Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.
My name is Mark Weber. I'm the national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, which represents personnel working for the Canada Border Services Agency.
From the point of view of the union representing those who, every day, are hard at work protecting our borders and ensuring safe and efficient cross-border operations, what's perhaps most vexing about ArriveCAN is how it was developed without any meaningful consultation with, or input from, frontline officers—not when the idea was first proposed, not when the app was initially developed and definitely not at any point during one of the more than 70 updates that the app had to undergo.
This is certainly par for the course for the agency, and regrettably frontline officers are used to this. Still, it defies reason that an application designed for the front line would be developed without involving those who serve on the front line and who know what works and what doesn't. It defies reason that the government would insist on continuing to inject capital into a project that neither facilitates nor enhances border processes, all the while claiming that it does and without any consideration for what's actually going on at the border.
What defies reason the most is that all of this is going on while our border services are facing a severe staffing crisis. To say that there is a deficit of between 2,000 and 3,000 border officers at this very moment is not an exaggeration. By choosing to sink dozens of millions of dollars into ArriveCAN while its border services' workforce is understaffed and overworked, the federal government is simply gambling with Canada's ability to maintain a safe and properly functioning border.
ArriveCAN is certainly not unique at CBSA. It's one example in a long line of far-reaching technological band-aid solutions in search of a problem, solutions that ultimately fail to enhance border security and effectiveness in any real way. What they also have in common is that they are always developed without involving the frontline personnel who actually work at the border.
From our perspective, what the government and CBSA can learn from the ArriveCAN experience is that, if they want to effectively and properly manage our borders while ensuring that the projects designed to do so are sound, they must rely on and seek out the expertise of frontline border officers in a meaningful way. Our members are proud of the work they do. They're proud of serving Canadians, and I know they would jump at the opportunity to help improve our border processes.
In conclusion, it's my hope that the union's input will assist this committee in its important work.
I thank you and look forward to your questions.