Toews won’t speed up arming border guards
SURREY, B.C.—Public Safety minister Vic Toews says he’s not interested in speeding up the arming of border guards despite the shooting this week that sent a guard at a B.C. crossing to hospital with a gunshot wound.
The Canada Border Services Agency said in 2006 that it planned to arm its 4,800 guards within 10 years, and so far just under half have been trained.
“One thousand officers a year, given the expansion of the front-line officers that we’ve done, is remarkable good progress,” Toews noted Wednesday in Ottawa.
“I think it’s prudent,” he added. “I’d be very reluctant to tell the agency to speed that up if it meant compromising the security training.”
Canadian border guard Lori Bowcock was shot Tuesday in her customs booth at the Douglas border crossing, also known as Peace Arch, south of Vancouver.
She remained in hospital yesterday in stable condition.
Police have said a man driving a white van with Washington state licence plates shot her and then killed himself.
The suspect was identified yesterday afternoon by the B.C. Coroners Service as 32-year-old Andrew Michael Crews. The man previously had lived in Bremerton, Wash. and reportedly had moved to Seattle recently.
The suspect’s stepfather said Crews texted his mother hours earlier to say he loved her and was sorry.
Danny Lupinek of Henderson, Nev. said his stepson didn’t indicate what he meant by that text and family members were unable to reach him later.
Police have not publicly speculated on what motivated the shooting.
“The current evidence clearly indicates that prior to taking his own life, Mr. Crews deliberately fired at the victim,” RCMP Supt. Kevin Hackett, who is in charge of the region’s homicide unit, said in a statement.
“There is no evidence, however, to suggest the victim was specifically targeted.”
Bowcock had worked as a civilian dispatcher with the OPP until this past spring. She started work at the B.C. border crossing three months ago.
Roslyn MacVicar, the border agency’s regional director for the Pacific region, said in a statement that Bowcock is expected to make a full recovery.
The guard’s mother and brothers are by her side.
MacVicar said Bowcock completed her training with the agency in July and was deployed to the region. She hadn’t yet completed the training that would allow her to carry a firearm.
“I know everyone within our organization is thinking about Lori and wishing her well,” MacVicar said in the statement.
“This incident is a profound reminder of the risks that border services officers assume every day in their role to protect the safety and security of all Canadians,” she added.
David Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, issued a statement of support for the officer.
“This tragic incident reminds us of the work our border service officers do—often under dangerous conditions—to ensure the security and the economic success of North America,” he said.
“They deserve our respect and our appreciation.”
More than 2,000 of the 4,800 border guards in Canada have been trained to carry a firearm.
Training is incremental in every region of Canada, with the goal of having some armed guards at every border point.
“It’s always important to move as quickly as possible,” said Toews.
“But I want to ensure that officers who do carry firearms are appropriately trained, not simply in terms of the firearm itself but the steps before lethal force is, in fact, used.”