Mr. Speaker, as I was going through Bill , I was trying to highlight what I believed were some really important aspects of it.
To ensure the efficient movement in legitimate trade and travel, and to keep our borders secure, it is essential that we have a clear picture of who enters and exits the country. There are many benefits to that. This is where left off when I had to sit down prior to Standing Order 31 presentations.
I was commenting on what I believed was one of the important issues I had to face over the years. I want to highlight something from a personal perspective, and that is the issue of the visiting visas and the manner in which they are issued.
One of the considerations of immigration officers abroad, whether it is in the Philippines or India, is will that person return. Whenever I have the opportunity to visit these facilities, and I do periodically, both in India and the Philippines in particular, but also in Ukraine, I try to get a better understanding of the whole question of “will they return?”. That is one of the reasons we are rejecting so many temporary visas.
Unlike many other countries in the world, we do not have the same sorts of recording mechanisms or collection of information systems that are so very important for different departments to get a sense of individuals and whether they will return. Immigration is just one of those departments,
I would like to see further discussion of this in the chamber and in the committee to see if there are ways we could improve it. At the end of the day, I hope we will see more family members coming to Canada. If we can illustrate that we have a better recording mechanism, more family members from many countries in the world will have a greater chance to come to Canada. I see that as a strong potential positive. I hope to add some more thoughts in regard to that.
That is not the only benefit. I made reference to helping prevent radicalized individuals from travelling overseas to participate in terrorist activities; verifying travel dates to determine applicable duty and tax exemptions, rather than relying strictly on self-declarations; identifying individuals who did not leave Canada at the end of their authorized period of stay; enabling immigration authorities to make more effective use of resources by eliminating wasted time and resources spent conducting investigations on people who had already left the country. It is amazing how many resources are invested in that. I mentioned limiting the collection of exit data that had existed since 2012, for example, 35 warrants and 146 removal orders of people no longer in Canada; and better protecting taxpayer money by making it easier to identify fraud and abuse of social benefits with residency requirements.
There are so many reasons why this is good legislation, and members should support it.
There are concerns with respect to privacy. The minister and the government have engaged proactively on the file with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. We take our obligations to protect Canadian privacy rights very seriously. From what I understand, that was taken into consideration as the legislation was developed.
The legislation is in good part consistent with what the U.S. has been doing. We signed an agreement, I believe back in March. It would make us consistent with with respect to collecting basic biographic entry and exit information. It is not a new issue.
I can recall sitting on the immigration committee a number of years ago when the issue was before us. We talked about how it was importance for the government to take some sort of action. As I have said on many pieces of legislation, given the legislative agenda and many other budgetary measures taking place by this government, I very am pleased we have been able to bring this legislation forward because it will have a very strong, positive impact.
Bill would improve Canada's ability to prevent people from travelling overseas to join terrorist groups. It would combat things such as human trafficking, respond to Amber Alerts, and ensure the integrity of certain social benefit programs with residency requirements. That is a significant achievement.
Bill C-21 would also improve Canada's ability to identify and intercept controlled goods being smuggled out of the country. We have a great deal of debate and concern in regard to the types of goods that leave the country at times. This is yet another piece of legislation, a government initiative, that will better reflect Canadian values and their expectations of the government.
No new requirements would be imposed on travellers and no new exchange of data with the U.S. would occur for air travellers.
People collecting social benefits in accordance with the law would not be affected at all by Bill . We really need to reinforce that. Anyone who has spent at least 20 years in Canada as an adult is entitled to receive old age security, regardless of what country he or she lives in, and that is reinforced.
I look at the legislation as a whole, and there is a great deal of interest in it. For example, the province of Manitoba has literally thousands of individuals whom we call snowbirds. We have come through the best summer we have ever had. I can count on one hand the number of mosquito bites If had this past summer. Winnipeg was the best city to be in if people wanted to enjoy summer in 2017, the year in which we are celebrating the 150th. Some might debate that. However, for me, it definitely was the place to be. However, as it starts to get a bit colder, after we get into December and January, some may opt out of the sunny skies of Winnipeg and go where the climate is a bit warmer.
Legislation like this would help provide some clarification. Snowbirds have nothing to fear from it. Some might say they should be concerned, but we will put in place a system that protects the integrity of many different types of programs and benefits in different departments. The legislation would also enable our customs officers and department to look at certain material, merchandise, product, or manufactured products that could potentially cause issues with Canadian values and allow for that additional power to find out what is taking place.
I started my speech by talking about the different types of legislation that the government had brought forward, and some of the trade agreements we had entered into. Canada is a fantastic nation, from coast to coast to coast. We have a responsibility as government to look at the bigger picture and the demands our society has on us. We need to ensure we have good export and import policies.
We need to ensure we have policies that enable Canadians to travel abroad. We need to look at ways to fine tune things to hopefully provide the type of information that allows for better policy decisions to be made.
Again, I emphasize the issue of those temporary visas. There is likely no issue more important from a constituency point of view. Very rarely do I have an issue more important than that in the riding I represent of Winnipeg North. Therefore, getting the facts would allow individuals like me to get more individuals here to visit families. It is important to advocate for that. I write approximately 350 or 400 letters every month to try to assist people in getting family members to Canada. This legislation would assist in making those arguments so we could have more faith and trust in family members, allowing them to come to Canada.
I encourage all members of the House to see the bill as a very progressive step forward. Concerns regarding privacy have been addressed in a very proactive fashion. The legislation is good to go, and I look forward to its passage.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to follow my friend from , who was eager to tell us that there have been many accomplishments in the context of the Canada-U.S. relationship, accomplishments such as meetings. Perhaps that illustrates the more foundational problem in terms of the direction we see things going. On this side of the House, we do not consider holding a meeting an accomplishment.
I thought, perhaps, the parliamentary secretary would mention the famous state dinner that members of the 's family were able to attend. The was not, but there were still many people at this state dinner.
On this side of the House, we are concerned about a clear erosion of the Canada-U.S. relationship and the fact that this critical relationship for our interests, for our success, is being undermined through significant missteps by the government. It is not new to the presidency of Donald Trump. We have seen a very poor, very ineffective strategy with respect to this relationship under both President Obama and President Trump. I think we can see a number of clear examples of that.
It is important, in the context of that relationship, that we not prioritize, ahead of results, the images, the meetings, and the state dinners. They are not the priority. For the people in my constituency, who are working hard, who are looking for better opportunities for themselves and their families, their principal interest is not the photos that are taken, the meetings that are held, or the food that is eaten at the dinners. Their principal interest is what kinds of accomplishments, what specific agreements and initiatives, are going to happen between Canada and the U.S. on issues such as softwood lumber, which is not as important in my riding but is in other places, and issues such as pipelines and the trade in natural resources, which are very important in my riding.
It is results in those areas that matter in terms of the Canada-U.S. relationship. It is not the socks, the photos, and the images. As my colleague from aptly said in question period yesterday, it is time for the to pull up his fancy socks and start trying to get results.
I want to highlight the fact, again, that the erosion of this relationship between Canada and the U.S. began not under President Trump but under President Obama because of the approach pursued by the government of this .
We had President Obama speak in the House of Commons, and the , in his introduction, referred to a “bromance” and “dudeplomacy”. I had never heard of dudeplomacy before. It sounds like a pretty gendered term, actually. I had never heard of dudeplomacy, but I have heard of diplomacy. What does not seem to have happened is actual diplomacy in terms of the traditional trying to advance ideas that advance Canada's interests. For example, it was relatively shortly after this took office that the American administration at that time said no to Keystone XL. We had virtually no substantial public response from the or the government at the time.
Fortunately, that decision has since been reversed, but as a result of changes in American politics. It had nothing to do with any activity happening on this side of the border with respect to Keystone XL. As my colleague said, immediately there was a desire to take credit for it, but the reality is that it was going to happen if there was a change in the party and the president. That was going to happen.
The government was not at all involved in promoting Keystone XL or in raising those issues, especially after it was rejected by someone with whom, supposedly, there was a bromance and dudeplomacy going on. There was a failure of results with respect to actually getting the market access we needed under that administration.
It is interesting to follow this, because there was a lot of discussion internationally about the Paris accord. Here in Canada, the government immediately wanted to tell us that to meet the Paris accord, we had to impose this massive new tax. Actually, a lot of the analysis shows that this new tax is about raising revenue. It is not going to substantially have an impact with respect to the way it is being set up and what the government has said its objectives are.
An overwhelming majority of the countries in the world are part of the Paris accord, but it is a minority of those countries that actually think that a carbon tax is the way to meet the requirements. We would think from the what the government says that a carbon tax was required by the Paris accord, but that is not the case at all. In fact, most countries that are part of the Paris accord think that the way to meet our Paris accord obligations does not involve a carbon tax, a massive new tax on Canadians.
What is interesting in the context of that relationship is that there was much discussion about the Canada–U.S. relationship vis-à-vis the environment. Canada imposed a carbon tax, and yet the American administration did not bring in a carbon tax. The Hillary Clinton campaign did not propose a carbon tax, and I do not think Donald Trump has much interest in a carbon tax either. The point is that no American administration was moving in this direction regardless, and yet Canada took a step that put us at a significant competitive disadvantage. A possible fruit of that alleged dudeplomacy would have been to push for the Americans to align what they were doing with us, but that was never going to happen. The was happy to accept pats on the back for his carbon tax action, while in fact there was no serious effort to do the same south of the border.
The other issue, of course, is the government's plan to legalize marijuana. There has not been any thinking through at all about what the implications would be for Canadians travelling south of the border after legalization happens, assuming the government goes through with it. We never know. The government has turned tail on so many of its promises. It is not a done deal. However, assuming the Liberals go through with that, it would create some real issues for Canadians who may choose to use legal marijuana and then want to travel to the United States. There is a possibility of their being asked about that and barred access under that. That is, again, not something that the government seems to have paid any attention to in the context of substantive discussions or negotiations.
There are all these different issues, where what Canadians expect vis-à-vis the Canada–U.S. relationship is for a government to fight for Canadian values, to fight for Canadian interests, and not to prioritize the image dimension. That is what we on this side of the House believe our approach to foreign policy should be. We believe it should be prioritizing fighting for Canadian values and Canadian interests, not prioritizing the international image or personal reputation of particular members of the government. That is important. We have a government that is fumbling this relationship. At the same time, the Liberals are desperate to look as if they are doing something.
We have a bill before us that, actually, we on this side of the House see as a pretty good bill. It would effectively streamline processes at the border. It would deal with smuggling in a reasonably effective way. I think it would reduce costs. It would make the border more efficient. It continues, importantly, with momentum that was clearly started under the Conservative government. Prime minister Stephen Harper put a big emphasis on trying to make the border more effective, and it was not because he thought he could have great photo ops at the border as a result. It was because he understood that having an efficient, effective border would help to create jobs and opportunities for Canadians, it would help to ensure the necessary market access, and it would help also to create opportunities and advantages for Canadian consumers. Therefore, we prioritized making the border more efficient and effective.
In cases where we see the government continuing forward with momentum that was started under the previous Conservative government or even, in general, in cases where we think the government is doing things that are good, we will be happy to support them, to speak for them, and to vote in favour of that legislation. However, the context is important because overall on so many important areas and fronts we have the government bungling this relationship.
I have talked about how, very clearly, under the current , there was an erosion of that relationship that had already started during the tenure of president Obama. Of course, it has continued in the present environment and it has continued especially as we look at what is happening in NAFTA negotiations. It is very important that we reflect on these negotiations and that the government approach them in the right way. We have to be realistic in the context of those negotiations and the proposals we have put forward, and we have to seek to advance Canadian values and Canadian interests.
I had the opportunity to be in the United States during the time of the last American election. I was actually in Cleveland, which is kind of an epicentre of activity. I was there as part of a trip with a number of my parliamentary colleagues, including the . We observed an interesting phenomenon in terms of what was happening there, which was that messages about trade and the loss of manufacturing were really resonating in certain particular states in the United States, and a lot of those messages came back to certain perceptions about the impact of trade deals. There was a perception, I think an incorrect perception, that some of these trade deals had contributed negatively to the economy of these areas. The electoral success of Donald Trump was significantly informed by his ability to get out his message with respect to trade in those key electoral markets.
We have to recognize, then, that it was what was in the administration's mind when it talked about renegotiating NAFTA. I do not think that when Donald Trump talked about renegotiating NAFTA, his principal objectives were adding sections on gender and indigenous rights. Maybe I was reading different coverage of that election from what others read, but the message about renegotiation was very clear in terms of the objectives.
It does not mean that we should have the same objectives. In fact, it is important that we counter misinformation about the alleged negative impacts of trade, but it is also important that we go to the negotiating table with a realistic sense of what we can achieve and with a goal to do what we can realistically to protect Canadian jobs and interests. The government, in articulating its negotiating objectives, has put itself in a position of very clearly talking past the administration and, in some cases, has put forward proposals that do not even relate to federal jurisdiction. For example, it has talked about what have been dubbed right-to-work laws at the state level in the United States.
We have a federal system in Canada, so the government should understand how a federal system works, that the federal government cannot, in the context of these types of negotiations, demand that states get rid of state-level labour laws. That is not within federal jurisdiction. For the government to suggest that somehow these negotiations should hinge on changes to state-level laws is a fundamental misunderstanding of how federalism works, and it is a strange proposal to come from another country with a federal system that has strong subnational governments.
In general, whether it is labour laws or specific legal protections on indigenous or gender issues, these are the kinds of things that would be the subject of significant substantial national debate in the United States. It is hard to imagine that Canada demanding them as part of NAFTA talks is going to be the spur that makes them happen. In reality, the specific reason the Americans were going into NAFTA renegotiations was to address this perception about economic interests. What we need to do to be effective in those negotiations is highlight how trade deals have been beneficial to the economy of North America as a whole; we have benefited from trade, but so has the United States benefited from trade.
It is not a zero-sum game. I have used this analogy before. Some people talk about trade as if it is winning or losing, and that is just so outside of what we know to be true about economic interactions. It is like saying, if I go to a restaurant to order a meal, one of us is winning and one of us is losing. Am I winning and the restaurant losing, or is the restaurant winning and I am losing? That is obviously ridiculous. We are both winning. We are winning by mutually beneficial exchange: I am getting a meal and the restaurant is getting business. The same is true of trade. People choose to engage in trade because they have an opportunity that has opened up for them for mutually beneficial exchange.
The of Canada, as the leader of a trading nation, a nation that needs trade and has benefited so much from trade, should be championing the value of the open economy on the world stage.
He should be doing what many Conservative members are doing in opposition, which is standing up for Canada. He should be going to the United States to speak specifically about the economic benefits of trade. He should be trying to make the case, in those critical electoral markets like Ohio or Michigan, about the benefits that have accrued to those areas as a result of mutually beneficial trade, as a result of the freedom to exchange goods and services between Canada and the U.S.
We know those benefits exist. The case can be made there, and yet the only talks about trade in the context of wanting to redefine and talk about progressive trade agreements. In large part, he is taking what Canada has done for a long time. The Conservative government signed many trade deals, and in every case we were dealing with, as was realistic and practical in the context, provisions in the agreements and side agreements that dealt with issues like labour rights and other rights.
The trans-Pacific partnership was negotiated by the Obama administration. We still have yet to hear from the Liberal government its position on that or on some kind of successor deal that does not include the United States. The government should at some point take a position with respect to the trans-Pacific partnership, or at least the idea of a trans-Pacific trading bloc, whether or not that includes the United States. These deals have for a long time included these elements.
It is clear that the wants to find a way to rebrand NAFTA, which was a Conservative-negotiated deal under prime minister Brian Mulroney, and somehow put his stamp on it. It may well be in the end that we get some big unenforceable language in there about some of the issues that the Prime Minister has talked about, but there is just no realistic scenario in which, as part of trade negotiations, the United States would agree to making dramatic changes to its rights frameworks, especially insofar as those changes might impact federalism, just in response to a Canadian demand.
Not only is this relationship eroding under the Liberals, but their approach to these discussions seems to portray a fundamental misunderstanding of the United States, even the constitutional sharing of powers as exists in the United States, and also some of the key political motivations and dynamics that they should be responding to as they are supposedly seeking to advance Canada's national interests.
The problem is that we do not see the advancing of that interest in many different ways. We see the eroding of a voice for Canada's interests and in general of Canada's voice on the world stage. The emphasis instead is on image, photo ops, state dinners, and so on, not on achieving results.
We on this side of the House are in favour of legislation that would make the border more effective. Bill would improve the efficiency of the border. It is a good piece of legislation that builds on momentum put in place under the Conservatives. It would cut down on costs, it would make the border more efficient, it would address smuggling, and there are a number of different areas where we see concrete improvements coming through the bill.
However, we are concerned about the overall picture when it comes to Canada-U.S. relations. More broadly, when we speak of the government's foreign and trade policy we see a seeming lack of interest in standing up for Canadian interests and Canadian values.
Our objective on the world stage should not be to, above all else, get a seat on the UN Security Council, to cozy up to whomever and do whatever it takes to get there. Our goal should be to ask how we can concretely make life better for Canadians through more trade, more effective borders, and the kinds of opportunities that come with that.
How can we make life better for people across this country in concrete, tangible, and measurable ways? How can we reflect people's values, people's moral convictions in the kinds of causes and principles that Canada stands up for on the world stage? Canada's interests and values should be our priorities, not the image side.
While we do support this bill, we call on the government to do better when it comes to the Canada-U.S. relationship, and to do better when it comes to foreign policy in general, to reflect those priorities that Canadians are telling us they want us to focus on.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in support of these legislative amendments proposed in Bill , which would amend the Customs Act to enable the Canada Border Services Agency to collect exit information from all travellers leaving Canada.
We all understand the importance of collecting basic biographic information on people coming into Canada, such as who they are, where they are from, how long they are staying. That is just basic security, but there is also value in keeping track of travellers who are leaving Canada. In this regard, Canada is quite a bit outside the mainstream. In fact, we are laggards in this regard.
While most other countries collect basic information on everyone who enters and exits, Canada collects information on only a small subset of people who leave our country. This means that at any given moment we cannot say for sure who is in this country. We know that they came in, but we do not know where or when they left, or if they ever left.
Consider that right now with no means of identifying precisely who is exiting our country, we cannot know if dangerous individuals may be leaving Canada to escape justice. Nor for example do we know whether we are expending valuable immigration enforcement resources trying to track down someone who has been ordered to leave Canada when that person may well have already left the country on their own.
Not collecting exit information also limits our capacity to respond to Amber alerts or suspected abductions in a timely way, among other shortcomings. This is an obvious and unacceptable security gap and one that many of our international partners have already closed. We need to catch up.
Let me be clear. We are not talking about the collection of reams of personal information from people leaving Canada. We are talking about basic biographic information, the so-called tombstone data that appears on page 2 of everybody's passport, including name, date of birth, citizenship, gender, travel document type, document number, and the country that issued the document.
The only other information that would be collected would be the location and time of departure, and the flight number in the case of people leaving by air, in other words, the same information that people volunteer when they enter Canada or any other country. That is it. No new information would be collected. Notably, no biometric data, such as photographs or fingerprints, would be collected or exchanged as part of the entry-exit initiative and travellers will not notice a difference. That is important.
This is how it would work. For people crossing the Canada-U.S. border by land, border officers in the country they enter will simply send that passport information and departure details back to the country they just left. In this way, one country's entry is the other country's exit and vice versa. The exchange of information in the land mode would occur on a near real-time basis following a traveller's entry to either country, usually within 15 minutes.
The exchange would take place through an existing secure electronic channel between Canada and the U.S., the same system that is used to transfer information between Canada and the U.S. under the Nexus, FAST, and enhanced driver's licence programs currently in place.
For air travellers, no new exchange of information between countries would be required. The information would come directly from airline passenger manifests. To obtain an exit record in the air mode, for example, the CBSA would receive electronic passenger manifest details directly from air carriers, with information on passengers scheduled to depart Canada aboard outbound international flights.
This information would be received up to 72 hours prior to departure to facilitate the identification of known high-risk travellers attempting to leave Canada by air. This is a key point for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it would help Canadian authorities recognize when someone with links to violent extremist groups was preparing to leave the country and stop them from travelling abroad to participate in terrorist activity. In fact, Bill would help border officials deal with a number of threats they currently lack the tools to address.
The CBSA is our first line of defence against threats originating overseas. It uses a system called “lookout” to identify persons or shipments that may pose a threat to Canada. Lookouts are based on information in the CBSA's possession or that may come from sources, including the RCMP, CSIS, Immigration officials, and local or international law enforcement agents. While lookouts are effective for identifying inbound threats, the absence of exit information means that they are not effective for identifying outbound threats. However, Bill addresses that shortcoming.
In a global threat environment with dangerous individuals leaving or trying to leave peaceful, stable democracies to join extremist organizations, collecting reliable exit information has never been more vital to support Canada's national security. We must equip the Canada Border Services Agency with the statutory authority to collect the same information on outbound travellers that it does on inbound travellers.
With the passage of these legislative amendments, CBSA's lookout system would be strengthened, allowing the agency to notify partners if and when a known high-risk individual intends to leave or has just left Canada. This information would close the loop on an individual's travel history and fill a gap that has been exploited by people trying to evade the law.
As a final note, it is important to recognize the care that has been taken to ensure that this initiative is designed to respect and comply fully with Canada's privacy laws and obligations. The communication and collaboration between the CBSA and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and the design and implementation of the entry-exit initiative has been extensive, productive, and instructive in protecting privacy rights. The protection of those rights is paramount, and this bill would ensure that those rights are indeed protected. It is a shining example of the balance between security and privacy.
There is no question that this bill would enhance the security of Canada and its allies. I urge my colleagues to support its swift passage and ensure that the women and men of the CBSA have the resources and tools they need to do their job of securing our border and facilitating the free flow of legitimate trade and travel.
Trade, of course, is important to Canadians. This bill would help facilitate trade between Canada, the U.S., and our other international partners. Bill is required and necessary to close a gap to make sure that Canada is in line with our international partners. It is a good piece of legislation that would do good work. I urge all members to support this bill.
Mr. Speaker, this is my first speech in the House.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Saint-Laurent for their strong support in the April by-election.
We are very lucky to live in the beautiful riding of Saint-Laurent, which is one of the most multicultural ridings in the country.
We live in peace, which shows what this beautiful country of Canada is about.
It is my great pleasure to participate in this important debate on Bill . The amendments proposed in this bill will give us a more complete picture of the people leaving Canada. They will strengthen the integrity of our data on who is entering and exiting Canada by closing gaps with respect to individuals' personal travel history. I want to emphasize that this will in no way delay travellers. It will enhance our security, improve our administration, and strengthen our border without interfering with the efficient movement of legitimate travellers and goods.
I would like to provide an overview of how the existing system works. When the current phase of the entry-exit initiative was launched in 2013, Canada and the United States began to exchange basic biographic entry information on third-country nationals, permanent residents of Canada, and lawful permanent residents of the United States crossing at automated land ports of entry. The record of land entry into one country can be used to establish an exit record from the other.
Since this summer, Canada has also been providing the United States with basic biographic information on American citizens and U.S. nationals who leave the United States and enter Canada at land ports of entry. At present, our two countries securely share the entry records of nearly 80,000 travellers a day.
This exit information is limited in scope and is not intrusive. Basically, apart from the time and location of the departure, the only other information collected is that found on page 2 of passports. That information is already collected upon entry. This includes the name, nationality, date of birth, and the issuing authority of the travel document.
However, Canadian officials do not know everyone who leaves the country, because the sharing of information gathered by Canada does not affect Canadian citizens and is limited to the land mode. We need a full picture of people's travel history to manage our borders effectively. The changes proposed in Bill regarding the collection of current information on the movements of all travellers will improve security and the integrity of Canada's borders.
I also want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that no new requirement will be imposed on travellers for the collection of this data. Travellers leaving Canada by land will simply present their passport to the U.S. border security officer as usual and the United States will automatically send the data to Canada.
As for travellers leaving Canada by plane, airlines will gather the basic passport information that is on the passenger manifest and provide it to the Canada Border Services Agency before they leave.
Some will be surprised to learn that we are not already gathering this information. In fact, many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, keep track of people who leave their countries. It is time that we fill this security gap and keep pace with our allies.
There are countless benefits to this new legislation. First, it will help authorities react better to known high-risk travellers before or shortly after they leave Canada.
The RCMP or CSIS could ask border services officers to monitor individuals who are suspected of wanting to join a terrorist group or suspected of being involved in human trafficking. Border services officers would then communicate with the appropriate agency if one the individuals is identified. Canadian and U.S. authorities could then collaborate on resolving the situation.
Going after Canadians who take part in high-risk activities abroad is a key priority for our government. The collection of basic exit information will be a new important tool in preventing such activities.
Bill C-21 enhances our ability to prevent the illegal export of controlled goods, respond more effectively in time-sensitive situations such as responding to Amber Alerts, ensure the integrity of our immigration system, combat cross-border crime, and, by ensuring that we have more complete and reliable data on travel history, protect taxpayers' money by making it easier to shed light on fraud or misuse to the detriment of certain government programs.
It is important to note that people who receive benefits under the legislation will not be affected.
Naturally, proposals to enhance national security often come with concerns over privacy and freedoms. I know that the government takes its obligation to protect individual rights and freedoms, and Canadians' privacy, seriously. This is consistent with the underlying principle of our overall approach to security. We can and must protect Canadians, while protecting rights and freedoms.
Some privacy protections are built into the entry-exit initiative. Exit information will only be disclosed in accordance with Canadian law. The exchange of information within the country and within the United States will be subject to an official agreement in order to establish a framework for the use of information and mechanisms to resolve any potential problem.
I would like to remind members that the only information we are talking about is that found on page 2 of passports. This is information that all travellers voluntarily provide every time they cross the border.
The proposed changes in Bill C-21 will improve our security and help ensure our prosperity. It is important that we have a more accurate picture of the people who enter and leave Canada. Thus, we can improve the efficiency of the movement of legitimate travellers and goods while strengthening our border security. I strongly recommend that all members of the House support this bill.
Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in this place. This is my first time rising in debate since we resumed sitting here in the fall, outside of question period, of course.
I think this is a very important bill. It was introduced in response to ongoing action by the former Conservative government starting in 2011 with the beyond the border initiative, an agreement put in place by former Prime Minister Harper and former President Obama. It has two purposes, which are basically to improve the security of both of our countries and to increase the economic competitiveness of both countries by amending the Customs Act in several key ways. It is good to see the work of this agreement continuing. We acknowledge that the United States is certainly a very important partner and ally for us in many regards, as we see right now with the ongoing NAFTA talks, as well as the continued discussions on shared areas of interest, such as defence and immigration.
I will speak in support of Bill , but in the context of a situation that we have seen emerge in the last several months, which is the surge of asylum claimants and people who are illegally crossing Canada's border at various unofficial points of entry, and then, of course, making asylum claims. This is a situation that started in January this year. We saw a huge spike, and I believe the most recent numbers from August are that over 27,000 migrants have illegally crossed the border into Canada from the United States through unofficial border crossings. This is the highest number of crossings in many years. Therefore, I think the bill is an important step in the right direction in the context of that particular issue. However, I am not sure that it goes far enough.
What we have heard from border officials at the CBSA is that they have been absolutely overwhelmed by this situation. We have seen this evidenced by the Liberal government's having to set up tent refugee camps on the U.S.-Canada border, and basically scramble after months of inaction in failing to denounce this activity as unsafe, and failing to put in place any sort of plan that would prevent people from getting false hopes in crossing the border illegally and making asylum claims.
Since this crisis started, all of our immigration processes and services have become backlogged by this influx. Refugee claimants are being told that it will take many months to process their claims, and in some cases years. This is far too long. However, the bill would have a direct impact on this situation by amending the Customs Act so that basic information would be sent to Canada when a person leaves the country. Currently, this information is only recorded for foreign nationals and permanent residents who leave the country. The bill would close the gap in security that currently exists so that any time a person leaves the country, it would be noted.
There seems to be a consensus in the House between the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party of Canada that the bill is necessary. However, I ask my colleagues in the NDP to consider the bill from this perspective. If we want Canada's asylum claim system to be credible and to help the world's most vulnerable, we need to make sure that the finite resources our country has are applied to helping those people.
The proposed amendments to the Customs Act would ensure that it would be recorded when the individuals who stay in Canada beyond their authorized stay do eventually leave. Currently, immigration enforcement officials do not have this information, and have to waste time and resources conducting investigations of individuals who have already left the country without their knowledge. In a situation where immigration services are already backlogged, Canada cannot afford to waste time and resources on pointless pursuits. Bill would allow immigration officials to focus their activities and not waste time and energy where there is none to spare.
However, I want to make the point that while I am supporting the bill, I do not think that the government has thought writ large of how it is managing the backlog and processing burden that the illegal border-crossing crisis is putting on our border crossing and immigration officials.
This will help. I certainly do not want to see immigration officials having to track people who have already left the country. That seems like a giant bureaucratic waste of resources that could be corrected by this simple fix.
I also think that the government needs to have a long, hard look at how it is already resourcing and enforcing some of our laws, which are not being respected in Canada right now. I have certainly heard directly from CBSA officials, who have talked to me in confidence because they do not want to be outed to their bosses. There is a lot of fear of retribution by the Liberal government on this. They say that they simply do not have the resources to cope.
As a Conservative, to me the first instinct is not to say that we should dump a bunch more money into a situation. We should look at the determinants or reasons why things are happening, try to correct them, and then ensure that we proceed accordingly. In this situation, this is why our party has been making a strong case that the government needs to look at the component of the safe third country agreement that allow people crossing the U.S-Canada land border through unofficial points of entry to make an asylum claim. We believe that this particular loophole should be closed.
To my colleagues from the NDP who are asserting that somehow this is not necessary, this information is readily shareable. I do not think it is very intrusive. I think it would make our immigration system and border agencies work a little more effectively, so that we can potentially be directing resources to those who need them the most.
I want to emphasize that in the scope of this bill we are sort of remiss as a H