornwall level crossing has a priority lane reserved for residents.