Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, good morning.
I'm sure you would all like to join me this morning in expressing our deep concern with respect to the two very serious incidents that occurred this past weekend, one in Edmonton and the other in Las Vegas. These circumstances are horrendous in our free and open and democratic society. It's at times like these that we all pull together to support each other and to applaud our first responders on both sides of the border, who have done extraordinary work. We extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims and the families and the loved ones, and we hope for the speedy and full recovery of those who have been injured. We make the emphatic point that events like this will not divide us, nor will they intimidate us. Police investigations are obviously ongoing; they're at a very early stage. A lot more information will be forthcoming in due course, but we I'm sure stand in solidarity with one another within our country and across the border when these kinds of sorry events occur.
Mr. Chairman, with respect to this meeting and this topic, this is my first opportunity to be before the committee since the return of Parliament, so welcome to you as the new chair. I notice some other new faces on all sides of the table, and some old-timers too. To all of you, welcome, and thank you for the invitation to be here today. I look forward to a very good relationship with the committee.
We begin, of course, with Bill. I'm joined today by Martin Bolduc, who is vice-president of the Canada Border Services Agency; Sébastien Aubertin-Giguère, who is director general of the traveller program directorate within CBSA; and Andrew Lawrence, who is the acting executive director of the traveller program directorate.
The bill that we're here to discuss will at long last enable Canada to keep track of not only who enters our country but also who leaves it. If that sounds pretty fundamental, actually it is. But there has been a gap in our border system for a great many years that we are now proposing to close with Bill . I would point out that many other countries, including all of our Five Eyes allies, already collect this information that is commonly known as “exit” data. Canada, with Bill C-21, will catch up to those other countries and fill the gap.
The information that we're talking about is simply the basic identification information that is found on page 2 of everyone's passport, along with the time and the place of departure. It's the same simple identification information that all travellers willingly hand over when they cross the border. When you cross into the United States, you show your passport and the border officers take note of the information on page 2. It's that information that we're talking about here: name, date, place of birth, nationality, gender, and the issuing authority of the travel document.
The way this information will be collected is really quite straightforward, and travellers should notice no difference at all in the process. For people leaving Canada by air, the air carrier will collect that information, as it already does from passenger manifests, and it will give it to the Canada Border Services Agency before departure. For people crossing by land into the United States, American officials collecting this information, as they already do in the form of entry data, will then send it back to CBSA where it will serve as exit data. This will work in the same way in reverse for travellers crossing into Canada from the United States. The experience from the point of the view of the traveller will be absolutely unchanged.
With this information in hand, Canadian officials will be better able to deal with cross-border crime, including child abductions and human trafficking. It will strengthen our ability to prevent radicalized individuals from travelling to join terrorist groups overseas. It will help ensure the integrity of benefit programs where residency requirements are part of the eligibility criteria. It will also ensure that immigration officials have complete and accurate information when they do their jobs. They won't waste a lot of time dealing with people who have already left the country.
Finally, the legislation also addresses a concern raised in the Auditor General's report in the fall of 2015 about the need for stronger measures to combat the unlawful export of controlled or dangerous goods. Bill will amend the Customs Act to prohibit smuggling controlled goods out of Canada. Currently, and this may be a surprise to some people, only smuggling “into” Canada is prohibited. The new legislation will give border officers the authorities regarding outbound goods similar to the ones they already have for inbound goods.
Mr. Chair, I followed closely the second reading debate in the House about Bill . There were not a lot of specific issues raised, but there was one mentioned by Mr. Dubé that I would like to respond to. It had to do with this issue of the sharing of information with the United States. I was concerned that there seemed to be a view that any exchange of information with the U.S. was inherently a bad thing.
I think we should keep in mind that the process of Canadian and U.S. authorities working together and exchanging information, pursuant to laws and agreements and subject to oversight, is essential for our mutual security. For example, when Canadian authorities were able to take action in Strathroy, Ontario, last summer to prevent a planned terrorist attack, that was due to an exchange of information with the United States. Because of that, the RCMP and local police authorities were able to prevent a much larger tragedy. Working in concert with our American partners, and exchanging information with them according to the rules, is very important to our national interests. It supports having the longest, most open, successful international boundary in the history of the world.
The key questions are these: what kind of information is to be shared, with what safeguards, and for what purposes? Bill provides very clear answers. What kind of information? As I said, it's the basic identification data, on page 2 of our passports, that we all offer up whenever we cross a border. It's worth pointing out that if Canada is sharing this information with the United States, that is only because the person in question has just come into Canada from the United States, to whom they necessarily gave the same information upon entry. It's not new or expanded information beyond the fact that they have left. That's the sum and substance of the data that is involved.
What safeguards are in place? To begin with, the government has engaged proactively throughout this whole process with the Privacy Commissioner. That engagement continues. You can find the privacy impact assessments of the current and previous phases of entry/exit implementation on the CBSA website. A new assessment will be updated once the new legislation is actually in effect.
In addition, exchange of information both within Canada and with the U.S. will be subject to formal agreements that will include information management safeguards, privacy protection clauses, and mechanisms to address any potential problems.
All of this will be happening in the context of the most robust national security accountability structure that Canada has ever had. We've already passed Bill , which creates the new National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. Add to that Bill , introduced in the spring, which will create a new national security and intelligence review agency. And as you know, we have proactively, in the last number of days, released new ministerial directives about information sharing that have been broadly applauded as significant advancements.
Finally, what purpose does the exchange of information serve? As I've outlined, it will help Canadian authorities do everything from combatting cross-border crime to preventing terrorist travel to improving the management of social benefits and immigration programs. But to give you a concrete example, if it's discovered one evening that a child is missing, police can do a check of the exit records to see if the child left the country earlier that day, where, at what time, and in whose company. That is obviously immensely helpful to investigators working collaboratively on both sides of the border in their efforts to recover the child and catch the kidnapper. For that reason alone, I hope the committee will see fit to report this bill back to the House with all deliberate speed.
I thank you for your attention, Mr. Chair, and look forward to questions.
Mr. Chair, thank you very much.
Minister Goodale, it's good to have you back. Thank you as well to your staff, your team, for being here with us this morning.
Bill , as you just outlined, pursues a number of very laudable objectives, including the amber alerts, safeguarding against radicalized individuals travelling, the fraud and abuse of social benefit programs that can be prevented, and also overstays. I represent a riding that is not only very proximate to Pearson airport; I also have constituents who take advantage of Pearson airport regularly for both business travel and leisure travel. I'm wondering if you could comment a little on the volume and resourcing concerns, if any, under this bill.
The GTAA has approached a number of us in the Toronto area with respect to.... This past summer it was our 150th, so volumes have been high. Pearson airport is on a trajectory of increased growth. How do you see this bill coming into the question of wait times, of processing volumes, and potentially additional resourcing for the airport to do its job effectively?
I'm asking particularly with respect to a large number of seniors in my riding, many of whom are snowbirds travelling to the United States. With respect to the export of goods, personal goods, would they be facing any additional wait times, in your projection, when they go through Pearson airport and other border facilities?
One of the serious issues the world is struggling with is those who travel internationally for the purpose of endangering international air travel, or to get to another part of the world where they intend to engage in terror-related activities. At the moment, we have no systematic way to determine when a person has left the country. We collect that information on foreign nationals. We collect that information on permanent residents, but not on those who are Canadian citizens. So there's a big hole in our data collection system.
It's very useful for police and security services to be able to identify when people have left the country. If there is a suspicion about the activity that individuals may be engaged in, the police authorities and the security authorities will at least have that extra piece of information that says they are no longer in Canada. There's a lot more to the process of dealing with travellers who would either endanger air transportation or try to get to a part of the world where they intend to engage in terrorist activity, but knowing where they are is a critical piece of information.
There's another element too. When a person is attempting to board an aircraft, you have those precious few minutes or hours between the time the manifest is complete and the plane is about to take off. For police and security authorities, if they have sufficient grounds to believe that this is a dangerous traveller who could put that aircraft in danger, or who would be heading to a part of the world to engage in terrorist activity, presuming they have the information that says they are a risk, having the information that they're about to get on an airplane is very useful.
If they have the legal authority, they can take the appropriate action to prevent that person from getting on the airplane. But first of all, they have to know: are they trying to get on an airplane? At the moment, we don't have that information. With Bill , we will know if an individual is trying to get on an airplane, and then, with the other legal authorities in place, police or security officers would be able to take the appropriate action.
Mr. Chair, thank you very much.
I'd like to circle back one more time to the exchange of questions between Mr. Bolduc and Ms. Damoff and Mr. Motz on the question of human smuggling, not specific to the issue of Amber Alerts where there's a look-out trigger through law enforcement, but the broader question of human smuggling, much of which remains undetected.
We have anecdotes that came through social media several months ago of a flight attendant who, just on the basis of odd behaviour between an adult male and a young female, asked some questions. It came to light that this was a case of human smuggling. She intervened successfully, and that individual, to my knowledge, was apprehended.
When there is no trigger to law enforcement, how has this system in other jurisdictions been helpful in guarding against human smuggling, just on the basis of the biographic data that you mentioned is being collected upon exit?