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View Gagan Sikand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to add to the debate of BillC-3 today.
An independent review and complaints mechanism for the Canada Border Services Agency would fill an important gap for our national security agencies. This is not a new issue for parliamentarians. Members will recall that similar legislation was introduced and debated in the last session, as BillC-98. That bill received unanimous consent just eight months ago, and since that time our government has had the benefit of considering comments made on previous legislation. With its introduction as a new bill, it is reflective of many of the comments and recommendations previously made.
CBSA oversight is not a new idea. In fact, BillS-205, introduced by former Senator Moore in the other place a few years ago, proposed a CBSA review body. That was, in part, in response to a previous call by senators to create an oversight body through the 2015 report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. Many parliamentarians, academics, experts and stakeholders have made similar calls over the years. That is largely because Canada is the only country among our closest allies not to have a dedicated review body for complaints regarding its border agency. Furthermore, the CBSA is the only organization within the public safety portfolio without such a body. BillC-3 would change this environment.
Canadians need to be confident that their complaints are handled and addressed appropriately and independently. They deserve enhanced reporting on how border services operate, which the bill also proposes. To expand on that, under BillC-3, the new body would be able to not only report on its finding but also make recommendations as it sees fit. Those reports would include the PCRC's findings and recommendations on everything from the CBSA's policies and procedures to its compliance with the law to the reasonableness of the use of its powers.
This is about accountability and transparency. To parse why this is so important, we must take a look at the rapidly changing context of the CBSA.
On a daily basis, CBSA officers interact with thousands of Canadians and visitors to Canada at airports, land borders, crossing ports and other locations. To put that in numbers, that is 96 million interactions per year with travellers and $32 billion per year in duties and taxes, according to the 2017-18 statistics. That is 27.3 million cars, 34.5 million air passengers and 21.4 million commercial releases. All of that happens at 13 international airports, 117 land border crossings, 27 rail sites and beyond. This will only increase. That is why the government introduced a federal budget last year proposing investments of $1.25 billion for the CBSA to help modernize some of our ports of entry and our border operations. After all, we know that business at the border never stops and is growing year after year.
As hon. members know, ensuring that business continues while protecting Canadians requires CBSA officers to have the power to arrest, detain, search and seize, and the authority to use reasonable force when required. We know that Canada's over 14,000 CBSA officers are truly world class, providing consistent and fair treatment to travellers and traders.
However, as business grows along with demands for accountability, the CBSA cannot reasonably be expected to handle all the complaints on its own, nor should Canadians expect it would. Currently, complaints about conduct and the service provided by CBSA officers are handled internally. If an individual is dissatisfied with the results of an internal CBSA investigation, there is currently no mechanism for the public to request an independent review of these complaints. BillC-3 would neatly remedy all of this. For example, such an individual would be able to ask the PCRC to review his or her complaint. At the conclusion of a PCRC investigation, the review body would be able to report on its findings and make recommendations as it sees fit. The president of the CBSA would be required to respond in writing to the PCRC's findings and recommendations.
The PCRC would also accept complaints about the conduct and service provided by CBSA employees from detainees held in CBSA facilities. These could include complaints related to treatment and conditions in detention.
On the rare occasion that there be a serious incident involving CBSA personnel, BillC-3 would legislate a framework to not only handle and track such incidents, but also to publicly report on them. It would in fact create an obligation for the CBSA to notify local police and the PCRC of any serious incident involving the CBSA officers or employees. As I have noted, the legislation would also allow for the PCRC to review, on its own initiative or at least at the request of the minister, any non-national security activity of the CBSA.
National security activities would be reviewed by the new national security intelligence review committee, which is the National Security Intelligence Review Agency, or NSIRA. As colleagues know, the NSIRA is responsible for complaints and reviews relating to national security, including those relating to the RCMP and the CBSA. Members will see provisions in BillC-3 that would facilitate information sharing and co-operation between the PCRC and NSIRA.
I would point out that the PCRC would not have the authority to review, uphold, amend or overturn enforcement, trade or national security decisions made with the CBSA, nor would it consider complaints that could be dealt with by other organizations, such as the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages or the Office of the Privacy Commission. What it would do is provide a reasonable, long-sought-after framework to build accountability in our public safety agencies and trust among Canadians.
As I close, I would like to point out that this is the latest in a line of recent measures to enhance accountability in our national security apparatus. The former BillC-22 led to the creation of the now operational National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, which has a broad mandate to review national security and intelligence organizations.
The former Bill C-59 led to the creation of the NSIRA. NSIRA now has the authority to review any activity carried out by CSIS or the Communications Security Establishment and any national security or intelligence-related activity carried out by federal departments and agencies.
All of this amounts to unprecedented enhancements in our national security accountability, on top of the government's creation of a national security transparency commitment, which is all about integrating Canada's democratic values into our national security activities.
These measures build on the government's broad national security consultations in 2016, which sought to engage Canadians, stakeholders and subject matter experts on issues related to national security and the protection of rights and freedoms. In those consultations, four-fifths, or 81%, of online responses called for independent review mechanisms for departments and agencies that have national security responsibilities, including the CBSA.
This outline should provide some rationale for bipartisan support for BillC-3 by parliamentarians, academics, experts and stakeholders alike and other Canadians. Our security and intelligence communities must keep pace with evolving threats to the safety and security of Canadians and with a rapidly changing border environment. They must do so in a way that safeguards our rights and freedoms, and the people's trust in how the government works. That is why I ask the House to join me in supporting BillC-3 today.
View Patricia Lattanzio Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to add my voice to the debate of BillC-3 at second reading. This important piece of legislation would amend the Canada Border Services Agency Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act to establish a new public complaints and review commission for both organizations. This would give the CBSA its own independent review body for the first time.
Transparency and accountability are extremely important in any context. That certainly includes the public safety and national security sphere. Canadians need to have trust and confidence in the people and agencies that work so hard to protect them. Right now, among the family of organizations that make up the public safety portfolio, only the CBSA lacks a full-fledged independent review body dedicated to it.
The RCMP has had such a body since 1988, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP. The CRCC reviews complaints from the public about conduct of RCMP members and conducts reviews when complainants are not satisfied with the RCMP's handling of their complaints. This process ensures public complaints are examined fairly and impartially.
Canada also has an office of the correctional investigator, which provides independent oversight of Correctional Service Canada. The correctional investigator essentially serves as an ombudsman for federal offenders. The main responsibility of the office is to investigate and try to resolve offender complaints. The office is also responsible for reviewing and making recommendations on CSC policies and procedures related to those complaints, the goal being to ensure areas of concern are identified and appropriately addressed.
The CBSA really stands out in this context.
Before I go any further, it is important to point out that a fair number of CBSA's activities are already subject to independent oversight through existing bodies. Customs-related matters, for example, are handled by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal. With the passage of Bill C-59, the CBSA's national security-related activities are now being overseen by Canada's new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. This agency is an independent, external body that can report on any national security or intelligence-related activity carried out by federal departments and agencies. It has the legal mandate and expertise to review national security activities and serves an important accountability function in our democracy.
However, a major piece is missing in the architecture of public safety and national security oversight and accountability. There is currently no mechanism for public complaints about the CBSA to be heard and considered. That is a significant oversight, given the scope of the agency's mandate and the sheer volume of its interactions with the public.
CBSA employees deal with thousands of people each day and tens of millions each year. They do so at approximately 1,200 service points across Canada and at 39 international airports and locations. In the last fiscal year alone, border officers interacted with 96 million travellers, both Canadians and foreign nationals, and that is just one aspect of its business. It is a massive, complex and impressive operation. We can all be proud of having such a professional, world-class border services agency.
In the vast majority of cases, the CBSA's interactions with the public happen without incident. Our employees work with the utmost professionalism in delivering border services to those entering the country. However, on rare occasions, and for whatever reason, things go less than smoothly. That is not unusual. People are human and we cannot expect everything they do will be perfect all the time. However, that does not mean there should not be a fair and appropriate way for people to air their grievances. If people are unhappy with the way they were treated at the border, or the level of service they received, they need to know that someone will hear their complaint in an independent manner. Needless to say, that is currently not the case.
The way things currently work is that if a member of the public makes a complaint about the CBSA, it is handled internally. In other words, the CBSA investigates itself. In recent years, a number of parliamentarians, commentators and observers have raised concerns about this problematic accountability gap. To rectify the situation, they have called for an independent review body specific to the CBSA. BillC-3 would answer that call.
Under BillC-3, the existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP would be given new powers and remain the public complaints and review commission, or PCRC. The newly established PCRC would consider complaints related to conduct or service issues involving either CBSA or RCMP employees. Those who believe they have had a negative interaction with a CBSA employee would have the option of turning to the PCRC for remedy and would have one year to do so.
The same would continue to be the case with respect to the RCMP. This would apply to Canadian citizens, permanent residents and foreign nationals. That includes people detained in CBSA's immigration holding centres, who would be able to submit complaints related to their conditions of detention or treatment while in detention.
The complaints function is just one part of the proposed new PCRC. The commission would also have an important review function. It would conduct reviews related to non-national security activities involving CBSA and the RCMP, since national security, as I noted earlier, is now in the purview of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. The findings and recommendations of the PCRC would be non-binding. However, the CBSA would be required to provide a response to those findings and recommendations for all the complaints. I believe that combining these functions into one agency is the best way forward.
The existing CRCC already performs these functions for the RCMP, and the proposals in the bill would build on the success and expertise it has developed. Combining efforts may also generate efficiencies of scale and allow for resources to be allocated to priority areas. On that note, I certainly recognize that additional resources would be required for the PCRC, given its proposed new responsibilities and what that would mean in terms of workload.
That is why I am pleased that budget 2019 included nearly $25 million over five years, starting this fiscal year, and an additional $6.83 million per year ongoing to expand the mandate of the CRCC. That funding commitment has also been positively received by stakeholders. With BillC-3, the government is taking a major step toward enhancing CBSA independent review and accountability in a big way.
I was encouraged to see an apparent consensus of support for this bill in our debate so far. As we know, just eight months ago, the previous form of this bill, BillC-98, received all-party support during third reading in the House during the last Parliament. In reintroducing this bill, we have taken into consideration points that were previously raised by the opposition parties, and we hope to rely on their continued support.
The changes proposed in BillC-3 are appropriate and long overdue. They would give Canadians greater confidence in the border agencies that serve them and they would bring Canada in line with international norms in democratic countries. That includes the systems already in place with some of our closest allies, such as the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.
I am proud to be supporting this important piece of legislation. I will be voting in favour of this bill at second reading and I urge all of my hon. colleagues to do the same when the time comes.
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Majid Jowhari Profile
2020-02-06 15:51 [p.1045]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Mississauga—Erin Mills.
As it is my first time rising in the 43rd Parliament, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the constituents of Richmond Hill, who bestowed on me the honour of representing them in the House. I thank my campaign manager, my riding association executive and the over 100 volunteers and friends who worked so hard to help me get re-elected.
I would especially like to acknowledge and thank my wife Homeira; my daughter Nickta and my son Meilaud, who have supported me in my political life over the past five years.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise at second reading of BillC-3. The bill proposes to create an independent review and complaint mechanism for the Canada Border Services Agency, the CBSA. I would like to highlight five significant components of the bill.
First, it would provide for civilian oversight.
Second, it would strengthen the accountability and transparency of the CBSA.
Third, it would ensure consistent, fair and equal treatment to all when receiving services.
Fourth, it would complement and align with other measures being taken by our government to create independent review functions for national security agencies.
Fifth, it would close a significant gap with the other Five Eyes international border agencies.
Such mechanisms help to promote public confidence by strengthening accountability. They ensure that complaints regarding employee conduct and service are dealt with transparently. CSIS, the RCMP and the Correctional Service of Canada are already subject to that kind of accountability.
Among the organizations that make up Canada's public safety portfolio, only the CBSA does not currently have a review body to handle public complaints. BillC-3 would fill that glaring gap and build on recent accountability and transparency reforms introduced by the Government of Canada.
One of those reforms is the newly created National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. This new body addresses a long-standing need for parliamentarians to review the government's national security and intelligence activities and operations, including those involving the CBSA. Its members have unprecedented access to classified information.
As the Prime Minister has said, it “will help us ensure that our national security agencies continue to keep Canadians safe in a way that also safeguards our values, rights, and freedoms.”
The government has also brought into force a new expert review body, thanks to the passage of Bill C-59, called the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency.
This new agency will greatly enhance how Canada's national security agencies are held to account. It will establish a single, independent agency authorized to conduct reviews on national security and intelligence activities carried out by departments and agencies across the Government of Canada, including the CBSA.
The legislation before us today would go one step further by establishing an independent review and complaints function for the CBSA's other activities. Those activities play a critical role in our country's security and economic prosperity. They facilitate the efficient flow of people and goods across our border to support our economy, while protecting the health and safety of Canadians.
In keeping with its sweeping mandate, the scale of the CBSA's operations and the number of people and goods it deals with are enormous. CBSA employees deliver a wide range of services at more than 1,000 locations, including 117 land border crossings, 13 international airports and 39 international offices.
The agency's employees are diligent and hard-working. In 2018-19, they interacted with more than 96 million travellers and processed more than 19 million commercial shipments and 54 million courier shipments.
The vast majority of the CBSA's interactions and transactions go off without a hitch. However, when dealing with more than a quarter of a million people each day, and nearly 100 million each year, the occasional complaint is inevitable. Each year the CBSA recourse directorate receives approximately 2,500 complaints concerning employee conduct and services.
Last summer, as I was knocking on doors in my riding of Richmond Hill, I talked to many residents, Canadian citizens and permanent residents alike, who regularly crossed the borders to and from the U.S. They shared their challenges with wait times, extensive and intrusive repeated questioning and the feeling of inferiority that it left them with. Repeatedly, they raised their concern about their inability to get answers about the way they were treated and their frustration with the lack of an independent body to raise their concerns.
However, as I noted earlier, there is currently no independent review body that people can turn to when they are unsatisfied with the level of service or the conduct of an officer at the border. That accountability gap has generated considerable public interest and been regularly raised by parliamentarians.
On that note, I would like to recognize and thank the now-retired Wilfred Moore for his advocacy on this issue with the introduction of BillS-205 in the other place.
There have also been numerous calls by stakeholders and NGOs to improve CBSA accountability and transparency. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said that it considered “such a gap as being incompatible with democratic values and with a need for public trust in such an important agency.”
According to the late Professor Ron Atkey of York University, the lack of CBSA oversight presented “a problem in the makeup of the current security intelligence review mechanism”. He added that the creation of the committee of parliamentarians should not be considered as a substitute for independent expert review bodies, which he suggested should be extended to cover CBSA.
That is exactly what BillC-3 would do. It proposes to establish an independent review mechanism for the CBSA by expanding and strengthening the existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, or CRCC. The CRCC is currently the review agency for the RCMP.
To reflect its proposed new responsibilities under BillC-3, it will be renamed the public complaints and review commission, or PCRC. The proposed new PCRC will be responsible for handling reviews and complaints for both the CBSA and the RCMP. The PCRC will be accessible to anyone who interacts with CBSA employees and has complaints about the conduct of CBSA officers and the quality of services.
The PCRC will also have the ability to conduct reviews of the CBSA on its own initiative or at the request of the Minister of Public Safety. Those reviews could focus on any activity conducted by the CBSA, with the exception of national security matters.
With the passage of Bill C-59, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency will be responsible for complaints and reviews relating to national security, including those involving the RCMP and CBSA. The PCRC will work in a complementary manner with the proposed new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. Provisions in BillC-3 will facilitate information sharing and co-operation between the two bodies. If the PCRC were to receive those types of complaints, it would refer the complainants to the appropriate body.
By providing an independent arms-length mechanism for people to be heard, BillC-3 would make them more comfortable to come forward with a complaint. That, in turn, would help ensure that Canadians would remain confident in the system of accountability for the agencies that work so hard to keep them safe.
That is why I urge hon. members of the House to join me in supporting this important legislation at second reading.
View Élisabeth Brière Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Élisabeth Brière Profile
2020-02-06 17:51 [p.1063]
Madam Speaker, if we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians. I would add that this position has been repeated many times in the House, and not just when Bill C-98 was introduced.
On that note, I would also like to thank the senator who introduced Bill S-205 in 2015. That bill set out a number of the recommendations that we are proposing today.
Beyond the CBSA, our government's desire to improve the transparency and accountability of all our security agencies is clear.
For example, in 2013, a member proposed the creation of a national security committee of parliamentarians, but unfortunately the House rejected that proposal. The following year, a member introduced a bill that would have amended the National Defence Act in order to improve the transparency and accountability of the Communications Security Establishment.
Obviously, parliamentarians and Canadians want our intelligence and security agencies to be as accountable and transparent as possible. When our government took office in 2015, we knew we had to take action. During the government consultations on national security, experts and members of the public told us that we risked losing the trust of the public if our security agencies did not become more transparent and accountable.
After all, these measures create an effective and efficient government.
They help us oversee the exercise of authority and deliver results for Canadians.
The bill established the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, which is the heart of Bill  C-59 and represents a historic change for Canada.
The creation of this agency resulted in an integrated and comprehensive review of all national security and intelligence activities, including broader access to information across the government.
The government also created the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, a group tasked with reviewing Canada's national security and intelligence organizations.
As members know, this committee now has extraordinary access to classified information so that it can scrutinize security and intelligence activities.
The creation of this committee filled a significant gap and allowed us achieve two objectives: guaranteeing that our security agencies are working effectively, and protecting the rights and freedoms of Canadians.
The government also adopted a national security transparency commitment across government to give Canadians better access to information. All of these measures will help build public confidence in our security agencies. The RCMP, CSIS and Correctional Service Canada are already subject to solid accountability measures.
We know that similar steps have to be taken for our border agency.
We need a transparent system to ensure that complaints regarding the conduct and quality of services of CBSA employees are handled appropriately.
This is what BillC-3 aims to do.
This bill would build on all of the government reforms I mentioned earlier and would increase the accountability of our national security apparatus.
Canadians can rest assured that an independent review body would be handling complaints relating to the conduct of border officers.
BillC-3 would expand and strengthen the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, the CRCC, which is the RCMP's review agency. This commission would become the public complaints and review commission. The new commission would be responsible for handling complaints and reviews for the Canada Border Services Agency and for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Anyone interacting with CBSA employees who wishes to file a complaint about the employee's conduct or quality of services would be able to go through this enhanced commission.
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission could also conduct reviews of the Canada Border Services Agency of its own initiative or at the request of the Minister of Public Safety. However, matters of national security would be addressed by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency with help from the CRCC.
Departments and agencies within Canada's public safety community are very familiar with this new transparency and accountability model. I know that they understand that their ability to respect this model has a direct impact on public trust, their credibility and their day-to-day activities.
The government knows that with the creation of the independent mechanism proposed in BillC-3, Canadians will be much more comfortable filing a complaint. We will thereby greatly improve the accountability of our public safety apparatus' oversight mechanism.
I encourage all members of the House to join me and support BillC-3 at second reading.
View Bill Blair Profile
Lib. (ON)
moved that BillC-3, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in this House to begin the debate on BillC-3, concerning an independent review for the Canada Border Services Agency.
The Canada Border Services Agency ensures Canada's security and prosperity by facilitating and overseeing international travel and trade across Canada's borders. On a daily basis, CBSA officers interact with thousands of Canadians and visitors to Canada at airports, land border crossings, ports and other locations. Ensuring the free flow of people and legitimate goods across our border while protecting Canadians requires CBSA officers to have the power to arrest, detain, search and seize, as well as the authority to use reasonable force when it is required.
Currently, complaints about the service provided by the CBSA officers and about the conduct of those officers are handled internally. If an individual is dissatisfied with the results of an internal CBSA investigation, there is no mechanism for the public to request an independent review of these complaints.
The Government of Canada recognizes that a robust accountability mechanism can help ensure public trust that Canada's public safety institutions are responsive to the law and to Canadians. That is why I am honoured today to initiate debate on BillC-3.
I want to take the opportunity to acknowledge the excellent and extraordinary work of two former parliamentarians: former senator Wilfred Moore and my predecessor, former public safety minister Ralph Goodale, who worked tirelessly to advocate for effective CBSA oversight.
This important piece of legislation that is before us today would establish an independent review and complaints mechanism for the Canada Border Services Agency. This will address the significant accountability and transparency gap among our public safety agencies and departments here in Canada.
Among our allies, Canada is alone in not having a dedicated review body for complaints regarding its border agency. The CBSA is also the only organization within the public safety portfolio without its own independent review body.
The resolution of conduct complaints is critically important to maintaining public trust. We already know that many CBSA activities, such as customs and immigration decisions, are subject to independent review. Unfortunately, as of yet, there is no such mechanism for public complaints related to CBSA employee conduct and service.
I will provide some context for my colleagues and for Canadians. The agency deals with an extraordinary and staggering number of people and a huge volume of transactions each and every year. For example, in 2018-19, CBSA employees interacted with over 96 million travellers to and from Canada and collected on behalf of Canadians $32 billion in taxes and duties. Behind these extraordinary numbers is the story of all of us, Canadians in all walks of life and in all parts of our country who rely on the services of our border services agencies. Together, we expect that in the majority of cases we will receive, and do receive, a high degree of professionalism when travelling abroad for work and for leisure. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many members of the Canada Border Services Agency for their service to Canadians and for their professionalism they give their duties.
It is a fact that when dealing with that many travellers it is inevitable that some complaints may arise. That is why, in order to maintain the public trust in our system and to strengthen accountability for the important role that the border service officers perform for us, it is imperative that we have an independent review body to ensure that any negative experience is thoroughly investigated and quickly and transparently resolved.
Currently, if there are complaints from the public regarding the level of service provided by CBSA or the conduct of CBSA officials, they are handled through an internal process within the agency. Our government has taken action in recent years to rectify gaps with respect to the independent review of national security activities.
We have passed legislation to create the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians which recently published its first annual report. With the passage of Bill C-59, our government has also established the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. With these two initiatives under way, now is the time to close a significant gap in Canada's public safety and national security accountability framework. This is exactly where BillC-3 comes in.
The existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, or CRCC as it is commonly known, is at the heart of this proposed legislation. The CRCC currently functions as the independent review and complaints body for the RCMP. Under BillC-3, its responsibilities would be strengthened and it would be renamed the public complaints and review commission, or PCRC. The new PCRC would be responsible for the handling of complaints and conducting reviews for the CBSA in addition to its current responsibilities with respect to the RCMP.
When the PCRC receives a complaint from the public, it would notify the CBSA immediately which would undertake the initial investigation. This is an efficient approach that has proven to lead to a resolution of the overwhelming majority of complaints. In fact, in the case of the RCMP, some 90% of complaints against the conduct or service of the RCMP are resolved in this way.
The PCRC would also be able to conduct its own investigation to the complaint if, in the opinion of the chairperson, it is in the public interest to do so. In those cases, the CBSA would not initiate an investigation into the complaint. In other cases where the complainant may not be satisfied with the CBSA's initial handling of the complaint, the complainant could ask the PCRC directly to begin a review of it. When the PCRC receives such a request for review over a CBSA complaint decision, the commission could review the complaint and all relevant information, sharing its conclusions regarding the CBSA's initial decision. It could conclude that the CBSA decision was appropriate. It may instead ask that the CBSA investigate further or it can initiate its own independent investigation of the complaint.
The commission also would have the authority to hold a public hearing as part of its work. At the conclusion of a PCRC investigation, the review body would be able to report on its findings and make such recommendations as it sees fit. The CBSA would be required to provide a response in writing to the PCRC's findings and its recommendations.
In addition to the complaints function, the PCRC would be able to review on its own initiative or at the request of me or any minister any activity of the CBSA except for national security activities. These, of course, are reviewed by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency which is now in force.
PCRC reports would include findings and recommendations on the adequacy, appropriateness and clarity of CBSA policies, procedures and guidelines; the CBSA's compliance with the law and all ministerial directions; and finally, the reasonableness and necessity of CBSA's use of its authorities and powers.
With respect to both its complaint and review functions, the PCRC would have the power to summon and enforce the appearance of persons before it. It would have the authority to compel them to give oral or written evidence under oath. It would have the commensurate authority to administer oaths, to receive and accept oral and written evidence, whether or not that evidence would be admissible in a court of law.
The PCRC would also have the power to examine any records or make any inquiries that it considers necessary. It would have access to the same information that the CBSA possesses when a chairman's complaint is initiated.
Beyond its review and complaint functions, BillC-3 would also create an obligation to the CBSA to notify local police and the PCRC of any serious incident involving CBSA employees or its officers. That includes giving the PCRC the responsibility to track and publicly report on all serious incidents such as death, serious injury, or Criminal Code violations involving members of the CBSA.
Operationally, the bill is worded in such a way as to give the PCRC flexibility to organize its internal structure as it sees fit to carry out its mandate under both the CBSA Act and the RCMP Act. The PCRC could designate members of its staff as belonging either to an RCMP unit or a CBSA unit. Common services such as corporate support could be shared between both units which would make them more efficient, but there are also several benefits to be realized by separating staff in the fashion that I have described.
For example, staff could develop a certain expertise on matters involving these two agencies, their operational procedures and other matters. Clearly identifying which staff members are responsible for which agency may also help with the clear management of information.
BillC-3 would also make mandatory the appointment of a vice-chair for the PCRC. This would ensure that there would always be two individuals at the top, a chairperson and a vice-chair, capable of exercising key decision-making powers. Under BillC-3, the PCRC would publish an annual report covering each of its business lines, the CBSA and the RCMP, and the resources that it has devoted to each.
The report would summarize its operations throughout the year and would include such things as the number and type of complaints, and any review activities providing information on the number, type and outcome of all serious incidents. To further promote transparency and accountability, the annual report would be tabled in Parliament.
The new public complaints and review commission proposed in BillC-3 would close a significant gap in Canada's public safety accountability regime.
Parliamentarians, non-government organizations and stakeholders have all been calling upon successive governments to initiate such a reform for many years. For example, in June 2015, in the other place, the committee on national security and defence tabled a report which advocated for the establishment of an independent civilian review and complaints body with a mandate to conduct investigations for all CBSA activities. More recently, Amnesty International, in Canada's 2018 report card, noted that the CBSA remains the most notable agency with law enforcement and detention powers in Canada that is not subject to independent review and oversight.
National security expert and law professor Craig Forcese is quoted as saying that CBSA oversight is “the right decision”. Government expert Mel Cappe said that it is “filling the gap”. I would importantly note that the proposed legislation before the House benefited from invaluable advice proposed to the government by Mr. Cappe.
To support this legislation, we have allocated $24 million to expand the CRCC to become an independent review body for the CBSA. With the introduction of BillC-3, proper oversight is on track to becoming a reality.
In the last Parliament, this bill received all-party support in the House in recognition of its practical contents that seek to maintain the integrity of our border services and to instill confidence in Canadians that their complaints will be heard independently and transparently. Though the bill was supported unanimously at third reading, it unfortunately did not receive royal assent by the time the last Parliament ended.
We have heard concerns from many members in this House about the date of tabling, and we are now reintroducing this bill at our very first opportunity as part of the 43rd Parliament. This will be the third consecutive Parliament to consider legislation to create an oversight body for the CBSA. It is overdue.
For all of these reasons, I proudly introduce BillC-3. I am happy to take any questions my colleagues may have.
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to BillC-3, which seeks to establish a new, independent public complaints and review body for the Canada Border Services Agency, or CBSA. This represents another step forward in the government's commitment to ensuring that all of its agencies and departments are accountable to Canadians.
As a member of the public safety committee during the last Parliament, I am quite proud to have participated in legislation that made remarkable change and took the number of measures we took to ensure greater accountability of our security agencies and departments.
Two years ago, our BillC-22 received royal assent, establishing the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. That addressed a long-standing need for parliamentarians to review the Government of Canada's activities and operations in regard to national security and intelligence. It has been in operation for some time now and is a strong addition to our system of national security review and accountability. As members will know, the committee has the power to review activities across government, including the CBSA.
To complement that, our committee studied our national security framework, as well as Bill C-59, which allowed for the creation of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, or NSIRA. NSIRA is also authorized to conduct reviews of any national security or intelligence activity carried out by federal departments and agencies, including the CBSA. All of this is on top of existing review and oversight mechanisms in the public safety portfolio.
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP investigates complaints from the public about the conduct of members in the RCMP, for example, and does so in an open, independent and objective manner. The Office of the Correctional Investigator conducts independent, thorough and timely investigations about issues related to Correctional Service Canada.
BillC-3 would fill a gap in the review of the activities of our public safety agencies. The existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, which is responsible for complaints against members of the RCMP, would see its name change to the public complaints and review commission and its mandate expanded to include the CBSA. It would be able to consider complaints against CBSA employee conduct or service, from foreign nationals, permanent residents and Canadian citizens, regardless of whether they are within or outside of Canada. Reviews of national security activities would be carried out by NSIRA.
Here is how it would work in practice. If an individual has a complaint unrelated to national security, she or he would be able to direct it either to the commission or to the CBSA. Both bodies would notify the other of any complaint made. The CBSA would be required to investigate any complaint, except those disposed of informally. The commission would be able to conduct its own investigation of the complaint in situations where the chairperson is of the opinion that doing so would be in the public interest. If an individual is not satisfied with the CBSA's response, the commission would be able to follow up as it sees fit.
The new PCRC would also be able to produce findings on the CBSA's policies, procedures and guidelines. It would also be able to review CBSA's activities, including making findings on CBSA's compliance with the law and the reasonableness and necessity of the exercise of its powers. Indeed, the commission's findings on each review would be published in a mandatory annual public report.
BillC-3 not only fills a gap in our review system. It answers calls from the public and Parliament for independent review of CBSA. Most significantly, the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence, in its 2015 report, encouraged the creation of an oversight body. I would like to acknowledge BillS-205 from our last Parliament, introduced in the other place not long after the government took office, which proposed a CBSA review body as well.
Certainly we have heard from academics, experts and other stakeholders of the need to create a body with the authority to review CBSA. During testimony at the public safety committee on December 5, 2017, Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International, said, “how crucial it is for the government to move rapidly to institute full, independent review of CBSA.” This was reflective of much of the testimony we heard, and I am pleased the government is acting on this advice. I would also like to acknowledge my colleague from Toronto—Danforth for her efforts and advocacy for the establishment of a CBSA review body.
The CBSA has a long and rich history of providing border services in an exemplary fashion. It does so through the collective contribution of over 14,000 dedicated professional women and men, women like Tamara Lopez from my community, who is a role model for young women looking for a career in the CBSA.
The CBSA already has robust internal and external mechanisms in place to address many of its activities. For example, certain immigration-related decisions are subject to review by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, and its customs role can be appealed all the way up to the Federal Court.
That said, when it comes to the public, the CBSA should not be the only body receiving and following up on complaints about its own activities. Indeed, some Canadians might not be inclined to say a word if they do not have the confidence that their complaint will be treated independently, objectively and thoroughly. BillC-3 would inspire that confidence.
The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that all of its agencies and departments are accountable to Canadians. BillC-3 would move the yardstick forward on that commitment. It would bring Canada more closely in line with the accountability bodies of border agencies in other countries, including those of our Five Eyes allies.
The accountability and transparency of our national security framework has improved greatly since we were elected in 2015. This bill would continue these efforts by providing border services that keep Canadians safe and by improving public trust and confidence. BillC-3 would ensure that the public continues to expect consistent, fair and equal treatment by CBSA employees. That is why I am proud to stand behind BillC-3 today.
In the last Parliament, the House of Commons unanimously passed BillC-98, which was a bill to bring oversight to CBSA. Although that bill died in the Senate, it is my hope that all parties will again come together to pass this bill.
I listened to the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner speak earlier in this debate. He spoke at length about firearms and his petition opposing our promise to make Canadians safer by enhancing gun control. I would remind him that almost 80% of Canadians support a ban on military-style assault rifles according to an independent Angus Reid survey.
I know he and his party supported oversight of the CBSA in the last Parliament. I hope he and all members will join me in supporting oversight in this Parliament under BillC-3 and assure the bill's passage this session.
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, through you, I would like to welcome the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley to this place.
It is true that this legislation has been called for for a long time. After we were elected in 2015, we brought a robust number of bills to the public safety committee. The public safety minister at the time, Ralph Goodale, was introducing more legislation than was coming from any other department. He was fixing the previous national security framework in Bill C-59. We brought in BillC-22 and we did introduce BillC-98 to deal with the CBSA review agency. Unfortunately, the bill ran out of time in the Senate before it could be passed.
It is my hope that we can do this quickly and get it sent to committee and the Senate and finally get this review body in place.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ruby Sahota Profile
2020-01-29 18:14 [p.662]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by saying that I will be sharing my time today with the member for Bonavista—Burin—Trinity.
I am grateful for the opportunity to add my voice to today's debate on BillC-3, which proposes to establish an arm's-length review body for the Canada Border Services Agency.
The CBSA is already reviewed by several different independent boards, tribunals and courts. They scrutinize such things as the agency's customs and immigration decisions. However, there is no existing external review body for some of its other functions and activities.
For example, there is a gap when it comes to public complaints related to CBSA employee conduct and service. With the way things currently stand, there is also no independent review mechanism for the CBSA's non-national security activities. That makes the CBSA something of an outlier, both at home and abroad.
Other public safety organizations in Canada are subject to independent review, as are border agencies in a number of peer countries including the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and France. Addressing these accountability gaps through BillC-3 would improve the CBSA's strength and would strengthen public confidence in the agency. It would ensure that the public could continue to expect consistent, fair and equal treatment by CBSA employees, and it would lead to opportunities for ongoing improvement in the CBSA's interactions and service delivery.
For an organization that deals with tens of millions of people each year, that is extremely important. Public complaints about the conduct of, and the service provided by, CBSA employees are currently dealt with only internally at the agency. I am sure all of my hon. colleagues would agree that this is no longer a tenable situation.
Under BillC-3, these complaints would instead be handled by a new arm's-length public complaints and review commission, or PCRC. The new PCRC would build on and strengthen the existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, CRCC for short, which is currently the review agency for the RCMP. The CRCC would thus be given an expanded role under this bill and a new name to go along with its new responsibilities for the CBSA.
The PCRC would be able to receive and investigate complaints from the public regarding the conduct of the CBSA officials and the service provided by the CBSA. Service-related complaints could be about a number of issues. They could include border wait times and processing delays; lost or damaged postal items; the level of service provided; the examination process, including damage to goods or electronic devices during a search or examination; and CBSA infrastructure, including sufficient space, poor signage or the lack of available parking.
Service-related complaints do not include enforcement actions, such as fines for failing to pay duties, nor do they include trade decisions, such as tariff classification. Those types of decisions can already be considered by existing review mechanisms.
In addition to its complaints function, the PCRC would also review non-national security activities conducted by the RCMP and the CBSA. The PCRC reports would include findings and recommendations on the adequacy, appropriateness, sufficiency or clarity of CBSA policies, procedures and guidelines; the CBSA's compliance with the law and ministerial directions; and the reasonableness and necessity of the CBSA's use of its powers. The CBSA would be required to provide a response to those findings and recommendations for all complaints.
The creation of the PCRC is overdue. It would answer long-standing calls for an independent review of public complaints involving the CBSA.
According to former parliamentarian and chair of the NATO Association of Canada at Massey College, Hugh Segal, the lack of oversight for the CBSA is not appropriate and is unacceptable.
Former CBSA president Luc Portelance also said that when a Canadian citizen or a foreign national engages with a border officer and has a negative interaction, the entire review mechanism is not public. It is internal, and it is not seen as independent. In Mr. Portelance's view, that creates a significant problem in terms of public trust.
The Government of Canada has committed to rectifying this situation by addressing gaps in the CBSA's framework for external accountability.
With the introduction of BillC-3, the government is delivering on that commitment. It builds on recent action taken by the government to strengthen accountability on national security matters. That includes passing legislation to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. It also includes the creation, through Bill C-59, of the new expert review body, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. These two bodies are now in operation and they are doing extremely important work in terms of reviewing the national security activities of all departments and agencies, including the CBSA.
BillC-3 would go further by establishing a review and complaints function for CBSA's other activities. In doing so, it would fill the gap in the architecture of public safety accountability in this country. It would allow for independent review of public complaints related to CBSA employee conduct, issues regarding CBSA services, and the conditions and treatment of immigration detainees. With respect to these detainees specifically, Bill C-3 would offer additional safeguards to ensure that they are treated humanely and are provided with necessary resources and services while detained.
The introduction of this bill demonstrates a commitment to keeping Canadians safe and secure while treating people fairly and respecting human rights. It is a major step forward in ensuring that Canadians are confident in the accountability system for the agencies that work so hard to keep them safe.
For all the reasons I have outlined today, I will be voting in favour of BillC-3 at second reading. I urge all of my hon. colleagues to join me in supporting the bill.
View Churence Rogers Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to rise in this House and add my voice to the debate on BillC-3 which proposes to establish an arm's-length review and complaints function for the CBSA.
The bill before us builds on an action that our government had recently taken to strengthen accountability and transparency in the public safety and national security sphere. As members know, we passed legislation to create the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, and that committee has now been established. Following the passage of Bill C-59, we also created a new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. The goal of both of these bodies is to provide accountability for the national security work of all Government of Canada departments and agencies, including the CBSA.
Strong internal and external mechanisms are in place to address many of the CBSA's other activities. For example, certain decisions in the immigration context are subject to review by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Its customs decisions can be appealed to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal as well as to the Federal Court. However, the glaring gap that remains has to do with the public complaints related to the conduct of, and service provided by, CBSA employees.
There is simply no independent place to which people can turn when they have a grievance about the way they were treated by someone representing the CBSA. Without an independent body specifically tasked to hear complaints, it is easy to see how people can feel uncomfortable voicing any concerns. BillC-3 would change that by establishing an independent review and complaints function for the CBSA. That new tool would be incorporated into, and benefit from the expertise and experience of, the existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, or CRCC, for the RCMP.
To reflect its new CBSA responsibilities, the CRCC would be renamed the “public complaints and review commission”, or PCRC. Members of the public who deal with the CBSA would be able to submit a complaint to any officer or employee of the agency or to the PCRC. The CBSA would conduct the initial investigation into a complaint, whether it is submitted to the CBSA or to the PCRC. However, the PCRC would have the ability to investigate any complaint that is considered to be in the public interest. It could also initiate a complaint proactively. In the event that a complainant was not satisfied with the CBSA's response to a complaint, he or she could ask the PCRC to review the CBSA's response. The PCRC would also have a mandate to conduct overarching reviews of specified activities of the CBSA. All of this would bring the CBSA in line with Canada's other public safety organizations, which are currently subject to independent review, and it would allow Canada to join the ranks of peer countries with respect to adding accountability functions for their border agencies.
Recourse through the PCRC would be available to anyone who interacts with CBSA or RCMP employees. This includes Canadian citizens, permanent residents and foreign nationals, including immigration detainees. Most of these detainees are held in CBSA-managed immigration holding centres. When that is not possible, CBSA detainees are placed in other facilities, including provincial correctional facilities. The CBSA has established agreements with B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia for detention purposes.
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