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View Anita Vandenbeld Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anita Vandenbeld Profile
2020-02-07 12:35 [p.1099]
Mr. Speaker, I am very grateful today to have the opportunity to debate Bill C-3, which would create an independent oversight body, the public review and complaints commission, to review CBSA officers' conduct and conditions and handle specific complaints. This body would be a welcome addition to the strong accountability and oversight bodies already in place.
As I have seen, the bill has broad support in the House. I welcome the previous speaker's support and also that of the hon. member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner. He said:
Public servants across the country must be held to the standards expected of Canadians, which is to uphold the integrity of people who are visiting or passing through our country, while ensuring our laws and international laws are upheld.
He went on to add, “This bill will align well with the values of many Canadians” and the values of his party's team.
I also welcome the comments from the member for Rivière-du-Nord, who expressed his gratitude for the bill being introduced. Likewise, the member for St. John's East provided supportive words, noting that his party would certainly be supporting the bill at second reading.
This multipartisan support is very encouraging, and I thank all members for helping to ensure the bill is as strong as it can be moving forward.
One thing that all members of the House agree on is the quality of the work that our border service officers do at the CBSA. The CBSA processes millions of travellers and shipments every year at multiple points across Canada and abroad.
Let us just look at some of the numbers. I know they have been mentioned in the chamber already in this debate, but it warrants repeating: 97 million travellers, 27 million cars, 34 million air passengers, 21 million commercial releases. Every day at 13 international airports, 117 land border crossings, 27 rail sites and beyond, CBSA officers provide consistent and fair treatment to travellers and traders.
This is particularly important because, as we know, travelling can be very stressful. For those who are more vulnerable, for asylum seekers, for those who do not speak either of our official languages, for those with disabilities, for those on the autism spectrum and for travellers who are travelling for the first time, it can be intimidating and even frightening to cross a border point.
As the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has said, the CBSA officers' professionalism when dealing with people crossing our borders is of the utmost importance. He has said that they are the most public of public servants, and they truly are the face of Canada.
For visitors, newcomers or Canadians returning home, our border officers are their first encounter. However, much more than that, they are responsible for upholding the integrity of Canada's borders. That means their work is integral to Canada's well-being. We are at a junction where border management and enforcement are truly front and centre for the government and for Canadians.
Nearly one year ago, the government introduced a federal budget, proposing investments of $1.25 billion for the CBSA. That funding includes support to modernize some of our land ports of entry and border operations, with the goals of ensuring efficiency and enhancing security. Members will recall that budget 2019 provided funds to close this important gap.
The idea has been to expand the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, or the CRCC, to act as an independent review body for the RCMP and the CBSA. That is why the government introduced Bill C-98 last year, which received all-party support at third reading. It is why we are now introducing Bill C-3, with more time for debate and discussion. This bill aligns well with our commitment to accountability and transparency.
Under the proposals, the PCRC would handle reviews and complaints for both CBSA and the RCMP. Whether the complaints are about the quality of services or the conduct of officers, the PCRC would have the ability to review, on its own initiative or at the request of the minister, any non-national security activity of the CBSA. The PCRC would be available and accessible to anyone who interacts with the CBSA or RCMP employees and who seeks recourse. That includes Canadian citizens, permanent residents and foreign nationals, including immigrant detainees. The commission would investigate and offer its conclusions as to whether procedures at the border are appropriate or not.
These proposals would bring the CBSA in line with the rest of our security agencies, including CSIS and the RCMP, which are currently subject to independent review.
These accountability functions for border agencies are common in our peer countries and this bill would help us join that group. All of us would like to ensure that the public can continue to expect the world-class treatment the CBSA provides.
The CBSA has worked to ensure it has the resources and infrastructure in place to support this new review board. It already holds its employees to a high standard of conduct, and I am confident it will continue to uphold that standard.
As I have mentioned, this is coming at a time of renewed focus at our border. The agency is operating in a complex and dynamic environment. It must be responsive to evolving threats, adaptive to global economic trends and innovative in its use of technology to manage increasing cross-border volumes. Let us remember that some of those threats and trends are some of the greatest challenges facing parliamentarians and Canadians today.
The opioid crisis continues to pose a serious threat to the safety of Canadians, for example, and the CBSA plays a key role in detecting opioids at the border through new tools and methods. We have also seen rising rates of gun and gang violence in recent years. Again, the CBSA is front and centre here, remaining vigilant in combatting the illegal smuggling of firearms. It is keeping pace with rising volumes in the supply chain, including the growing prevalence of e-commerce. It is central to our economy and to our country's overall prosperity and competitiveness. It is undertaking all of this hugely important work in an environment where its clients demand a high level of accountability and transparency.
The professional men and women at our borders would be well-served by an independent review function for the CBSA. Canadians deserve it as well. That is why I encourage all members to join me in supporting Bill C-3 today.
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