Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Sherbrooke.
I appreciate the opportunity to rise today and speak to Bill C-3, our proposed accountability legislation for the Canada Border Services Agency.
Specifically, this bill would establish an independent, arm's-length public complaints and review body for the CBSA. This is important and overdue.
This bill follows the efforts of Wilfred Moore, who proposed Bill S-222 and Bill S-205 to provide oversight for the actions of CBSA employees. This bill has been reintroduced in the House after its former iteration, Bill C-98, received all-party support during third reading in the last Parliament.
As we all know, the CBSA has repeatedly been singled out for the lack of independent oversight over some of its activities. Filling that accountability gap is the right thing to do in any democracy. It would also improve the public's trust and confidence in an agency that not only helps to keep the public safe but also deals with the public on a daily basis.
Many of our constituents travel for work or leisure. They expect and deserve a relatively uneventful experience when receiving border services.
Let me be clear: The CBSA does excellent work while operating in a complex and challenging environment. As I followed the debate with great interest, I was pleased to hear praise and recognition from members of this House for the agency and its dedicated employees.
More than 14,000 people work for the CBSA. Some employees have behind-the-scenes jobs, working on investigations of suspected criminals, national security cases and organized crime groups. Others have a more visible role, including the more than 6,500 uniformed CBSA officers. Many of these officers engage with the public at various ports of entry to Canada.
The CBSA manages 117 land border crossings, more than half of which operate on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week. The agency also operates at 13 international airports, and its officers perform operations at 27 rail sites. In addition to this, CBSA officers carry out marine operations at the ports of Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver, among others, and at numerous marinas and reporting stations.
The CBSA's work goes well beyond its presence at our ports of entry. For example, it processes and examines international mail at three processing centres. Its officers enforce laws and regulations that involve nearly every sector of Canadian society, including our agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors. It has a very broad and wide-ranging mandate.
In fulfilling that mandate, CBSA employees engage with large numbers of Canadian citizens, permanent residents and foreign nationals. In 2018-19 alone, they engaged with more than 96 million travellers. That is in addition to the over 19 million commercial shipments and more than 54 million courier shipments they processed last year. It is a world-class agency.
These numbers are a testament to the CBSA's diligent, hard-working employees. In almost all cases, the services they provide to the public are beyond reproach, but, as with any organization of its size and scope, incidents do arise from time to time. The CBSA has procedures in place to handle complaints about the public's experiences in dealing with the agency. Currently, these complaints about service or employee conduct are handled internally. If there is dissatisfaction with the results of an internal CBSA investigation, there is no mechanism for the public to request an independent review of a complaint.
That is where Bill C-3 comes in. It proposes to establish a strong and independent review mechanism for the CBSA called the public complaints and review commission, or the PCRC. We would not be starting from scratch with the PCRC, because it would incorporate and build on the existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP. The new PCRC would handle complaints from the public about its interactions with and the services provided by both the CBSA and the RCMP.
Here is a brief overview of how the proposed PCRC would work. The PCRC would notify the CBSA of any complaint it receives from the public. The CBSA would likewise inform the PCRC of any complaint it receives directly from the public. In most cases the CBSA would conduct an initial investigation of the complaint.
Of course, it is possible that someone making a complaint would not be satisfied with the way the initial complaint investigation was handled by the CBSA. Bill C-3 accounts for this. It would allow those filing complaints to submit a request to the PCRC for a complaint review. This request would need to be submitted within 60 days of receiving notice from the CBSA of the outcome of the complaint.
This bill would also give the PCRC the power to conduct its own investigation of a complaint. It could choose to do so if it receives or is notified of a complaint received by the CBSA and believes a PCRC investigation would be in the public interest.
In these cases, the CBSA would not begin an investigation into the complaint. If an investigation had already been launched, it would be terminated. As its name suggests, the PCRC would also play an important review role for the CBSA. The PCRC would be able to review any of the CBSA's activities, with the exception of those involving national security matters. That is to avoid duplication of work with the new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, as well as the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.
All other areas of CBSA activity would be subject to the PCRC review. The PCRC would be free to make its own decisions about what to review. A request for review could also come from the Minister of Public Safety.
I am proud to stand with a government that is committed to ensuring all of its departments and agencies are held accountable. It has been clear for quite some time that an accountability gap exists when it comes to some of the core functions of the CBSA. Right now the CBSA investigates complaints about its own conduct and service. That system certainly cannot be expected to inspire trust and confidence among Canadians.
Bill C-3 would make things right by creating a public complaints and review commission. This would be a body that people could turn to if they have comments or complaints about their experiences with the CBSA, and crucially, it would be completely independent.
That is why I wholeheartedly endorse this important piece of legislation and look forward to seeing it move through the parliamentary process during this session. I encourage hon. members of the House to join me in supporting this bill.