The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Region is home to approximately 2,200 employees who support over 340 points of services in a geographical area that includes eight of the most populous cities in Ontario.
The Region is home to the agency’s largest air, cargo, mail processing, and trade operations in the country. The Region’s primary point of entry is the Toronto Pearson International Airport (TPIA), which is Canada’s largest and busiest international airport, in both size and volume, and serves as a key portal for both travellers and goods entering the country. TPIA is the second busiest airport for international travel in North America.
Keeping our communities safe
In May 2021, following an extensive investigation, the CBSA announced the arrest of a Toronto resident who allegedly engaged in smuggling firearm parts into Canada to manufacture firearms. Search warrants executed by GTA Region’s Criminal Investigations team led to the seizure of ten firearms (seven of which were loaded); multiple prohibited devices and weapons, including firearm suppressors; 19 overcapacity magazines; a stun gun; over 600 rounds of ammunition; and, narcotics and cash.
Criminal organizations are not above exploiting a crisis to smuggle guns, drugs, and other contraband into the country. GTA officers made 18,884 seizures including suspected cocaine and suspected heroin; weapons, including firearms and replica firearms; food/plant/animal and general commodities across our airport, cargo, and mail processing operations. The total seizures are valued at approximately $222.5 million. The GTA Region conducted 48 per cent of all enforcement actions completed by the CBSA.
Firearms and weapons are high-risk commodities and their interdiction is an enforcement priority. The CBSA has taken an innovative approach to combatting the smuggling of illicit firearms, including the establishment of a Regional Firearms Interdiction Team in the Greater Toronto Area to ensure the legitimacy of personal and commercially imported firearms. GTA Region BSOs seized over 3,200 replica firearms, 5,000 illegal weapons and 334 firearms.
Between January 1 and October 31, 2021, there were 13,663 narcotics seizures valued at approximately $215.1 million. Some of these included 54 suspected cocaine and crack cocaine seizures valued at $48.3 million, 15 suspected heroin seizures valued at approximately $30 million, 39 suspected methamphetamine seizures valued at $60.8 million, 24 suspected opium seizures valued at $2.2 million, 11,469 suspected cannabis seizures valued at over $55.9 million, and 1,014 suspected khat seizures valued at over $4.3 million.
In 2021, the GTA Region was significantly involved in a number of major joint forces operations with CBSA’s multiple law enforcement partners:
Project BRISA was carried out in partnership with Toronto Police Service and resulted in the arrests of 20 people and seizures of more than 1,000 kg of illegal contraband. The investigation focused on the importation of cocaine and crystal meth from Mexico to California and into Canada via tractor-trailers. The Agency played a crucial role in this investigation, which also involved the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and York Regional Police.
Project OALTO had the CBSA working alongside the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other enforcement agencies on a joint forces operation. CBSA officers at Toronto Pearson International Airport found large shipments of marijuana concealed in wooden crates that were destined to be shipped to the Caribbean. Further investigation led to search warrants that resulted in the interception of five illegal shipments containing weapons and contraband before they could be exported from Canada. The seizure consisted of approximately 43 kg of suspected marijuana, 1.5 kg of suspected cocaine, and large quantities of weapons and ammunition.
Project SOUTHAM was a 15-month investigation into Greater Toronto Area based organized crime groups that concluded with 22 individuals facing charges for 139 offences. In addition to CBSA providing intelligence support to the OPP, the GTA Region border services officers working at Toronto Pearson International Airport interdicted 86 kg of suspected cocaine from aircrafts arriving from the Caribbean.
Facilitating a strong economy
From January 1 to October 31, 2021, the Greater Toronto Area Region facilitated the arrival of over 2 million (January 1-October 31, 2021) travellers through Toronto Pearson International Airport (TPIA), which accounts for 51 per cent of the national air volume. During the same period last year, there were over 3.9 million travellers passing the TPIA. The current year volume is 49 per cent less than last year’s passage at TPIA.
The CBSA Trade Program continued to deliver critical services and contribute to economic stability throughout the pandemic by processing 89,252 B2 commercial adjustment requests. The B2, casual refunds and CREDITS programs refunded $127,647,856 as of October 31, 2021. The Trade Program also closed 300 verification cases, assessing a total of $45,346,612 in duties, taxes, interest and penalties during the same period.
Border Service Officers working at the CBSA Commercial Operations District in the GTA Region processed over 4.7 million commercial shipments into Canada from January 1 and October 31, 2021, responsible for clearing approximately 37 per cent of Canada’s air cargo shipments. In 2021, Commercial Operations intercepted $36.6 million dollars worth of suspected contraband from being exported, all while facilitating the free flow of goods destined for manufacturing, industry and consumers. In addition, the GTA Region has the only dedicated Export Control Team in the country, to ensure that goods leaving the country do so lawfully. This dedicated team, while working closely with our law enforcement partners, was responsible for seizing over 120 stolen vehicles before they were shipped outside of Canada.
In March 2021, the CBSA announced the conviction of a jewellery smuggler following a two-year extensive investigation thanks to the work conducted by the Greater Toronto Area Region Border Services Officers and Criminal Investigations. On March 1, 2021, Lovely Gold Inc. and its director, Rahu Sinnathamby pleaded guilty to two counts each under the Customs Act, Section 153(c) – evasion of duties, with a total criminal fine for the four charges equalling $760,000.00. Lovely Gold Inc. and Sinnathamby were also required to pay an additional $246,614.40 in regulatory penalties.
Supporting other government departments
As part of a Government of Canada rescue mission, CBSA’s GTA Region welcomed a total of 18 flights of Afghan refugees at the Toronto Pearson International Airport (TPIA) since the beginning of August. Over a 46 day span, Border Services Officers from Passenger Operations facilitated the arrival of 3,385 total passengers, 1,475 of which were children under the age of 18 and conducted 512 biometric captures. 18 total flights landed at the processing site, where officers from Commercial Operations X-rayed every piece of luggage on these flights as well as conducted all necessary searches of the aircraft.
In support of Canada’s commitment to provide safe and effective vaccines, CBSA officers working in Commercial Operations in the Greater Toronto Area Region processed over 1,300 shipments of COVID-19 vaccines, valued at just under $900 million CAD, making up 36 per cent of all vaccines that entered Canada from January 1, 2021 to October 31, 2021.