Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Conservatives for sharing this time with me so that I can speak to this important bill. As other members have pointed out, this has been a long time coming, and it is something civil society organizations and citizens have been asking for.
CBSA officers are on the front lines at our borders and do important and valuable work. CBSA officers interact with 95 million travellers every year. It is important that the work they do is recognized and that the people who step up to do that job are respected and recognized for the work they do. My sister was a police officer in the OPP for 24 years. My uncle served in the RCMP. I spent time with them on ride-alongs and saw the work they do. I have talked with their colleagues and documented some of the work they do. Just like the folks who are here to serve and protect us as part of our parliamentary security, these are people who step up to serve and protect our communities, and it is important to respect the work they do.
However, there can be complaints that come forward to the media. The last time we were debating this topic as Bill C-98, there was a complaint brought forward to the media by a woman who had been mishandled by the CBSA. She had been strip-searched, felt the whole process was arbitrary, and did not have the confidence to complain to the CBSA about what had happened to her. In 2016 to 2018, there were 1,200 cases of alleged misconduct by CBSA employees. These are the things that can taint an organization that employs many people. There were 228 cases of neglect of duty, 183 cases of discreditable conduct on duty, 59 cases of harassment, 38 cases of criminal association, 25 cases of abuse of authority, seven cases of assault, five cases of intimidation, five cases of uttering threats, five cases of sexual assault and four cases of smuggling. There have been accusations of racism and other things happening at the border.
Most people do not realize that when they cross the border, they are in a legal no man's land and have very few rights. The CBSA has extensive powers to take blood and saliva samples, to access data on computers and ask for passwords, to conduct strip searches, to detain people and to arrest non-citizens. We have had 14 deaths since 2000 in CBSA detention centres, and there has been no independent review of these deaths or any potential criminal implications for any wrongdoing. It is very important to bring the CBSA into the same process that all of our other security forces have with respect to oversight bodies, so having a public complaints and review commission is really important.
There are a couple of things in this bill we would like to see adapted and changed.
The RCMP Act, under the ineligibility paragraph at subsection 45.29(2), excludes current and former members from serving on the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission. Under the act, “member” has a specific definition, and means an employee of the RCMP. Presumably, this should be amended so the current and former agents of the CBSA should also be excluded from sitting on the public complaints and review commission. It is incumbent that it be independent, because somebody who has served with the CBSA may have colleagues who are being called forward with respect to a complaint. Therefore, it needs to be completely at arm's length if we do not want this continued relationship.
When one is in these security organizations as a police officer, it is like a brotherhood or sisterhood. These people think the best of their officers, and they want to believe the best of them.
This was the case for my sister when she was in the OPP. She was at the Ipperwash Inquiry, looking into the wrongdoing of fellow officers. At first, she had trouble believing they could be involved in the wrongful death of Dudley George. In that inquiry, some of the worst behaviour of certain members of the OPP came out. It is important that it is an independent body that looks at these behaviours and reviews it properly.
Another thing we would like to see changed is some notification for people who are to be deported. There is a case of a gentleman named Richard Germaine, who is an indigenous man. He was born in California, lived his whole life in Penelakut Island, which is in the Cowichan—Malahat—Langford riding. He is married. He is a community leader.
Right before Christmas, without any warning or knowledge that his citizenship papers were in any sort of disarray so he could take some steps toward it, CBSA officials showed up at his home, they put him leg irons and took him away in front of his wife, who is a residential school survivor. This traumatized her, their children and their grandchildren. They took him in a van to a detention centre in Vancouver where he was ordered to be deported as quickly as possible. He had no idea what was happening to him.
Fortunately, he was working with an ethnobotanist at the University of Victoria. The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands helped, working with the minister, to ensure Germaine was taken out of detention.
I realize that some people might cut and run with a notification, but in this case, it clearly shows that just showing up right before Christmas, putting somebody in leg irons and dragging the person away is not appropriate. That is another aspect we would like to see amended.
We share concerns about how this will be funded to ensure the public review complaints commission has adequate funds to do its work.
However, we think this is an important legislation to pass. CBSA should have the same kind of oversight that other police agencies and security agencies have in the country.