Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Winnipeg North. Congratulations on the 150th anniversary of Manitoba that he spoke about earlier. I was born in Manitoba. “Go, Manitoba.”
A dear friend of mine in Guelph passed away today. I found out this afternoon that Ken Hammill passed away. He was a mentor and wanted the citizens of Guelph and across Canada to be engaged. He was a city councillor for 29 years. He was a friend of Guelph, and we will very dearly miss him. All my best to Eileen and his kids and grandkids. I will be missing time with him at Rotary and in coffee shops talking about the kinds of things we are talking about today.
We are talking about Bill C-3, an act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. We are talking about introducing legislation that has come to the House before. It was here in the last Parliament. It came to us originally through the Senate. It is needed legislation. Right now we are the only country within the Five Eyes that does not have public oversight over border services, which is something we need to correct.
Also, this is the last agency with the power of detention in law enforcement to have independent oversight, as has been mentioned in other speeches in the House today.
The volume of interactions has been increasing and will continue to increase as we have trade agreements with the EU and the United States, hopefully coming through very soon with CPTPP. There will be a lot more interactions going on at the border. Review agencies like this would help us with those interactions, as well as to see whether we are keeping up with policy and whether we are giving tools to the people at the border, who do the wonderful job they do, to keep us safe and to keep products and people coming and going to and from the country in a safe way.
The independent oversight provides an avenue for a non-governmental agency, an agency that is not connected with politics and is really independent, to look, as a citizen of the country, at whether the country is being served by the institution, to review complaints, and to provide citizen engagement and oversight.
It is very important that this legislation gets through the House this time. It is good to see that it is coming into the House early in our mandate and hopefully will get all the way through second reading, the committee work, to third reading and the Senate to get back to us in time to receive royal assent.
The case for independent oversight has been mentioned by several members today. We are talking about civil liberties. We are talking about how important it is, when we give authority over civil liberties, that it is then scrutinized by independent agencies as well as by the agencies themselves. They must have the means and professionalism to make sure that jobs are being conducted with respect for civil liberties within the policies they are given from Parliament, as well as through the Supreme Court.
It is important that the decisions are transparent and accountable, as was mentioned across the way, and timely. Maybe the committee could focus on making sure that we are being responsive. Decisions on forced detention and law enforcement have to be made a priority, because we are talking about the civil liberties of people who live in Canada. This is so important to our freedom and citizenship, but also to keeping our country safe.
With 96 million travellers coming into Canada, it is important that processes are applied consistently, fairly and without prejudice. We know that the professionalism of the staff is there. In fact, there is now a television show that shows some of the situations that people working for CBSA get into. People try to mislead them to get into the country under different pretenses. The professionalism that is shown on TV is, I am sure, the type of professionalism that we see every day. However, there will still be complaints, and we need a way to deal with those.
Guelph is not a border town. Places like Windsor and Niagara are clearly border towns, but Guelph is within easy access of a lot of Canada's borders. With the volume that goes through Sarnia, Windsor, Niagara, the ports of Fort Erie, the airports of London, Windsor, Hamilton and Waterloo, Guelph has a lot of connections that need CBSA's services.
When I travel on the shuttle back and forth to the airport, I meet a lot of people coming to the University of Guelph. These students come from different countries. There are researchers and professors. People visit Guelph for business. Twenty-five per cent of Guelph's employment is involved in manufacturing, and a lot of people and products go across borders several times. As we build the car of the future, as an example, we need to have free and open access the border, but we need to ensure we do it in the proper way.
Guelph receives 800 immigrants a year who settle there. Immigrants come with family members who want to see them in their new home. A lot of people want to reunite with families, and CBSA agents play a very human role. They are the first faces that many people see when they come to Canada.
The CBSA really does a lot of wonderful things to keep our communities safe, protect shipments and ensure our products move properly. Guelph is very appreciative of the work of the CBSA.
Guelph is part of the Great Lakes region. If it were a separate country, it would be the third-largest GDP in the world, with $6 trillion U.S., home to 107 million people, supporting 50 million jobs, and growing. We need to look at the importance of our border within the region to ensure it is successful in all ways, through safety, environmental success and economic success. How does this happen? How do we implement legislation? What changes are we talking about?
It is interesting that this legislation started in the other place through the great work of former Senator Wilfred Moore. It passed third reading in the previous Parliament. However, sometimes we do not get all the way across the finish line. We simply run out of time. Therefore, it is good to see the bill in the House early in the schedule.
When enacted, the RCMP oversight body will be expanded to include CBSA activities, as well as RCMP activities, under a separate group of people, renaming the existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to the public review and complaints commission. People will be tasked to look at CBSA and will share some administrative duties, but groups of experts will help with any complaints coming into the CBSA.
With all of this activity going on, 2,500 complaints came through the CBSA last year. What do we need to do to improve policy? Are we giving people the right tools to do the job? How do we have public oversight, which is really what we are talking about today?
The PCRC needs to have flexibility to organize its internal structure and give staff members, and there were some questions in the House today about what they need to do their jobs and how to organize things together.
Currently, complaints from the public regarding the level service are handled through an internal process, which will still exist, but there will also be this external process. Hopefully this will build public trust and show that we are being transparent and trying to meet the needs of Canadians. It comes down to citizen engagement.
The independent review requires citizens to step forward to help us ensure we do the right job on their behalf. It also asks citizens to tell us when we need to improve. In business, we talk about customer relationship management. Really, citizenship is active engagement to ensure that as customers of government services, they get the services they need.
It is important that we separate political influence from the implementation of policy. This external review will help us to do that. We will work on better solutions together through this independent review agency.
I look forward to the bill passing in the House in an appropriate amount of time so it can be enacted in this Parliament.