Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks, I would like to say it is wonderful to see you in that chair again. I am looking forward to following the great work that you have been doing in this Parliament and many others in the past.
I welcome the opportunity to add my voice to the debate of Bill C-3 at second reading. This bill would establish a public complaints and review commission by making amendments to the CBSA Act and the RCMP Act.
This is a tool for people to be heard. It would build on the existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, which is the independent review and complaints body for the RCMP. This new commission would then consider public complaints about both CBSA and RCMP employee conduct on service issues, except those related to national security. The review of national security activities is conducted by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency.
For nearly 16 years, the CBSA has been an integral part of how we protect Canadians and maintain a peaceful and safe society. The over 14,000 women and men of the CBSA provide trusted, fair and equal treatment to the public they serve every day.
Most, if not all, of us here in the House interact with CBSA employees multiple times a year, if not every week. That might occur at one of the 117 land border crossings CBSA manages, at one of the 13 international airports at which it operates, at one of Canada's numerous marinas or major ports, or at one of 27 rail sites across the country.
In fiscal year 2018-19 alone, CBSA employees interacted with over 96 million travellers, conducted over four million traveller examinations, processed over 21 million commercial shipments and 46 million courier shipments. Their jobs include interdicting illegal goods, protecting food safety, enforcing trade remedies and removing or detaining those who may pose a threat or are otherwise inadmissible. I know I speak on behalf of all of us in the House when I commend their professionalism and dedication.
If I ever had a complaint to lodge against any government agency, I would like to be assured that the complaint was investigated and assessed independently. That is what citizens of our peer countries have come to expect, and it is what Canadians should expect as well.
Bill C-3 would fill a gap in our security review landscape. The CBSA is the only organization in the public safety portfolio without its own review body. The review mechanism we are proposing has long been sought after.
Allow me to take a look at the support for creating such a body. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has said, “we have joined the call for independent monitoring and oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency in relation to migrants and other foreign nationals in detention.” That is on top of similar calls to action from civil liberties associations and refugee lawyers, to name just a few. That is on top of numerous calls to enhance CBSA accountability and transparency.
In December 2015, the Hon. Senator Moore introduced Bill S-205 in the other place, proposing the creation of an inspector general to consider such complaints. In that same year, the report by the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, entitled “Vigilance, Accountability and Security at Canada's Borders”, made a similar recommendation. The committee recommended that the “Government of Canada establish an independent, civilian review and complaints body for all Canada Border Services Agency activities.”
We took that one step further. With respect to national security activities, we have brought into force a separate National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. That agency has the authority to review national security and intelligence-related functions across government, including the CBSA. To be clear, Bill C-3 would allow for independent review of non-national security activities only.
The new public complaints and review commission would not only be required to investigate complaints it receives, but would also be able to conduct its own investigations, self-initiate complaints and produce an annual public report on its findings. These are all welcome and long-sought-after changes.
Indeed, it is difficult to imagine any major contentions with this bill. It fills the critical gap in providing an independent review for complaints relating to CBSA employee conduct and service. It ensures all immigration detainees have access to an independent complaints mechanism. It provides ongoing capacity for conducting reviews that can lead to organizational enhancements. It clarifies the framework governing CBSA's response to serious incidents. It enhances accountability and transparency, and promotes public confidence. It brings us in line with our Five Eyes allies in other developed countries and their processes.
Our government is committed to creating robust accountability and transparency mechanisms that ensure the public is confident in our public safety institutions. That is important for Canadians, including for the trade and travel communities within Canada. It is also important for the CBSA. The proposed new public complaints and review commission would be accessible to all individuals who interact with CBSA employees. This would impact thousands of people daily and tens of millions annually.
Bill C-3 is thorough, comprehensive legislation that neatly responds to the calls to action of many over the years. I encourage all members to join me in supporting this bill and moving it through Parliament in this sitting session.