Earlier this week, Le Journal de Montréal reported that it had obtained an internal memo from the Office of the Minister of Public Safety that appeared to be aimed at reducing information leaks on the part of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers: “Only designated spokespersons can make statements or observations to the media about field operations.”
The memo, dated April 12, adds that the media interest in the work of the CBSA has increased dramatically since the “increase in the number of asylum seekers at the border” during “Easter weekend and the days that followed”.
According to a field agent quoted in the Journal’s piece, however, the directive irritates border services officers who want the Canadian public to know the truth. “It’s still disconcerting,” the anonymous field agent said. “There’s a law of silence that has lasted since last summer.”
The Journal also quotes an email from a spokesperson for the Minister of Public Safety: “We want to emphasize that the Government of Canada and the CBSA are committed to promoting transparency while respecting the importance of protecting information of an operational nature.”
However, a lack of transparency about illegal immigration seems to have been a recurring problem for the government ever since the migrant influx began in 2017.
Despite many media requests, the federal government refused to release the official number of asylum seekers that had shown up at the border during the height of the crisis last summer. Border services officers only communicated the information to journalists informally. This data is updated more regularly by Ottawa now, but according to the Journal, the government still fails to release requested information in a timely manner on occasion.
Moreover, the same border agent quoted earlier also says that agents are being left in the dark: “We are the first responders. We should be clearly informed of the game plan. If there is another crisis like last summer, will it be the army that will be called in as reinforcements? We do not know.”