Suspension overturned

Border guards suspended 5-days for wearing firearms to dinner
|Canadian Labour Reporter|Last Updated: 07/04/2013

An adjudicator has quashed five-day suspensions given to three Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) trainers for wearing their full uniforms and firearms to a restaurant when they went out to dinner.

In March 2008, the three trainers were assigned to conduct a duty firearm practice session for border service officers in Windsor, Ont., at a police range. On March 28, at the end of a training session, all three went out to dinner at a restaurant and bar wearing their full uniforms and sidearms.

At the restaurant, they ran into the chief of enforcement operations for the Windsor Tunnel border crossing, who came up to them and said they were violating CBSA’s firearm policy. One trainer said there was no such policy enforced back in Ottawa — where they had been allowed to leave the office for short trips and errands with their sidearms — and said they didn’t have a place to store their weapons at the police range. He claimed no-one had given them any directive not to wear their firearms.

The training superintendent learned of the incident and asked who gave them authorization to wear their firearms on their dinner break. One of the trainers replied they had been given authorization but didn’t say who gave it. The superintendent contacted other management members but none claimed to have authorized them and there was no written authorization. They were suspended for five days each. Though they claimed to have acted in good faith, expressed regret and said they thought the policy didn’t apply to them because they were trainers, not officers, CBSA felt they had "subjected yourself and the organization to unnecessary safety risks as well as tainting the image of CBSA."

The adjudicator noted employers have the right to establish rules and policies, but they must be clear. He found CBSA’s firearms policy was not. The policy didn’t include trainers in its listing of to whom it applied, nor did it mention any other group into which trainers would fall. — See Christenson v. Deputy Head (Canada Border Services Agency), 2013 CarswellNat 988 (Can. Pub. Service Lab. Rel. Bd.).