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Results: 286 - 300 of 358
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-01-29 16:20 [p.645]
Madam Speaker, I listened to the minister's comments and the questions of others. I want to reinforce the important role and work that border control officers perform day in and day out. I suspect if we were to do some sort of a time test over the last number of years, we would see the demand is going to continue to grow for these types of services. It is one of the reasons it is important for us to establish this oversight committee. There is perception and then there is reality and bringing the two of them together is a good thing. I believe the timing is right.
There was reference to the former member for Wascana, Ralph Goodale, and the fine work he did on this. Civil servants and different stakeholders have had the opportunity to get engaged on this legislation. I am wondering if the minister could provide his thoughts and reinforce the fine work that these individuals do day in and day out.
View Bill Blair Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I would acknowledge that CBSA officers have a tough job. There are 95 million travellers crossing our borders each and every year and $32 billion in duties and taxes are collected. They have a difficult task. Unfortunately, there may be some circumstances where, in the performance of their duties, someone is not happy with the services provided or the conduct of a member, so we need to make sure we support all Canadians and people using those services with a transparent and open system of review, but at the same time, ensure CBSA members are treated fairly and according to the rules, are well understood and are supported by those who represent them.
View Glen Motz Profile
Madam Speaker, as always it is a privilege to rise in the House and speak to an important issue, the protection of Canadians in our communities. That is the top priority of this House, something I have said for several years, and I am happy to hear the new public safety minister beginning to echo those same sentiments.
Bill C-98 from the previous Parliament session, renamed Bill C-3 in this session, proposes to repurpose and rename the RCMP's civilian complaints commission to the “public complaints and review commission” and expand its mandate to review both the RCMP and the CBSA.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the RCMP and CBSA members for the incredible work and service they provide to Canadians.
I am privileged to be the first to rise on behalf of the official opposition and say that our team is cautiously optimistic of this legislation. Our Conservative team supports that all governments, employees and elected officials should be accountable to the people and the taxpayer. 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. For those reasons, a properly implemented oversight agency, as is used by police services across the country, including the RCMP, seems to be a sound policy and certainly long overdue.
In 2016, Ralph Goodale, the previous public safety minister, testified he was already working on the issue and prevented legislation from others to proceed.
In 2017, Mel Cappe provided his advice, which is captured in this bill, to create a civilian oversight body. Unfortunately, it took until the last days of the previous Parliament session for the Liberals to move ahead. Hopefully, the retabling of the bill three months into this new session suggests the Liberals are certainly taking this issue seriously.
Canadians expect federal law enforcement to act to uphold our laws and to be held accountable if it does not. This bill will align well with the values of many Canadians and the values of the Conservative team. However, it would not have been my top priority. Rather, I would have liked to talk about issues that at this time are of top priority to Canadians, such as the 134,000 people from across this country who have signed e-petition 2341. Currently, it is the largest e-petition in Canadian history and is the third largest in all of Canadian petition history, only behind the 1949, 625,000 hard-copy petition for the Canadian Bill of Rights and the 1975 petition on not proceeding with the abortion law. Of course, I am thrilled to be the sponsor of that petition. It highlights the flaws in the Liberal plan to target law-abiding Canadian gun owners for the actions of criminals and gangs.
I would have also liked to talk about the issue of rural crime and how it impacts all rural communities, especially those where the RCMP are left short-handed, and about the lack of a Liberal plan to deal with the skyrocketing opioid crisis in our communities, all the deaths that are occurring and the public safety concerns of gangs, shootings and illegal firearms. We should be talking about the erosion of our border security under the current Liberal government, not just with respect to the crisis of illegal border crossers, but also with drugs, handgun smuggling, human trafficking by many of the gangs running drugs, and the massive backlogs in the monitoring and deportation of known terrorists, criminals and national security risks.
However, we are here today to talk about Bill C-3, an oversight bill. Oversight is good. It ensures that people know that there is someone who will look into actions that are not in keeping with our laws. This bill should provide investigative powers, an ability to review situations, provide feedback and determine the course of action on scope and scale with anyone who violates our laws and principles.
Bill C-3 proposes to repurpose and rename the RCMP civilian complaints commission to the “public complaints and review commission” and expand its mandate to both the RCMP and the CBSA.
Since coming into government, the Liberals have added numerous layers of oversight, bureaucracy and process into national security and public safety with very little action that actually protects Canadians.
The Liberals have added the parliamentary National Security and Intelligence oversight committee, the new National Security and Intelligence review committee, the expanded Intelligence Commissioner and now the expanded role of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.
This is on top of the existing reviews that include the Minister of Public Safety, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the national security advisor and now the newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister.
I certainly hope we do not have investigations by seven or eight federal agencies with respect to this one complaint and what this act is supposed to do.
Over the last five years, the Liberals have committed $150 million on boosting oversight. In contrast, between 2015 and 2019, they promised $400 million to policing and gangs, but delivered next to nothing.
Members will stand and say that oversight is the right way to go and that this bill, with some edits, as has already been mentioned in a previous question, could actually benefit Canadians. It will be important to ensure the right amendments are in place.
The bill would create a mechanism to complain about inappropriate actions by border officers. Police agencies have had civilian oversight and review for decades, and it is common practice around the world for law enforcement. It seems logical that a large enforcement agency, like CBSA, should have the same checks and balances. This will help officers who are wrongly accused to show that they acted appropriately, if they did, and it will remind officers that they are not above the law, which is something we all need.
However, the bill is silent on holding people accountable. The public complaints and review committee can examine evidence, call witnesses and write a report, but the bill seems silent on how officers who violate the law, code or principle can be held accountable.
I have not been in Parliament as long as some, but anyone who has paid attention to the Auditor General or other parliamentary officers can see a pattern: programs, services and reviews designed to look like they address issues, but lack any kind of accountability or powers to hold people accountable.
The Liberals are repeating the same thing over and over again. They gave us a new agency, a new commission, a new committee or another new bureaucracy, but refuse to put in place any measures that would take steps to correct the problems the commission or committee was there to deal with in the first place.
Let me use Vice-Admiral Norman as an example. The Prime Minister personally pointed the finger at Vice-Admiral Norman. The vice-admiral was fired and charged with serious offences. The Prime Minister said that he supported the RCMP in its investigations, but made no effort to provide full evidence to support its investigations or refute that investigation. It is only when Vice-Admiral Norman's attorney interviewed former Conservative ministers from the Harper administration that suddenly the case fell apart and the vice-admiral was completely exonerated.
A report into this civilian oversight committee, and I can only speculate since the Prime Minister continues to use cabinet confidence to cover up his trail, would probably reveal a use of select evidence, a plan to railroad and to blame a decorated officer in an attempt by the Prime Minister to hold the truth from Canadians.
Under this model, it should stop there. There would be no actions or recourse to address the issue to stop it from happening again, as is the case with Vice-Admiral Norman. There is no punishment for a corrupt politician to attack and railroad an honoured and decorated officer in the Canadian Armed Forces.
The House and the committee can and should give this bill proper scrutiny. While the idea seems sound and the model certainly better than in other legislation, I am very wary of anything the government does on borders. It has not managed our borders well and have not been upfront with the House of Commons or Canadians about those issues.
In 2017, the Liberals told us there was nothing to worry about with the tens of thousands of people crossing illegally into Canada. They told us they did not need new resources, security was going well and everything was just fine.
In reality, security was being cut in other areas to deal with the volumes of illegal border crossers, provinces and cities were drowning in costs and overflowed shelters, border and RCMP agencies were stretched and refugee screenings were backing up. According to the ministers at the time, everything was fine.
Then, three budgets delivered new funding and changes and a promise to deal with issues facing our border. Billions were spent on this issue, another example of mismanagement for the taxpayer to clean up, and things are no better. However, we still continue to pay millions to deal with the issue without any reduction in the problem.
What should we scrutinize?
First, we should ensure we hear from those people impacted by the decision, such as groups like front-line RCMP and CBSA officers who would be subjected to the evaluations this oversight committee would have. We were shocked in the last session that neither the RCMP or the CBSA unions were involved. However, again, that is not necessarily new in the consultation policies of the government.
A news article stated, “The union representing border officers has heard little about the proposal and was not consulted on the bill”, that being the former Bill C-98, an nearly identical bill to this one. It went on to say, “Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), said the president of the CBSA also was left in the dark and could not inform the union of any details of the legislation.”
My hope is that this has been taken care of, or will be taken of. However, in speaking with those two bodies, with the National Police Federation, on the previous bill, I am left with the impression that the Liberals did not consult them either.
As members heard earlier, I had ask the minister if the government had corrected it this time. I guess we will find out once it gets to committee, and my colleagues will hear from those individuals who I just mentioned.
We will want to hear from impacted Canadians on this matter. There should not be a need to get high-priced lobbyists involved to get the minister's attention.
We should also ensure that Canadians do not need to hire lawyers to get access to the Complaints Commission and its processes, which is critical for those who might be impacted by any impropriety during a border crossing.
Further, we need to ensure that the minister and his staff, and other leaders across the public safety spectrum, cannot get their hands on the processes and decisions of these oversight bodies.
Finally, I want to mention the issue of the Liberals using their majority to ram things through despite serious issues in the last Parliament.
I call on and expect all members of the public safety and emergency preparedness committee to abide by their own judgment of the testimony of experts and witnesses and not the will of the minister's staff or demands of the political arm of the PMO. Also, timelines are constructed by the committee not the Minister of Public Safety or his staff. Knowing that the current and the former chair of the public safety committee is a scrupulous and honoured individual, I trust he will not suggest that legislation needs to be finished by a certain deadline to make a minister or staff happy before members can hear appropriate testimony.
There is a lot of trust and faith needed, obviously, for the House to work well together on any legislation, and certainly this one is no exception. Trust is built through honest answers and legitimate questions. Trust is reinforced by following integrity and the need to get it right rather than just to be right.
I hope the minister will be clear with committee members on spending, resources, his proposed plans and the areas where we can all improve, or certainly the government can improve on the track record from the past. Perhaps with new legislation in this new session, we can see the government try to broker such trust, starting with Bill C-3. We will wait to see if that to happen.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-01-29 16:37 [p.648]
Madam Speaker, I was encouraged by the member's comments. Again, we will go back to Bill C-98, and take ideas from it. I believe the member was the critic of his party for Ralph Goodale. I do appreciate the concerns he has raised.
However, I would ask the member if the Conservative Party has some amendments to the bill they would specifically like to bring forward and if he is able to share that with us well in advance of the bill going to committee. Could he provide his thoughts on any suggestions the Conservatives might have, given that we have had the legislation now for quite a while if we factor in Bill C-98?
View Glen Motz Profile
Madam Speaker, I put my earpiece in, but I should have realized that I do not need it to hear the hon. member when he speaks in the House, as he is usually very vocal.
The spirit and intent of the legislation speaks for itself. As the official opposition, we are prepared to consider the legislation seriously and support it, with the opportunity given at committee to look at some of the amendments that are necessary.
We will work with the opposition and the government to ensure the true intent of the legislation is met, and that is to ensure that a very large organization, which has a huge front-line impact on many Canadians and foreigners who travel through and into our country, has an oversight mechanism, just like in all matters of enforcement, to provide credibility to the organization. We certainly want to be part of ensuring the process is done well, such as how that committee goes about it business and how the oversight is managed in a way in which we can all be proud.
View Jack Harris Profile
View Jack Harris Profile
2020-01-29 16:39 [p.648]
Madam Speaker, I was interested in the comments of the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner on this issue, particularly on the issue of the management of committees. I do not think he was here then, but during the years of 2008 to 2015 when I was here, the management of committees was particularly egregious, with things called one day and demanded to be passed on a particular evening. I am glad to hear there is a bit of change of heart on the other side about how committees should conduct their business.
I understand that the hon. member welcomes the legislation. However, it was resisted by parliamentarians in two former Parliaments, when the NDP Party called upon this type of oversight to be brought forward. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Federation, the Canadian Bar Association and other groups were calling on the need for independent oversight.
Why did the former Conservative government resist this?
View Glen Motz Profile
Madam Speaker, my colleague is correct. I was not in the former Parliament during the years to which he referred. I have no way of responding as to why things were done the way they were at that time. What I can say is that it is absolutely critical.
I am just guessing at this stage, but is it possible that sometimes in a desire to have oversight on some of these bodies, people get involved in the operational aspects of oversight, rather than the behavioural aspects and the process in which members conduct themselves when they interact with the public?
I am pleased with what I see in the legislation compared to what I have been told had existed in previous proposals, where the focus was more on the members, their conduct and interactions with the public as opposed to conducting an investigation, or getting into the operational aspects of agencies as opposed to the acts, behaviours or omissions of members of those organizations.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2020-01-29 16:41 [p.649]
Madam Speaker, there is a Yiddish proverb that says “Ask and you won't get lost”. I had a great love for Yiddish proverbs in the last Parliament, so I will use them again in this Parliament. Someday I will learn enough Yiddish to be able to say it in that language, so fair warning to the interpreters.
However, I want to ask the hon. member this since he had a very long police career in his past life, prior to becoming a parliamentarian, and is a returning parliamentarian. What kinds of things would he like to see change at the committee level with this legislation? He went into it in his speech. As a professional and former law enforcement official, what kinds of changes would he like to see or what kinds of changes have other members of Parliament told him they would like to see in the law?
View Glen Motz Profile
Madam Speaker, I am glad my colleague did not give us a Yiddish proverb, or maybe I did not hear it.
I want to focus on one aspect of the question the member asked. Quite honestly, I came to Parliament a bit naive. I came to Parliament thinking that when we go to committee and have these conversations, there is a genuine understanding that we are all here for one purpose, and that is to make life better, and in this case safer and more appropriate, for all Canadians. It was evident from many of the committees I was involved in that the agenda of a majority government sometimes supersedes the common sense of what Canadians expect from us as parliamentarians.
Therefore, what I am excited about in this minority Parliament is that the minority government has to ensure that all aspects of legislation are taken into consideration and all witnesses and amendments are considered, because in this case no committee has a majority of government members but the opposition does. That really opens up an opportunity for Canadians to have their voices heard better than in a majority government, in some cases. In this circumstance, I am looking forward to that being the case with this legislation.
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2020-01-29 16:44 [p.649]
Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner for his speech and his suggestions.
I would like to learn more about what he just proposed. He said that we need better oversight of CBSA officers.
Could the member tell me what he envisions? I am interested in hearing his suggestions.
View Glen Motz Profile
Madam Speaker, there are a couple of things we need to look at. First, as I see the bill, there are really no clear mechanisms allowing valid complaints. We can hear a valid complaint and the committee can see it, but what actions are then going to take place? Who directs them? The current act as written might be void in some of those areas.
There are questions that many people have. Where is the line between who can complain about what? Is there a clear delineation for the CBSA? Can an asylum claimant who is ordered to be deported make a complaint through this? Obviously I would say no because it is an operational issue, but there is not necessarily clarity.
For the committee itself, what assurances do we have that it is properly prepared to expand into CBSA issues? Will members receive additional training? Will they receive an orientation? Will they add to the number of people there? How many complaints are they expected to hear, and how will they manage that in addition to what they have already? We would like some clarity around some of those things, but again, that is just the beginning.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2020-01-29 16:47 [p.649]
Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is very happy that this bill has been introduced. We were taken for a ride in the previous Parliament. Bill C-98 was introduced too late and unfortunately died on the order paper. I hope that we will have time to pass Bill C-3 before the next election, which is looming over our heads like the sword of Damocles.
The Bloc Québécois plans to vote in favour of Bill C-3, as it did with Bill C-98. There is no surprise there.
The current situation is untenable. The statistics are alarming. From 2016 to 2018, there were 1,200 complaints, including 59 allegations of harassment, 38 allegations of criminal association and five allegations of sexual assault. Those are striking figures. The Canada Border Services Agency is short-staffed. Complaints may not always be given the attention they deserve. We think that an independent commissioner should be appointed.
It is also not right that the CBSA itself hears complaints about its own services. That obviously does not meet the minimum legal requirements, whether under natural law or in accordance with the rights set out in our charters regarding an impartial hearing before those concerned. Since the commissioner would be a third party, we believe that he could deal with any complaints filed with his office in a serious, impartial, fair and independent manner—at least that is what we hope. We believe that creating the commissioner's office would make this possible.
This is nothing new. I looked at the statistics on the various complaints that were filed. In 2017-18 alone, just two years ago, there were reports of racist and rude comments. Officers allegedly searched cellphones without putting them in airplane mode, which is illegal. Searches can be conducted legally if the phone is in airplane mode, but not otherwise. In some situations, officers allegedly took photos of the information contained in cellphones. They also allegedly forced someone to open their banking app. All of these things are unacceptable.
Some people complained about rude treatment. Apparently an officer shouted and insulted travellers. In another case, people who had dealings with the CBSA were told there was no interpretation service available, which meant that they were unable to communicate with the officer. One officer was racist and told a client he was ugly. That is unconscionable. This is not a banana republic.
We think complaints should be treated with respect, as should all CBSA clients, whether they are right or wrong, which is a different story. At a bare minimum, these requests should be handled respectfully and attentively.
Last year, the member for Vancouver East quoted something Justice O'Connor said over 10 years ago. He recommended introducing a CBSA oversight mechanism. More recently, an immigration lawyer named Joel Sandaluk said this on CBC: “CBSA, for many years, has been a law unto itself. It's hard to imagine an organization with the size and the complexity and the amount of responsibility and authority of an agency like this would be completely without any kind of oversight.”
He added that the statistics may have been skewed, but temporary residents of or visitors to Canada were in fact not here long enough to file a complaint. Obviously, he did not even mention those who do not file complaints out of fear of reprisal. It is a troubling situation and according to Mr. Sandaluk, this is likely only the tip of the iceberg.
CBC mentioned the case of a woman deported to Guatemala who was allegedly pushed to the ground by an officer, who is alleged to have kicked her and dug his knee into her back. That is outrageous. When we read these reports, these statistics, we do not get the impression that this is a professional border services agency that serves a country like Canada and serves the people and the visitors of Quebec who have to deal with them.
More recently, just a few weeks ago, the Canadian Press reported some statistics. The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group of Toronto said that the definition of a founded complaint in the CBSA reports was too vague to allow adequate changes or adjustments to be made. This is just another situation that does not help to improve the services provided by the agency.
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Daniel Therrien, told Radio-Canada that the agency and its customs officers had not followed acceptable practices for handling the personal information of Canadian citizens re-entering the country. It is not your ordinary Joe saying it, it is the commissioner himself. He added that the line had been crossed.
It is ridiculous. It is about time that we acknowledge and address this issue.
According to other information made public by Radio Canada, a CBSA officer apparently shredded his handwritten notes three days after receiving a call from one of the commissioner's investigators.
For all these reasons, we believe that Bill  C-3 must be implemented as quickly as possible. Once again, they must not play the same trick on us that they did with Bill C-98, which was introduced before this bill. We believe that Bill C-3 should be referred to a committee right away.
In closing, I want to make it clear that the Bloc Québécois is not blaming the officers or the agency. That is up to the commissioner, if warranted, and if designated.
We believe that the Canada Border Services Agency has not had the benefit of adequate oversight, which it should have received from the proper authorities. Respectfully, the responsibility lies with the current Liberal government and its predecessor, the Conservative government. We believe that the time has come to address this issue and we are grateful for Bill C-3.
I would also like to add that the union representing the CBSA officers should appear before the committee when it studies the bill. We hope that the bill will be referred to a committee as soon as possible. The committee should make every effort to hear from experts, immigration lawyers who have worked with the CBSA and the officers' union. I am convinced that the union has important things to tell the committee about this issue.
View Bill Blair Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Rivière-du-Nord for his conditional support of the bill. I am very gratified to hear his acknowledgement that the legislation would improve the situation of accountability and trust for those who serve us at our borders. I also want to acknowledge the many anecdotes he shared with us about people who have made allegations of misconduct against CBSA officers or questioned the services provided.
Does the member for Rivière-du-Nord think this legislation would give all Canadians, including of course Canadians from Quebec, confidence that the CBSA is an accountable organization and that its members are there to serve them? I hope he does.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2020-01-29 16:58 [p.651]
Madam Speaker, obviously I cannot be sure whether the process that will be put in place will be completely satisfactory to everyone, but I hope it will. That is what the Bloc Québécois hopes. We want to trust in the goodwill of the people across the way. It is time to establish this commission and put it to work. Should it ever fail to do its job, we will be the first to inform the House.
View Jack Harris Profile
View Jack Harris Profile
2020-01-29 16:58 [p.651]
Madam Speaker, would the member agree, in looking at the nature of the oversight being provided by this bill, that as the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association suggests, two separate accountability mechanisms should be available? One would provide real-time oversight of the policies and practices of the Canada Border Services Agency and the other an accountability mechanism for conducting investigations and resolving specific complaints, as we are talking about, such as specific incidents of potential misbehaviour.
One mechanism would look at the policies and practices, while the other would deal with individual complaints related to a particular incident. Would the member's party support the notion that there really is a need for two kinds of oversight, even though this arrangement may not be contained in the bill?
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