Tories to fulfill promise to arm border guards
Updated Wed. Jan. 25 2006 4:29 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

Conservative justice critic Vic Toews announced Wednesday that Canadian border guards will be armed as soon as possible.

The move will make good on a Tory campaign promise to beef up border security and respond to border guards' long standing plea for arms.

"It's simply a practical matter of how soon these officers can be trained and the firearms issued to them," Toews said.

"That's our commitment and I trust our minister will do exactly that."

The quick announcement, made just two days after the party was elected into office, may have been speeded up by an incident Tuesday when two murder suspects in the U.S. made a run for the Canadian border.

They were stopped by a police shootout mere metres before the Canadian border.

One of the suspects was injured in the shootout.

Canadian guards at the Peace Arch border crossing, and at three others, walked off the job in fear of their own safety when they heard the suspects were headed their way.

The border was closed for about seven hours as the result of the shootout and ensuing investigation.

B.C.'s Solicitor General John Les called on the new government to provide arms and training to border guards, following the incident.

"I think they need to be armed," Les said, according to CP. "We sometimes have some not very nice people who want to try and get into our country."

Toews pledged that guards will be armed just as soon as they can be properly trained and equipped with the firearms.

He said he was disturbed that the guards abandoned their posts, but said he understands if they felt their lives were in danger.

Guards who feel their lives are in danger have the legal right to refuse to work, according to a spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency.

The fleeing suspects, considered dangerous by police, had tried to outrun officers in a high-speed chase down Interstate 5 in Washington state. The pursuit reached speeds of 160 km/hr.

Both men have been taken into federal custody in Washington and are awaiting extradition to California.

The Conservatives were elected on a platform that pledged to bolster border security to stop the flow of illegal guns being smuggled in from the U.S.

In addition to his promise to arm border guards, Harper said he would also restore port police service which has been disbanded by the Liberal government. Port security is now handled by local law enforcement officials.

Canada's border services union threatened to strike in 2005 in an effort to force the government to provide them with guns in order to protect themselves.

Currently, the RCMP is called on to deal with perceived threats.

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