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View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Madam Speaker, this is the first time I have had an opportunity to speak during this 43rd Parliament, so I want to take a moment to thank my constituents from the beautiful riding of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe.
Members certainly would not be in this place without the hard work of many people, and I am very blessed to have had a tremendous team of volunteers that supported me during the summer and fall of 2019. I want to thank each and every one of them. I want to thank my constituents, the volunteers, the donors and riding associations because they worked with me hand in hand to make this a reality. It has truly been the honour of my life to represent the great folks of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe.
I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-3, an act that would create a public review and complaints commission, which would provide Canadians with added accountability measures.
Before I proceed, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the work currently performed by front-line officers at our airports, who work tirelessly to protect us from the coronavirus. Though the risk to Canadians remains low, we do not often take the time to commend those who dedicate their time and effort to keeping us safe, day in and day out.
Looking at the months and weeks to follow, there will be long weekends and March breaks. Many of my constituents will visit another province or territory to see family, cross the border for weekend shopping or leave the continent altogether to go on a well-earned vacation. However, if they do decide to travel I, like other members in the House, want my constituents to have a hassle-free and stress-free experience.
I know that during the course of the debate on policies and legislation, there are often partisan disagreements and arguments. However, when it comes to this bill, I am pleased to say that so far we have seen bipartisan support which, to me, is very encouraging. I thank all members for helping to make this bill as strong as possible as we move forward.
Thus far, we have come to agreement on a few items. First is the tremendous quality of the work undertaken by our border officers and the CBSA. Second is the necessity of ensuring that any negative, or otherwise unprofessional, experiences can be independently heard and reviewed.
We have heard from other members that the CBSA processes millions of travellers and shipments every year at multiple points across Canada and abroad. When looking at 2018 and 2019 statistics, this included 96 million travellers. That is an astonishing number. They also looked at 27.3 million cars, 34.5 million air passengers and 21.4 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.
Our border officers are the first point of contact in Canada for visitors and for Canadians who are returning home. What is more, these officers are responsible for maintaining the integrity of Canada's borders. This means that their work is essential to our country's well-being. In this day and age, border security management is a key concern for the government and for Canadians.
Other public safety organizations in Canada, such as the RCMP and Correctional Service of Canada, are already subject to independent review. Globally, border agencies in a number of countries, including the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and France, are subject to external review. Addressing the accountability gaps through Bill C-3 would improve the CBSA and strengthen public confidence in the agency.
I should indicate that I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga—Streetsville.
The legislation would ensure that the public could continue to expect consistent, fair and equal treatment by CBSA employees, and that funding would include support to modernize some of our land, ports of entry and border operations with the goal of both ensuring efficiency and enhancing security.
Under Bill C-3, complaints would be handled by a new arm's-length public complaint and review commission. The PCRC would be able to receive and investigate complaints from the public regarding the conduct of CBSA officials as well as the service provided by the CBSA. Now, if any of my constituents have a particular unprofessional experience, they can be assured that an independent review can occur.
This bill is very similar to Bill C-98 from the last Parliament, and it received all-party support at third reading. Whereas concerns were expressed about the timing of introduction, we were proud to make introducing Bill C-3 one of the first pieces of legislation during this Parliament.
We also incorporated feedback that we received, such as ensuring that a chairperson-initiated review would have access to the same information that the CBSA review has.
On a question from the opposition in the last Parliament, the CBSA union has been contacted already and there will be, at some point, the ability to compel oral or written evidence on oath or solemn affirmation.
Under Bill C-3, the PCRC would publish an annual report covering each of its business lines, the CBSA and the RCMP and resources devoted to each.
This bill aligns with other commitments to improve accountability and transparency. The creation of the PCRC is long overdue. Independent review legislation was proposed in the previous two Parliaments, both in the other place and in this House. Amnesty International Canada's 2018 report card noted that the CBSA remained the most notable agency with law enforcement and detention powers in the country that was not subject to independent review and oversight.
The professional men and women at borders would be well served by an independent review function for the CBSA. My constituents and the constituents of the other 337 members of Parliament deserve it as well.
That is why I encourage all members to join me in supporting this bill, Bill C-3, at second reading today.
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