Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise today to speak to a subject matter important to many constituents in my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac, New Brunswick, and highlight our Government's support for Senator Runciman's bill, Bill S-233. I would also like to congratulate my colleague, Senator Runciman, the office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and CBSA on their close collaboration and hard work to get the bill to this point.
Last, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes for sponsoring the bill in the House. I believe that the final result following amendments demonstrates a clear and cohesive bill.
I will provide a bit of background on this.
In December 2016, Senator Runciman introduced Bill S-233, the conveyance presentation and reporting requirements modernization act, to relieve persons on board conveyances, such as private boats, tour boats, cruise ships and private aircraft from having to report to the Canada Border Services Agency when they passed incidentally into or out of Canadian waters or airspace.
In several parts of Canada there are lakes and waterways that cross the Canada-U.S. border, not unlike my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac.
Currently, Canadian law requires that all boaters who exit Canadian waters, do not land on the American side, and make no contact with other vessels are required to report to CBSA upon returning to Canada. Many of these travellers live in New Brunswick and are my constituents. I have several hundred kilometres of border and it is dotted with small lakes and some large lakes. They are very low risk, from a CBSA perspective, and the reporting requirement creates frustration and confusion among boaters who often cannot tell where the international boundary line falls while on the water. It also creates increased workload for CBSA officers who could better use their time to examine higher risk travellers.
In the United States, boaters are only required to report their arrival to customs and border protection if they have docked at a foreign port, or have had contact with another vessel in foreign waters. Simple activities like fishing, water skiing or touring do not trigger reporting requirements so American rules do not require recreational boaters to report to U.S. CPB for similar activities.
The differences in American and Canadian reporting requirements have been a source of frustration, as my colleague had mentioned, for individuals and businesses in my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac. They either enjoy parts of their lives or make a living on our shared waterways along the border between New Brunswick and Maine. I have received many calls over the past year from constituents in my riding, declaring their concerns, especially concerning East Grand Lake and North Lake in the Forest City area, a place where, despite our international divider, individuals have formed friendships, family ties and share much more than the waterways in which their homes and cottages are built.
The bill's objective is to address this situation by exempting private boaters, or people on other water-borne craft, from having to report to the CBSA when crossing into or out of Canadian waters for fishing, sightseeing and other low-risk activities, pastimes that owners of pleasure crafts on the shared waterways enjoy doing on a daily basis on summer days in New Brunswick.
For private boaters, the passage of the bill will reduce confusion across the boating community and bring the benefit of a reduced reporting requirement, while also more closely aligning our marine reporting requirements with those of our US counterparts.
Eliminating the need to report to the CBSA would reduce the red tape and more closely align Canada's reporting process with those of our U.S. counterparts. This would streamline the movement of low-risk travellers and goods, without compromising our commitment to ensuring the safety and integrity of Canada's borders and protecting the health and safety of Canadians. This goes hand in hand with what my constituents have been asking for: continuity and consistency of enforcement along our border, with the focus being shifted away from friendly, everyday boaters and those who call the lake their home and onto more high-risk activities along our borders.
Let me walk my fellow parliamentarians through some of the bill's key aspects.
What is really key to the bill is that it proposes to both reduce burdens on, and thereby benefit, water sports enthusiasts and businesses in communities on both sides of the border.
People aboard boats, whether they are private, tour or cruise ships, will no longer be required to report to the CBSA in the following circumstances: when they do not land on Canadian soil, and when they do not let off existing passengers or take on board new passengers when in our waters.
The legislation's primary purpose is to ensure that private boats, or leisure boaters, who depart Canadian water but have not touched foreign soil or made contact with other vessels, do not have to report to CBSA customs upon their return to the Canadian shore.
Similarly, it will exempt American boaters who have no intention of touching Canadian soil or rendezvousing with another vessel in Canadian waters from having to report to the CBSA before they return to the United States. This bill also applies to aircraft that may cross unintentionally into Canadian airspace without landing.
To sum up, these changes make for streamlined reporting requirements to reduce the administrative burden on people crossing into and out of Canadian waters or airspace incidentally.
By more closely aligning our reporting processes with those of the United States, we are accommodating low-risk activities in a manner that respects our steadfast commitment to ensuring the safety and integrity of Canada's borders. On this point, let me emphasize that care has been taken to ensure that this bill's changes do not come at the expense of security.
While this is a positive step forward, I would be remiss if I did not mention the concerns that some people in my riding have voiced. They wonder if specific local examples such as the ones I will describe might be considered in the future.
The marina where individuals go to fill up their boats with gas on the shared waterways in my riding is on the Maine side of the water. This is where everyone gets fuel for boats and lawn mowers, other pleasure craft, and vehicles. This is the nearest fuel outlet. The alternative is travelling 45 minutes to transport large quantities of fuel, which is very unsafe for small vehicles.
It used to be that individuals would report in via phone upon pulling up to the marina to fuel up and then phone in again to report they were coming back to Canada. The phone is still available to report fuelling up, but when people finish fuelling, it is no longer possible to use it, because to return to Canada, they have to physically come back to the border to report.
This requires navigating a particular area or passage, which may be fine for jet skis and some boats at some points in the year when the water is fairly high, but it is extremely risky and dangerous for larger boats to navigate this narrow passageway, and there are lots of those around. Navigating this passage was not necessary when people could just phone in to report their return from the marina.
While it is recognized that border security is of the utmost importance, individuals are craving a solution. They want to revisit another means of reporting without navigating narrow, dangerous waterways.
I thank the House for the opportunity to share that local concern.
During the course of this bill's development, the upper chamber agreed to strengthen reporting exceptions and to make certain that the CBSA and its law enforcement partners would have everything they need to do their jobs effectively. As a result, amendments were made to apply the same set of newly proposed conditions under Bill S-233 to both loop movements—which are cross-border movements in and out of Canadian, foreign, or international waters that return to the same place of origin—and direct transits, which are cross-border movements from one location outside Canada to another location outside Canada, or from one location within Canada to another location within Canada.
These amendments specify that the vessel or aircraft must not take on or disembark people or goods and that the vessel or aircraft must not anchor, moor, land, or make contact with another conveyance.
In addition, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has also confirmed that the reporting exceptions being brought forward would have no impact on their ability to fulfill their mandate.
As a result of these important consultations, along with the collaboration of hon. senators, I am confident that the measures in this bill would reduce burdens on individuals and businesses without sacrificing public safety.
I would like to extend my congratulations to Senator Runciman for bringing this legislation forward. Achieving two quite different objectives—facilitating legitimate low-risk activities and trade while maintaining the safety and security of Canadians—is not always easy to achieve. This is a great example of working across party lines in co-operation and collaboration to adapt this bill, resulting in a positive outcome for the boating community on shared waterways throughout Canada's borders along the U.S.
Bill S-233 does just that. To quote Senator Runciman:
This not only strengthens border security, because direct travel faced no such restrictions before, but it also simplifies reporting requirements.
It was also agreed that this bill, as it now does, must explicitly clarify that border services officers would retain powers similar to those they have under both the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Customs Act. This means that CBSA officers could continue to require people to answer customs or immigration questions regardless of whether or not they are exempted from reporting. Whether it is necessary to verify a person's goods, work permits, or other immigration documents, or to compel an examination, under this bill officers would maintain their ability to enforce the CBSA's mandate and maintain border integrity.
Upon consultation, the CBSA has told us that the legislation would have limited operational impacts on their operations, as passengers aboard aircraft are already exempt from reporting when passing through Canadian airspace. Following an amendment in the Senate, the proposed legislation indicates that Canadian authorities would continue to have the authority to board and examine travellers and conveyances, if needed, to combat illicit activities and maintain border security.
Whether people are taking the shortest route between two destinations or whether they are fishing or pleasure-cruising, they would not need to report unless they anchor, moor, or land, or unless an officer makes a demand.
I am confident that Canadians will benefit from the streamlined and simplified system proposed—