Debates of Sept. 21st, 2001
House of Commons Hansard #83 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was united.
- Customs Act
- National Security
- Interfaith Prayer Service
- United States of America
- Violence Against Women
- United States of America
- Walk of Hope
- The Economy
- Budget Surpluses
- Standing Committee on Finance
- Stock Market Speculation
- International Aid
- Points of Order
- Government Response to Petitions
- Interparliamentary Delegations
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Question No. 58
- Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
- Question No. 44
- Question No. 50
- Question No. 55
- Questions No. 57
- Questions No. 61
- Customs Act
September 21st, 2001 / 10 a.m.
Martin Cauchon Minister of National Revenue and Secretary of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)
moved that Bill S-23, an act to amend the Customs Act and to make related amendments to other Acts , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill S-23, a bill aimed at modernizing the entire administration of Canadian customs operations. It addresses an action plan that will make it possible to have better risk management at Canada's borders and to meet the needs of the entire Canadian population in this modern age, that is the era of globalization, and its realities, of which we are all aware.
As I said earlier this week, it is particularly important that this bill be passed without delay so that we may have the tools we need to enhance our capacity to recognize high-risk individuals and goods at the border before they enter Canada and North America.
I wish to reiterate in the House that the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency takes the security of Canada's borders very seriously. We work in close collaboration with our federal and international partners, sharing information and technologies.
We also have a very close working relationship with our counterparts in U.S. customs and immigration. We are however also aware that border management is a constantly evolving process. That is why we have established a plan on which we have been working for some time.
Thanks to the changes proposed by Bill S-23, the agency will be able to focus its efforts on high risk travellers and goods while simplifying border crossings for those in the low risk category.
We will be in a position, before these reach the border, to combine risk management techniques and the transmission of information obtained with leading-edge technology and through the use of pre-arrival authorization mechanisms. This will bring about a fundamental change to the way the customs agency operates.
I must reiterate that prior to the tragic events in the United States and even more so since, the agency has always had as its priority the security of Canadians, protection of our border, the integrity of major trade corridors and reinforcement of the North American perimeter.
The risk management approach to border management called for in the customs action plan will enable the government to better uphold these priorities. While we must take measures to enhance the safety and security of Canadians and our border, let us not forget our other important responsibility of ensuring the prosperity of the Canadian economy.
International trade and tourism are considered the lifeblood of the Canadian economy. Let us not forget our accountability to Canadians to ensure their continuity.
In order to support the government's international trade agreements and its agenda for trade and tourism, the agency needs to modernize the way it carries out its customs operations.
In today's ever changing environment, one of our key goals is to maintain the flow of legitimate trade and travel across the border.
As we know, the final elimination of duties between Canada and the U.S. has further stimulated trade and enhanced both our economies. Over the past five years the volume of trade and travel has steadily increased. Every day we process 40,000 commercial entries representing well over $300 billion worth of import trade each year.
More than 100 million travellers cross our border each year and over 80% of these travellers come from the U.S.
The CCRA has met the challenges of the last decade in responding to globalization, changing business practices and advancing technology. All this economic activity has had a major impact on customs operations on both sides of the border.
We are in good shape today with a range of enforcement initiatives and services that support the protection of Canadians and the competitiveness of business. We are certainly proud of our successes so far.
However, we are also aware of the gap that is growing between the increasing workload and the resources we have available to achieve our goals. This has forced us to re-evaluate how we carry out our dual mandate.
By launching our customs action plan, we have already taken a huge step to meet this challenge. The next step takes place now with the passing of Bill S-23.
Our customs action plan is a crucial investment for the future. In proposing innovative solutions to today's problems, the plan ensures that our customs' processes will not stand in the way of Canadians' prosperity.
The action plan provides for a complete risk management system integrating the principles of pre-arrival data input and a system of prior approval, all thanks to technology.
To support this approach we are putting in place a fair and effective system of sanctions. We believe Bill S-23 provides practical measures to deal with non-compliance, from warnings to fines. These measures should have an impact on those who choose not to obey the rules.
Bill S-23 provides options that will facilitate border crossing and make it more productive in today's world. In essence, businesses and individuals with a good history of compliance should be able to benefit.
Compliance with the law is the key to the success of this approach. Bill S-23 aims at improving compliance levels. We believe that improved service and simplified processing will encourage voluntary compliance.
Naturally, in keeping with the other part of our mandate which is to protect Canadian society, we will continue random checks and monitoring periodically to ensure compliance with Canada's customs laws and regulations.
As part of the customs action plan, we will be implementing this fall the customs self-assessment program. This program is a direct result of our consultations with members of the business community who consider it their highest priority. The program is based on the principles of risk management which provide for agreements with proven clients.
Participating importers who have been rigorously selected prior to their approval, will be able to use their own administrative system to meet our requirements for receipts and trade data. This will be a comprehensive self-assessment system supported by our audit activities.
The program will also simplify the customs process by offering increased speed and certainty to pre-approved importers who use the services of pre-approved carriers and drivers to import low risk goods. There is no doubt this is a great step forward in border management.
The monetary penalties set out in Bill S-23 aim to establish fair rules for businesses in Canada. This comprehensive set of penalties will encourage people to observe the law, thanks to a series of penalties that will vary in severity depending on the type and severity of the offence committed.
In this context, the agency is aware that some of its clients may require a certain amount of time to familiarize themselves with all of the requirements with which they will need to comply. This is why importers will be given a transition period through April 1, 2002.
However, in the case of the customs self-assessment program, some of the penalties will take effect as soon as the program is implemented.
The passing of Bill S-23 would also bring exciting options for travellers. Many people will have heard of the CANPASS highway program which was pilot tested in a number of locations in recent years. Under this permit based program, travellers pre-approved by a rigorous training process are permitted to use designated lanes at border crossings.
Another example is the expedited passenger processing system for travellers. Under this new program, EPPS participants will be able to use an automated kiosk that will confirm their identity and membership in the program.
Another initiative is the harmonized highway pilot, also known as Nexus. Its goal is to provide a seamless service to pre-approved low risk travellers entering Canada and the U.S. at these border points using technology and a common card.
I believe these initiatives will serve Canadians well by improving the flow of people and goods across the border and by strengthening our ability to do job number one: protecting Canadians.
Amendments to the Customs Act proposed in Bill S-23 would allow for the introduction of advanced passenger information and passenger notification record. With those programs, customs officers will receive certain prescribed information from commercial transportation companies and drivers, crew members and passengers in advance of their arrival in Canada.
It is important to clarify to the hon. member that this is not new information. Customs officers can obtain the same information through questioning travellers and examining their travel documents. However, by receiving this information in advance, customs officers will be able to make enlightened decisions prior to the arrival of people thereby making it easier to identify high risk travellers and facilitating the movement of legitimate travellers.
The agency will continue to be vigilant and will conduct random customs examinations. The instincts of our well trained, experienced customs officers will continue to be our guiding force.
There are other examples that demonstrate the importance of this bill. This is why I cannot insist enough on the importance of moving forward with Bill S-23. I believe that this legislation is a bold and innovative step in the modernization and management of Canada's borders.
Bill S-23 will help Canadians compete and prosper on international markets. It will allow the agency to help maximize the flow of commercial cargo and travellers in good standing. The bill will also provide us with the tools we need to better protect our borders and our country and it will allow us to ensure the safety of our communities and our families. I am sure we all agree that Canadians expect nothing less.
Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB
Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of Her Majesty's loyal opposition to address the second reading of Bill S-23, an act to amend the Customs Act and to make related amendments to other acts. Bill S-23 comes before the House at a great time of crisis when the eyes of Canadians, and indeed the world, are upon our borders.
I wish to thank our customs officers who, in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, have been under incredible pressure working extra long hours thoroughly checking thousands of travellers seeking entrance to Canada. They are doing a tremendous and extremely valuable job with limited human, technological and financial resources.
I will address the initiatives enacted by Bill S-23 and their impact on our economy and trade relations; and, more important, the importance of our trade relationship with the United States and what is needed to protect and stabilize that relationship.
We are a trading nation. Our economy has positioned itself over the past decade to facilitate, expand and promote our international trade relationships. None of these relationships are as crucial as our relationship with the United States.
As a result of the FTA and NAFTA the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency handles over $500 billion in cross-border trade and processes more than 108 million travellers each year. These numbers dictate that efficient systems need to be implemented to keep pace.
The Canada-United States accord on our shared border was signed in 1995 with a number of goals: to promote international trade; to streamline processes for legitimate travellers and commercial goods; to provide enhanced protection against drug smuggling and the illegal entrants of people; and to reduce costs to both governments. The initiatives we are debating today were derived to fulfill the accord's goals.
The customs action plan began in 1998 involving nationwide consultations with groups representing trade and traveller groups to streamline the processing of goods and travellers based on risk assessment and a fair, effective sanctions regime. I commend the minister and his department for seeking industry input to reflect its needs and realities in these amendments.
The Canpass permit program contained in the bill allows travellers who frequently cross the border by air or surface for legitimate purposes to register with the government and pass through the border without having to stop for questioning. These participants are thoroughly checked before being accepted to the program and are subject to random spot checks to ensure compliance.
The administrative monetary penalties system, or AMPS, is a new regime to help ensure compliance. In the past, penalties and sanctions were rigid and in many cases too extreme for small infractions. For example, the seizure of a vehicle is hardly an appropriate penalty for a $100 discrepancy in declared goods.
The AMPS regime sanctions range from simple warnings to punitive fines of $25,000 to match the severity and frequency of infractions. The flexibility and discretion facilitated by this regime would allow fines to be administered on the basis of fairness.
One of the Canadian Alliance's ongoing concerns with our airports and ports of entry has been the ability of Canadian officials to determine the identity of those arriving and the ability to separate arriving passengers from other people in the plaza. We have called on the government to utilize electronic technology to forward travel document information from departure to destination to deal with those who arrive at customs without identification.
Thousands of refugee claimants have arrived in Canada without travel documents or identification, but they had documents when they boarded a plane to get to Canada. The advance passenger information system, or API, requires commercial carriers to provide information in advance of arrival with respect to drivers, crew members and passengers.
This is a step in the right direction. However much more is needed to adequately meet the needs of Canadian security.
Bill S-23 would allow for the examination of export mail. As a Canadian dedicated to the protection and advancement of personal liberties, I am uncomfortable voting for such an amendment. However I understand the rationale for such procedures.
I am concerned about the frequency and discretion of those who would be permitted to intercept and examine outgoing mail. We have experienced many complaints of overzealous examination of inbound mail.
In my riding of Edmonton--Strathcona, in an area called Old Strathcona, there are a number of import based industries on the retail front. Some of these industries import on a regular basis various artifacts from Africa and Latin America. One of these importers has been in business for over 10 years. They have an ongoing problem with customs at the border when many of their products come into the country.
Some of the changes prescribed in the bill would help to address some of those problems. One of the biggest complaints made by these importers is the fact that when their goods come from customs there is not the required due diligence in respect of their products being in the right condition so they can sell them.
One of my constituents sustained $60,000 worth of damage to his goods because of the way customs searched through all the products that came through without proper attention to due diligence. That is outrageous. In some cases that can make or break certain businesses, depending upon the kind of business they are in.
This is unfortunate and it is due to certain rules currently in the Customs Act that allow customs officials to check these products. Once they start rifling through them the insurance on these packages is no longer valid. Once damage has been done the recipient cannot get reimbursed for any loss. That is a big problem.
This is one of my concerns that relates to personal liberties because we need to protect the flow of goods coming through. We need to be thorough and do the proper checks. There is no doubt about that. However we must respect people's property, their businesses and their livelihoods. If that is not done effectively then many business owners would potentially lose millions of dollars and unfortunately have products they cannot use or sell.
The initiatives and programs contained in Bill S-23 would benefit many Canadian companies in their administrative tasks by allowing Canadians to import materials and products with greater ease. However reciprocal programs on the part of the United States are lacking. The programs do very little to help Canadian companies access American markets. These initiatives do not help Canadian employees for whom the prosperity of their families and livelihoods are contingent upon unfettered access to the United States.
The Canada-U.S. border is a clash in fundamental philosophies. The U.S. customs service believes that its primary mandate is enforcement, whereas Canada Customs believes that its primary mandate is to liberate trade restrictions and collect revenues.
In light of the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, our border security has come under increased scrutiny. The debate over liberalization of border procedures may only be entertained within a greater debate on national security, in particular border integrity.
We can have it both ways: a border that expedites international trade while closing its doors to terrorism, organized crime and smugglers. What is required is a principled plan and the political will to defy bureaucratic agendas, to ignore special interest interventions and to resist the vices of political expediency.
What is needed is a government that exhibits leadership and resolve, two qualities yet to be displayed by the administration. Since the tragedy of September 11, the Prime Minister has done little more than offer platitudes and deflect blame. To continue along this path would only result in our economic peril. United States Secretary of State Colin Powell said last week:
Some nations need to be more vigilant against terrorism at their borders if they want their relationship with the U.S. to remain the same. We are going to make it clear to them that this will be a standard against which they are measured with respect to their relationship with the United States.
He also added that for those nations that do a better job of policing their borders the U.S. would work with them. Last night President Bush stated that there is no truer friend to the United States than Great Britain. When Canada markets itself to the world our greatest selling feature is our proximity to the United States and the privilege of being its most favoured nation. What happens if that relationship were to be diminished?
I know that a politician's enemy is a hypothetical question. However I question how hypothetical it actually is. I read in the National Post that Honda was reconsidering investing in Canada and was contemplating redirecting that investment to the United States due to the uncertainty surrounding the flow across the Canada-U.S. border.
In light of recent tragedies Canada has been given an opportunity to address our security deficiencies. There is an inherent responsibility on the part of the government to do so. By taking immediate action the government would not be capitulating to American interests but rather responding in a practical and prudent manner.
I emphasize the importance of securing and expanding our trade relationship with the United States. There is no turning back from free trade.
No issue is of greater urgency than the security of the North American perimeter. Our walls must be reinforced and entry and exit security must be improved. By threatening the openness we have enjoyed along the Canada-U.S. border we jeopardize billions of dollars of trade and tens of thousands of Canadian jobs. Our very standard of living is at stake as over 87% of our trade is done with the United States.
This concept is based on common sense. Canada and the United States, through NAFTA and numerous other accords and treaties, are the world's closest allies. We share the longest undefended border in the world. If we want to maintain that relationship we must ascertain who is crossing that border by first of all identifying who is in our respective countries. Only when we can confirm the integrity of our external borders can we minimize the scrutiny of our shared border. A bilateral initiative with the United States to share border integrity is integral.
In terms of immigration, those who argue deceptively that strength in screening approaches are anti-immigrant are mistaken. Our immigration policies must be generous. However they must be rigorous. We can no longer have a policy of admit first, ask questions later.
Our policies and laws must protect the lives and livelihoods of Canadians. We must weigh the concerns about the safety of our citizens and the preservation of an open trade relationship with the United States against our humanitarian responsibility to receive genuine refugees.
Thousands of displaced persons find refuge in Canada every year. The vast majority are legitimate refugees. Many others are seeking to circumvent the immigration system or gain access to Canada for the purpose of criminal and terrorist activity. The latter comprise the minority of those seeking asylum. However they have an astute knowledge of our laws and know how to navigate their way through the system and carry out their agenda to the detriment of Canadian society as a whole. Collateral damage occurs through association by creating a negative impression of their ethnic or religious community in Canada.
The Canadian Alliance does not criticize the federal government's underlying intentions for granting refuge. Our grievances are with the process. We want to help as many legitimate refugees as possible, however, we believe stringent and secure refugee determination processes are in the best interests of genuine refugees seeking entrance to Canada.
In order to have entrance to Canada granted, the identity of applicants must be ascertained. Their whereabouts while in Canada must be monitored. Those whose identities and backgrounds cannot be determined must be detained and those whose applications for asylum are denied must be deported forthwith. When it comes to accountability, this is the bare minimum.
A message must be sent out to the world that Canada is a home for those in genuine need of humanitarian support, however, those attempting to take advantage and abuse our humanitarian generosity will be punished severely and swiftly.
The adjudication of refugee cases must be performed by qualified officers. Political organizers, fundraisers and unsuccessful candidates are not qualified to perform such a rigorous mandate.
As members know, I am quite sensitive to the issue of refugees and Canada opening its arms to refugees. As like many in the House, my family came to Canada as refugees. We fled the dictatorship of Idi Amin in Uganda where our family was unfortunately kicked out in the early 1970s, three generations living in a country we called home, where we built our own wealth, friendship and families. Freedom was ripped away from us overnight without any justification except that we were discriminated against because of the colour of our skin. We did not fit into that particular community.
In that unfortunate event in Uganda, my home country where I was born, we were fortunate that we were able to come to Canada. Canada welcomed us with open arms. If we look at the number of refugees during that period of time from that particular region of the country and see how they have contributed to this country with all the people who are either working now as professionals, adding to the economy and to the community by volunteering, it is fantastic to see those sorts of rewards that Canada was able to reap by having such a generous and humanitarian policy for settling refugees.
That is what we need to focus on. We need to continue to allow Canadians such as my family, who are so thankful that Canada welcomed us here with open arms, and others who want to come to this country, to take advantage of the opportunity and not abuse the laws. As I mentioned, those who abuse the laws are in the minority. We need to make sure that people coming to the country are not done in by the laws of this country, especially by those who unfortunately want to abuse those laws. I am sensitive to that. I encourage that. As a refugee I feel that we have to do as much as we can, but we have to be rigorous.
Some of the most ardent proponents of reforming Canada's immigration and refugee determination laws are new immigrants themselves. They all went through the hoops and met every requirement. Not only are they upset with those who abuse the refugee system, they are livid with those of their community who abuse the system and commit crimes in Canada, casting a negative light upon their community.
The government is not doing its job properly. This is evident with the backlash experienced by Canada's Islamic and Sikh communities. Government mismanagement of the refugee system is a disservice to the immigrant communities that are working hard to contribute to a country which has given them so much.
In conclusion I would like to state the fact that the bill was first introduced in the Senate, which is unelected and lacks legitimacy to address legislation prior to the House of Commons, and I would like to state the fact that the Canadian Alliance demand is for anti-terrorist legislation to strengthen national security and eradicate terrorist activity within Canada.
That the motion be amended by replacing all the words after the word that with the following:
this House declines to give second reading to Bill S-23, an act to amend the Customs Act and to make related amendments to other acts, since the principle of the bill fails to specifically and adequately address national security at Canada's borders with respect to terrorist activities.
Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to split my time with my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot.
Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to split his time?
Some hon. members
Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC
Mr. Speaker, in my first speech to the House since the tragic events of September 11, I would like to take a few moments to extend my most sincere condolences to the people who have been saddened by this terrible event, on behalf of the people of Rivière-des-Mille--Îles, the people of Quebec and of Canada. I wish to assure them that they are in our hearts, in our thoughts and in our prayers.
Moving now to Bill S-23 which was passed by the Senate on June 7, the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of this bill provided certain major amendments are passed.
I would remind hon. members that the Bloc Quebecois has always been in favour of the movement of goods and services between countries, and of free trade. The proof of this is, in fact, that the government of Quebec and the Bloc Quebecois were the first to approve NAFTA under the Mulroney government. At that time, I would also remind hon. members, our friends across the way were against it.
The Bloc Quebecois and the government of Quebec were also in favour of the open skies project. They are in favour of the FTAA. The Bloc Quebecois has always been a supporter of free trade, provided individuals' rights and culture are always respected.
I will discuss the background of Bill S-23. This bill started out as a draft bill in the fall of 1998 when Revenue Canada, which has now become the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, published a discussion paper entitled “Customs Blueprint”.
In that document the department pledged first to improve the services provided; second, to ensure that businesses and travellers comply with the regulations; third, to identify efforts to end illegal activities and threats to health and safety; fourth, to promote certainty and consistency for travellers and business people.
Following this discussion paper the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency released the customs action plan for the years 2000-04. Customs new approach is based on a comprehensive risk management system that integrates the principles of self-assessment and information collection, as well as special authorizations regarding the main following features: processing techniques based on risks for travellers and business people; streamlined processes when risks are low; more thorough processes when risks are greater or when they are unknown.
Can we include in the unknown risks the new unknown risk for everyone posed by terrorism? I think so. As for the second principle, it was based on a fair and effective sanctions system.
I agree that this new approach is good in itself and implements a way of doing cross-border trading and travel much more expeditiously. It should be noted that the bill seems more geared to Canada-United States transportation. More importantly though, it could be adjusted to international travel in the near or not too distant middle future. I do not remember seeing any mention of marine transport in the bill, but we should start thinking about it.
This bill can therefore be summed up as follows: first, it provides for the expedited movement of persons and goods into Canada; second, it provides for streamlined clearance procedures for low risk passengers by pre-arrival risk assessment of passenger information; third, it provides for new requirements in respect of the provision of information obtained under that act; fourth, it provides for monetary penalties in respect of designated contraventions; fifth, it extends the deadline for requesting reviews and appeals beyond current time limits; sixth, it harmonizes provisions for the collection of amounts owing under that act with those of the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act; seventh, it makes technical and housekeeping amendments; and eighth, it makes related amendments to other acts.
But let us be prudent. I would like the minister responsible for the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to be very prudent. My question this morning is this: Will Bill S-23 address all the shortcomings identified by the auditor general in his April 11, 2000 report with respect to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency? Let us again look at what the auditor general said in his report.
We found that risk assessment is incomplete: Customs does not have important information it needs from a variety of departments and agencies to fully assess the risks its inspectors face. It needs to know where the risks are highest so it can determine the best way to control them. We have recommended that Customs work more diligently to obtain information on the risks arising from the responsibilities it carries out at ports of entry on behalf of other departments—Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, for example—and include them in its national risk assessment. It also needs to have up-to-date memoranda of understanding with those departments, setting out their respective roles and responsibilities.
This is a bit worrisome.
Another aspect of this legislation concerns us considerably, and I refer to mail searches. The bill provides a means for searches of all mail of more than 30 grams in weight. This is disturbing because it is a form of interfering with people's fundamental rights. When the bill was under consideration in Senate committee, the Canadian bar submitted an excellent brief on March 15, 2001 and I invite the Minister responsible for the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to note the position taken by the Canadian Bar Association. The points it makes are certainly important.
In closing, one point in this bill is of concern. It is the power accorded the minister. The bill also contains many regulations. Most of the points of law will be resolved by regulations.
The minister will have to define and make public the regulations he intends to make on security at Canadian customs so that they may be debated here.
The Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of the law. Indeed, goods and people must be expedited through customs, but not at all cost. I think the minister will have to make certain changes to his bill for us to support it completely.
Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address this bill which is of critical importance to the future of international trade.
The bill provides for:
—the expedited movement of persons and goods into Canada;
(b) streamlined clearance procedures for low risk passengers by pre-arrival risk assessment of passenger information;
(c) new requirements in respect of the provision of information obtained under that Act;
(d) monetary penalties in respect of designated contraventions;
We can only support any government initiative designed to facilitate trade and speed up customs procedures. We can only support a bill that can improve these aspects and thus ensure that our country can export its goods and services more easily to the United States and even elsewhere in the world while promoting cordial relations with our trading partners.
This is why we support in principle Bill S-23 introduced by our learned colleague the hon. member for Outremont.
However we must be extremely careful because the government has the unfortunate tendency to introduce bills that refer to all sorts of provisions and regulations that have yet to be drafted. When regulations can be twice as long as the bill itself, it is cause for concern because we are not getting the full picture.
Several of the bills introduced by the government in recent years had this unfortunate feature. For example, the Bank Act provides that regulations will come later. In the case of certain provisions, we are still waiting for these regulations.
Another problem with Bill S-23 that also existed with the Bank Act is the very broad discretionary powers given to the minister responsible, in this case the Minister of National Revenue, who is in charge of customs.
We must avoid this kind of situation since we can only evaluate a bill on its merits if it includes specific provisions. In the bill before us, there are at least three issues that deserve a much more indepth review than is now possible without the regulations.
First, when the government talks about expanding the CANPASS program so that more exporters and importers can move their goods more rapidly through customs simply by showing their CANPASS membership card, we may well wonder how we can evaluate the fairness and impact of this measure if we do not know what criteria is used when deciding whether certain exporters or importers should be allowed to qualify for the CANPASS program. They will be able to pass through Canadian and U.S. customs more quickly. Another category will be refused CANPASS accreditation after their cases are considered.
How are we to evaluate the fairness of this decision? What avenues of appeal are open to exporters and importers? It is important that the criteria for accreditation be clearly known.
Why? Because those who qualify under the CANPASS program will have a competitive advantage over their competitors. Why? Because they will be able to point to their CANPASS accreditation as a business advantage and tell their clients “I guarantee you that there will be no wait at Canadian customs. I will be able to clear the goods, and you will receive them faster than if you use my competitor who does not have a CANPASS”.
It becomes a bit like the ISO standard in industry. It becomes a symbol of recognition of the performance of these exporters or importers. If a company obtains CANPASS accreditation and another company in the same sector or in another Canadian province does not, we need to know why. Because the former has an advantage over the latter, as it would in the case of ISO standards, because it can show that it is able to expedite its shipping contracts for its clients.
The second example concerns the system for expediting passenger movement. We have no indication of the criteria which will be used. It is a bit disturbing when the minister is being given discretionary power, or we are waiting for regulations yet to come, but we do not know the criteria that will be used in awarding these accreditations.
This would also allow—and the privacy commissioner highlighted this problem with Bill S-23—Canada Customs agents to open packages weighing over 30 grams. Once again this raises some issues. Surely there is some way to limit this power to open mail without a warrant and without any legal reason. Surely there is some way to better define this aspect of the bill. This is what we will work on in the coming weeks.
While we support this bill in theory since it will help simplify trade, we have some serious concerns with regard to provisions contained within the bill. To this end, we are asking—and I am sure that we will have the co-operation of the minister responsible—that the minister provide us with the bulk of the regulations at the same time as we are studying the bill in committee specifically, so that we can get the whole picture of the situation.
Incidentally, I would invite the minister responsible for the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to come up with a work plan to review new provisions regarding international trade, as well as the existing ones, in light of the new circumstances, that is, the tragedy that took place some ten days ago in the United States.
Obviously, increasing security means tightening certain customs regulations and increasing the resources allocated to border surveillance. I hope the minister already has a work plan to review how Canada protects its borders and to ensure that this is improved in view of the new and terrifying events that took place in the United States the week before last.
Finally, I would ask the minister responsible, because this is part of his mandate, to try to see how we could neutralize, in the near future, the work of money laundering organizations that conduct their activities all over the world and often have a base of operations in Canada. I would ask the minister—because it is ultimately his responsibility—to review, in co-operation with the Minister of Finance, even though it is the Minister of National Revenue who is responsible for their implementation, the tax treaties signed with some countries that are deemed to be tax havens.
Since 1993 we have been asking the government to review these tax treaties, to provide more resources so as to put pressure on these tax havens to stop their unfair way of processing tax resources and particularly money laundering activities, given what happened in the United States and given the statements made by the western world regarding the fight against tax havens and money laundering, which are the source of wealth of terrorist groups. The government should take a serious look at this issue. I will complete my speech after oral question period.
Statements By Members
Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I ask hon. members of the House to join with me today in recognizing the 20th anniversary of Ontario's blue box recycling program.
The blue box was the brainchild of Kitchener resident Nyle Ludolph, a garbage collector with Laidlaw, who helped launch the program in 1981. Two hundred and fifty Kitchener homes received the first blue boxes and the program was soon expanded to 34,000 homes.
Ontario residents were eager to make use of the blue box in their efforts to reduce, recycle and reuse. Today approximately four million Ontario households have curb or depot access to recycling. In 1999 successful recycling helped divert 658,000 tonnes of waste from Ontario landfill sites.
The blue box idea has been adopted by numerous homes throughout Canada, the United States, France, Australia and the U.K. Recycling is one of the simple ways Canadians can build a healthier and cleaner environment.
I ask hon. members of the House to join me in recognizing this important anniversary.
Statements By Members
Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC
Mr. Speaker, British Columbians are critical of the Liberal government's poor response to the tragedies of September 11 and its reluctance to take the security of our nation seriously.
British Columbians want strong anti-terrorist legislation to protect our citizens. We want our coastline, ports and airlines secured. We want immediate action to detain and deport anyone illegally in Canada or failed refugee claimants linked to terrorist organizations. We want our military and law enforcement agencies to have the resources they need to get the job done when it comes to fighting terrorism.
The horrendous events of September 11 showed us the folly of depleting B.C.'s emergency response capabilities. The government closed CFB Chilliwack and crippled our military, naval and coast guard resources. It has given British Columbia meaningless promises about emergency assistance being dispatched from Edmonton. That is not good enough.
British Columbia is giving fair warning to the government to get serious about protecting the security of all Canadians.
Statements By Members
Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK
[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Cree]
Mr. Speaker, I stand today with a heavy heart to extend our condolences to the people whose lives were tragically violated on the island of the Manhattans. I pray that our nation and all nations of the world find peace regardless of the tests and obstacles that confront us. We must be united as nations to find true peace.
In this reflection I must acknowledge that the constitution of the United States of America was virtually based on the great law of peace of the Haudenosaunee, the Iroquois Confederacy.
The gifts and responsibilities of the indigenous nations of our country and our continent can help us in our time of need. We have no greater need now than peace and security when the threat is at our doorstep and our campfires.
I draw to the attention of all Canadians that we have a responsibility to future generations. Let us recognize Canada as a nation of rivers, for water is a source of life. Canada is a river of nations and it is in those relations that we will find true peace.
Statements By Members
Sophia Leung Vancouver Kingsway, BC
Mr. Speaker, the recent tragedy in the United States caused by the unthinkable terrorist attacks has shocked North America. I know I speak for all my constituents of Vancouver Kingsway in condemning the terrorists who caused the death and destruction.
Before we identify the responsible terrorists we must not project our anger toward innocent people. I remind Canadians that racism and violence against Arab Canadians will not be tolerated in our humanistic society. This is a time for all of us to come together to condemn violence and strengthen our freedoms and democratic values.
On behalf of my constituents of Vancouver Kingsway I extend our support and compassion to the United States during this dark period in its history.
Interfaith Prayer Service
Statements By Members
John McKay Scarborough East, ON
Mr. Speaker, after the events of September 11 many people of faith were left bereft of comfort. Some were wondering whether the powerful need to seek justice would unfairly target a certain faith or certain ethnicities. Indeed there was evidence to support those fears.
The Parliament of Canada gave tangible support to those voices of faith yesterday by suspending its sittings for two hours. Parliamentarians, members of the diplomatic corps and others filled to overflowing the largest room on Parliament Hill to listen to prayers and reflection from a variety of faith groups.
I thank Ambassador Cellucci for his attendance. I thank the Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Speaker's office for their generous support.
Canada is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation. Yesterday parliament walked the walk instead of talking the talk. I have never been more proud of my colleagues in the House and Senate.
United States of America
Statements By Members
John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC
Mr. Speaker, last night George Bush gave what may be the most important speech of our lifetime. He did not include Canada in his list of countries that are friends. Meanwhile our Prime Minister's priorities are clear. Last night he went to a Liberal fundraiser in Toronto while Tony Blair was at the U.S. congress with his unequivocal support.
Ten days after the terrorist attacks our Prime Minister has still not been to Washington or New York. Canadians are embarrassed by this lack of leadership. It is setting a negative tone for trade and other relations with our best friend and neighbour.
The government is behaving as if there is no crisis, no need for critical action and no urgency. The drift and empty rhetoric go on.
Statements By Members
Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the residents of Winnipeg South Centre I too extend condolences to those who lost loved ones in the recent tragedy in the United States. Such horrific acts of aggression and malevolence defy comprehension.
It is human nature to immediately seek revenge by inflicting damage on those who sought to damage us. However we must, as the Prime Minister has said, proceed with balance.
This was not just an act of terrorism against the United States. It was a tidal wave of terrorism against every citizen of the world, and those responsible should be accountable to the world for their actions.
Through bodies like the International Criminal Court and international institutions and alliances, terrorists can be made to answer for their crimes and the world can seek justice for the injustices committed against innocents. Global co-operation and global solutions must be a priority.
Over the coming months and years Canada must continue to show leadership. We must act with wisdom, tolerance and patience as we contend with the profound implications and effects of terrorism.
Violence Against Women
Statements By Members
Monique Guay Laurentides, QC
Mr. Speaker, throughout Quebec, as well as Canada and the rest of the world, thousands of women and men will be marching today to mark the Day of Action Against Violence Against Women.
Any form of violence, whether against women, men or children, and whether verbal, physical or psychological, must be condemned and opposed with the utmost vigour.
According to the Regroupement québécois des centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel, 85% of reported violence is against women, and 34% of women aged 16 or over have experienced a sexual assault at some time in their life.
I salute community organizations in my riding as well as those everywhere else in the world, for their unflagging efforts which make it possible for women to come together and to provide each other with support.
Let us hold on to the dream that in the very near future, such organizations will no longer be needed as hate and violence gives way to peace and serenity.