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View Ryan Turnbull Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ryan Turnbull Profile
2020-02-07 13:03 [p.1103]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-3, which is an uncontroversial starting place for this Parliament, given the fact that there is quite broad support.
Clearly, an independent review body for the Canada Border Services Agency is a significant and welcome proposal. This is not only because it strengthens accountability and trust among Canadians, but also because it improves Canadians' overall experience with our world-class border services.
In travel and trade, Canadians have come to expect exceptional service at the border. For the overwhelming number of people who cross our borders each day, that is what they receive: exceptional service. With 96 million interactions with travellers each year, there will inevitably be a few mistakes made. We have all heard that it is relatively small, in terms of the number of complaints, but still significant enough that it merits an independent review body.
The other thing I would like to say is that lots of activity at our border is a testament to what we have achieved in Canada. It marks a healthy country and a healthy economy.
When it happens that there are complaints, we need to ensure that our system is as accountable as it can be for Canadians. Internationally, when we are compared to our closest allies, Canada is alone in not having a dedicated review body for complaints regarding our border agency. In fact, the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand all have these independent review bodies. Domestically, the CBSA is the only organization within the public safety portfolio that does not have an independent review body.
While most CBSA activities, such as customs and immigration decisions, are already subject to independent review, that is not the case when dealing with public complaints related to CBSA employee conduct and service. When thinking of large service organizations, and I have worked for a few, it is quite common to have these independent review mechanisms. People can provide feedback; it is really crucial for constant improvement in public service, and I would say it is considered a best practice.
That is why Bill C-3 is the next logical step. We have made major inroads in ensuring the accountability and review of our public safety agencies, including CSIS, RCMP and the Correctional Service of Canada. Under these proposals, if we are once again able to secure all-party support, as Bill C-98 did just eight months ago, we will welcome the newly minted public complaints and review commission, PCRC. This would be an important new tool for Canadians, building on the existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.
The PCRC would have the strong mandate of reviewing public complaints about both CBSA and RCMP employee conduct or service issues, with the exception, of course, of national security issues. What does that mean? That means Canadians can continue to expect fair, consistent and equal treatment at our border. This builds public trust, which I know we all believe in. It would mean more opportunities for the CBSA to enhance its services, developing service standards that broadly cover our border services agency.
I know that everyone in this House would agree that these proposed new measures are critical for an organization that deals with an incredible volume of travellers and trade around the clock. I would like to remind members that complaints could come from a wide variety of issues, not just the conduct of officers. For example, let us say I have had an excessive wait time, long lineups or security checks that are improperly conducted. I could then, with this initiative, register a complaint. The PCRC would be there to ensure the complaint was heard, processed and examined in a thorough and timely way.
I would also like to remind the House that it would not just be a mechanism for receiving complaints; it would also review non-national security activities carried out by the CBSA and RCMP, providing Canadians with public reports on those activities. For example, it would help us find answers to key questions like whether the CBSA's policies and procedures are adequate, appropriate and sufficient; whether the CBSA is compliant with the law and with ministerial directions; and whether the CBSA is using its authorities in a reasonable and necessary way.
When the proposed new PCRC reports its findings on these matters, the CBSA must respond. This is a critical tool to have in place. Independent review processes are well known and create the objective third party mechanism to encourage the reporting of any misconduct and any other feedback. I think that is important.
Particularly, as I mentioned before, as we move toward the border of the future, Canada's airports, for example, are faced with growing numbers of air travellers as business and leisure continue to globalize with volumes rising across all lines of business. Security and international considerations are becoming more complex. Technologies like blockchain are developing and changing rapidly, with a wide impact on border services.
The border of the future will allow for faster processing of goods and travellers, better intelligence and more seamless travel for everyone. Whatever the future brings, the CBSA understands the need to think and act broadly and to be responsive to the needs of Canadians and the world. It also understands that when problems arise in this changing environment, it cannot be expected to review them all internally. An arm's-length, independent review body must be put in place. That would allow the CBSA to focus on consistent and fair service for Canadians as it meets the challenges of the future and it would give the public confidence that they have recourse when problems do arise, however few they may be.
Bill C-3 would bring Canada more closely in line with other countries' accountability bodies for their border agencies, including those of our Five Eyes allies. This is all about providing border services that keep Canadians safe and improve public trust and confidence. This bill would ensure that the public can continue to expect consistent, fair and equal treatment by CBSA employees.
I encourage all members of the House to join me in moving this important bill forward.
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