An Act to amend the Customs Act

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

In committee (House), as of Sept. 27, 2017

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Customs Act to authorize the Canada Border Services Agency to collect, from prescribed persons and prescribed sources, personal information on all persons who are leaving or have left Canada. It also amends the Act to authorize an officer, as defined in that Act, to require that goods that are to be exported from Canada are to be reported despite any exemption under that Act. In addition, it amends the Act to provide officers with the power to examine any goods that are to be exported. Finally, it amends the Act to authorize the disclosure of information collected under the Customs Act to an official of the Department of Employment and Social Development for the purposes of administering or enforcing the Old Age Security Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Sept. 27, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Customs Act

Customs ActGovernment Orders

September 26th, 2017 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, once again, we have a wonderful piece of legislation before the House of Commons. It is truly amazing in terms of the wonderful, positive measures that this government has been able to achieve in less than two years. I see my colleagues across the way enjoy that fact, and we continue to encourage opposition members to support good government initiatives, and this is yet one more example.

It was not that long ago that we were talking about pre-clearance issues and the benefits to Canada and the U.S., but in particular for Canada, on the whole issue. We learned quite a bit from that legislation in terms of how that enabled Canadians to get into the U.S. in a quicker fashion by being pre-cleared here in Canada so that, when they arrive in the U.S., they could walk off the plane into the communities to which they have flown, and the economic impact of having that.

I would reference the additional airports that were being incorporated under pre-clearance and how those communities in different regions of our country were economically going to benefit by that, not to mention Quebec and B.C. and the benefits in terms of the railway pre-clearance concept.

The legislation we are debating today is yet one more step, and this is a very aggressive, progressive government wanting to take advantage of what is really important to Canada's middle class and those who are aspiring to be a part of it, and that is growing the economy. I would suggest that is what the bill is about. It deals with the exportation of products. Though we hear concerns at times from members across the way regarding exportation of some products, this legislation deals with that.

I would like to go into some of the specifics, but before I do that, I want to highlight what I believe are some of the initiatives that this government has taken on the important issue of trade. Even today we are in negotiations in regard to trade with the United States. We have a minister who is diligently, in a very robust way, ensuring that Canadians' best interests are at the table. We have industries, such as agriculture to aerospace and all the industries in between, that are being well represented by that current negotiating team. It goes without saying that Canada has some of the best, if not the best, trade negotiators in the world.

We have seen that in terms of some of the agreements we have been able to accomplish in the last couple of years. Yes, in some ways the previous government was able to initiate some trade agreements and we were able to continue the discussions. In some cases we actually saved the discussions, so that ultimately we would have a final trade agreement. I see that as a very strong positive, because it adds value to Canadians in terms of jobs and opportunities.

Canada's middle class is best served when we have a government that is in tune with the needs of our middle class. Today, through this legislation, we are seeing a number of initiatives, and I would like to share through the bill's summary what Bill C-21 would do:

This enactment amends the Customs Act to authorize the Canada Border Services Agency to collect, from prescribed persons and prescribed sources, personal information on all persons who are leaving or have left Canada. It also amends the Act to authorize an officer, as defined in that Act, to require that goods that are to be exported from Canada are to be reported despite any exemption under that Act. In addition, it amends the Act to provide officers with the power to examine any goods that are to be exported. Finally, it amends the Act to authorize the disclosure of information collected under the Customs Act to an official of the Department of Employment and Social Development for the purposes of administering or enforcing the Old Age Security Act.

There are significant benefits from this legislation. I will list but a few of them. We would improve the ability of law enforcement to respond, for example, to things like an Amber Alert and to the outbound movement of known high-risk travellers, child sex offenders, human traffickers, and fugitives from justice, all of which I believe are important for us to recognize. It would help to prevent radicalized individuals from travelling overseas to participate in terrorist activities, and it would help to prevent the illegal export of controlled, regulated, and prohibited goods from Canada. It would also allow for the verifying of travel dates to determine applicable duty and tax exemptions, rather than relying strictly on self-declaration.

In addition, it would continue to identify individuals who do not leave Canada at the end of their authorized period of stay. That has always been a very strong personal issue for me because I would travel, especially while I was an MLA and even in my first couple of years as a member of Parliament. People go to places like the Punjab or India or the Philippines and one of the issues when they talk to immigration officials, in trying to serve the constituents whom we represent, is that the officials will say that there is a certain process that needs to be followed for visas to be issued.

One of the issues that consistently has come up over the years is whether a person will in fact return to their own country if that person is issued a temporary visa.

Far too often, we get family members who want to be able to come to Canada to participate in special celebrations like weddings, graduations, and, sadly, funerals of family members, and they are rejected. I would suggest that the primary reason they would be rejected is that the officials have a question mark as to whether those people would return to their homeland. Time and again and still to this very day, I consistently argue that we need, as much as possible, to give the benefit of the doubt to those family members so they are able to be with their families in Canada during those celebrations and otherwise. The officials often could not quantify it; they could not say that we have x number of people not leaving the country. This piece of legislation would help deal with that.

I see my time is quickly running out, so I will continue after question period.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

September 26th, 2017 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, as I was going through Bill C-21, I was trying to highlight what I believed were some really important aspects of it.

To ensure the efficient movement in legitimate trade and travel, and to keep our borders secure, it is essential that we have a clear picture of who enters and exits the country. There are many benefits to that. This is where left off when I had to sit down prior to Standing Order 31 presentations.

I was commenting on what I believed was one of the important issues I had to face over the years. I want to highlight something from a personal perspective, and that is the issue of the visiting visas and the manner in which they are issued.

One of the considerations of immigration officers abroad, whether it is in the Philippines or India, is will that person return. Whenever I have the opportunity to visit these facilities, and I do periodically, both in India and the Philippines in particular, but also in Ukraine, I try to get a better understanding of the whole question of “will they return”. That is one of the reasons why we are rejecting so many temporary visas.

Unlike many other countries in the world, we do not have the same sorts of recording mechanisms or collection of information systems that are so very important for different departments to get a sense of individuals and whether they will return. Immigration is just one of those departments,

I would like to see further discussion of this in the chamber and in the committee to see if there are ways we could improve it. At the end of the day, I hope we will see more family members coming to Canada. If we can illustrate that we have a better recording mechanism, more family members from many countries in the world will have a greater chance to come to Canada. I see that as a strong potential positive. I hope to add some more thoughts in regard to that.

That is not the only benefit. I made reference to helping prevent radicalized individuals from travelling overseas to participate in terrorist activities; verifying travel dates to determine applicable duty and tax exemptions, rather than relying strictly on self-declarations; identifying individuals who did not leave Canada at the end of their authorized period of stay; enabling immigration authorities to make more effective use of resources by eliminating wasted time and resources spent conducting investigations on people who had already left the country. It is amazing how many resources are invested in that. I mentioned limiting the collection of exit data that had existed since 2012, for example, 35 warrants and 146 removal orders of people no longer in Canada; and better protecting taxpayer money by making it easier to identify fraud and abuse of social benefits with residency requirements.

There are so many reasons why this is good legislation, and members should support it.

There are concerns with respect to privacy. The minister and the government have engaged proactively on the file with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. We take our obligations to protect Canadian privacy rights very seriously. From what I understand, that was taken into consideration as the legislation was developed.

The legislation is in good part consistent with what the U.S. has been doing. We signed an agreement, I believe back in March. It would make us consistent with with respect to collecting basic biographic entry and exit information. It is not a new issue.

I can recall sitting on the immigration committee a number of years ago when the issue was before us. We talked about how it was importance for the government to take some sort of action. As I have said on many pieces of legislation, given the legislative agenda and many other budgetary measures taking place by this government, I very am pleased we have been able to bring this legislation forward because it will have a very strong, positive impact.

Bill C-21 would improve Canada's ability to prevent people from travelling overseas to join terrorist groups. It would combat things such as human trafficking, respond to Amber Alerts, and ensure the integrity of certain social benefit programs with residency requirements. That is a significant achievement.

Bill C-21 would also improve Canada's ability to identify and intercept controlled goods being smuggled out of the country. We have a great deal of debate and concern in regard to the types of goods that leave the country at times. This is yet another piece of legislation, a government initiative, that will better reflect Canadian values and their expectations of the government.

No new requirements would be imposed on travellers and no new exchange of data with the U.S. would occur for air travellers.

People collecting social benefits in accordance with the law would not be affected at all by Bill C-21. We really need to reinforce that. Anyone who has spent at least 20 years in Canada as an adult is entitled to receive old age security, regardless of what country he or she lives in, and that is reinforced.

I look at the legislation as a whole, and there is a great deal of interest in it. For example, the province of Manitoba has literally thousands of individuals whom we call snowbirds. We have come through the best summer we have ever had. I can count on one hand the number of mosquito bites If had this past summer. Winnipeg was the best city to be in if people wanted to enjoy summer in 2017, the year in which we are celebrating the 150th. Some might debate that. However, for me, it definitely was the place to be. However, as it starts to get a bit colder, after we get into December and January, some may opt out of the sunny skies of Winnipeg and go where the climate is a bit warmer.

Legislation like this would help provide some clarification. Snowbirds have nothing to fear from it. Some might say they should be concerned, but we will put in place a system that protects the integrity of many different types of programs and benefits in different departments. The legislation would also enable our customs officers and department to look at certain material, merchandise, product, or manufactured products that could potentially cause issues with Canadian values and allow for that additional power to find out what is taking place.

I started my speech by talking about the different types of legislation that the government had brought forward, and some of the trade agreements we had entered into. Canada is a fantastic nation, from coast to coast to coast. We have a responsibility as government to look at the bigger picture and the demands our society has on us. We need to ensure we have good export and import policies.

We need to ensure we have policies that enable Canadians to travel abroad. We need to look at ways to fine tune things to hopefully provide the type of information that allows for better policy decisions to be made.

Again, I emphasize the issue of those temporary visas. There is likely no issue more important from a constituency point of view. Very rarely do I have an issue more important than that in the riding I represent of Winnipeg North. Therefore, getting the facts would allow individuals like me to get more individuals here to visit families. It is important to advocate for that. I write approximately 350 or 400 letters every month to try to assist people in getting family members to Canada. This legislation would assist in making those arguments so we could have more faith and trust in family members, allowing them to come to Canada.

I encourage all members of the House to see the bill as a very progressive step forward. Concerns regarding privacy have been addressed in a very proactive fashion. The legislation is good to go, and I look forward to its passage.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

September 26th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to follow my friend from Winnipeg North, who was eager to tell us that there have been many accomplishments in the context of the Canada-U.S. relationship, accomplishments such as meetings. Perhaps that illustrates the more foundational problem in terms of the direction we see things going. On this side of the House, we do not consider holding a meeting an accomplishment.

I thought, perhaps, the parliamentary secretary would mention the famous state dinner that members of the Prime Minister's family were able to attend. The natural resources minister was not, but there were still many people at this state dinner.

On this side of the House, we are concerned about a clear erosion of the Canada-U.S. relationship and the fact that this critical relationship for our interests, for our success, is being undermined through significant missteps by the government. It is not new to the presidency of Donald Trump. We have seen a very poor, very ineffective strategy with respect to this relationship under both President Obama and President Trump. I think we can see a number of clear examples of that.

It is important, in the context of that relationship, that we not prioritize, ahead of results, the images, the meetings, and the state dinners. They are not the priority. For the people in my constituency, who are working hard, who are looking for better opportunities for themselves and their families, their principal interest is not the photos that are taken, the meetings that are held, or the food that is eaten at the dinners. Their principal interest is what kinds of accomplishments, what specific agreements and initiatives, are going to happen between Canada and the U.S. on issues such as softwood lumber, which is not as important in my riding but is in other places, and issues such as pipelines and the trade in natural resources, which are very important in my riding.

It is results in those areas that matter in terms of the Canada-U.S. relationship. It is not the socks, the photos, and the images. As my colleague from Durham aptly said in question period yesterday, it is time for the Prime Minister to pull up his fancy socks and start trying to get results.

I want to highlight the fact, again, that the erosion of this relationship between Canada and the U.S. began not under President Trump but under President Obama because of the approach pursued by the government of this Prime Minister.

We had President Obama speak in the House of Commons, and the Prime Minister, in his introduction, referred to a “bromance” and “dudeplomacy”. I had never heard of dudeplomacy before. It sounds like a pretty gendered term, actually. I had never heard of dudeplomacy, but I have heard of diplomacy. What does not seem to have happened is actual diplomacy in terms of the traditional trying to advance ideas that advance Canada's interests. For example, it was relatively shortly after this Prime Minister took office that the American administration at that time said no to Keystone XL. We had virtually no substantial public response from the Prime Minister or the government at the time.

Fortunately, that decision has since been reversed, but as a result of changes in American politics. It had nothing to do with any activity happening on this side of the border with respect to Keystone XL. As my colleague said, immediately there was a desire to take credit for it, but the reality is that it was going to happen if there was a change in the party and the president. That was going to happen.

The government was not at all involved in promoting Keystone XL or in raising those issues, especially after it was rejected by someone with whom, supposedly, there was a bromance and dudeplomacy going on. There was a failure of results with respect to actually getting the market access we needed under that administration.

It is interesting to follow this, because there was a lot of discussion internationally about the Paris accord. Here in Canada, the government immediately wanted to tell us that to meet the Paris accord, we had to impose this massive new tax. Actually, a lot of the analysis shows that this new tax is about raising revenue. It is not going to substantially have an impact with respect to the way it is being set up and what the government has said its objectives are.

An overwhelming majority of the countries in the world are part of the Paris accord, but it is a minority of those countries that actually think that a carbon tax is the way to meet the requirements. We would think from the what the government says that a carbon tax was required by the Paris accord, but that is not the case at all. In fact, most countries that are part of the Paris accord think that the way to meet our Paris accord obligations does not involve a carbon tax, a massive new tax on Canadians.

What is interesting in the context of that relationship is that there was much discussion about the Canada–U.S. relationship vis-à-vis the environment. Canada imposed a carbon tax, and yet the American administration did not bring in a carbon tax. The Hillary Clinton campaign did not propose a carbon tax, and I do not think Donald Trump has much interest in a carbon tax either. The point is that no American administration was moving in this direction regardless, and yet Canada took a step that put us at a significant competitive disadvantage. A possible fruit of that alleged dudeplomacy would have been to push for the Americans to align what they were doing with us, but that was never going to happen. The Prime Minister was happy to accept pats on the back for his carbon tax action, while in fact there was no serious effort to do the same south of the border.

The other issue, of course, is the government's plan to legalize marijuana. There has not been any thinking through at all about what the implications would be for Canadians travelling south of the border after legalization happens, assuming the government goes through with it. We never know. The government has turned tail on so many of its promises. It is not a done deal. However, assuming the Liberals go through with that, it would create some real issues for Canadians who may choose to use legal marijuana and then want to travel to the United States. There is a possibility of their being asked about that and barred access under that. That is, again, not something that the government seems to have paid any attention to in the context of substantive discussions or negotiations.

There are all these different issues, where what Canadians expect vis-à-vis the Canada–U.S. relationship is for a government to fight for Canadian values, to fight for Canadian interests, and not to prioritize the image dimension. That is what we on this side of the House believe our approach to foreign policy should be. We believe it should be prioritizing fighting for Canadian values and Canadian interests, not prioritizing the international image or personal reputation of particular members of the government. That is important. We have a government that is fumbling this relationship. At the same time, the Liberals are desperate to look as if they are doing something.

We have a bill before us that, actually, we on this side of the House see as a pretty good bill. It would effectively streamline processes at the border. It would deal with smuggling in a reasonably effective way. I think it would reduce costs. It would make the border more efficient. It continues, importantly, with momentum that was clearly started under the Conservative government. Prime minister Stephen Harper put a big emphasis on trying to make the border more effective, and it was not because he thought he could have great photo ops at the border as a result. It was because he understood that having an efficient, effective border would help to create jobs and opportunities for Canadians, it would help to ensure the necessary market access, and it would help also to create opportunities and advantages for Canadian consumers. Therefore, we prioritized making the border more efficient and effective.

In cases where we see the government continuing forward with momentum that was started under the previous Conservative government or even, in general, in cases where we think the government is doing things that are good, we will be happy to support them, to speak for them, and to vote in favour of that legislation. However, the context is important because overall on so many important areas and fronts we have the government bungling this relationship.

I have talked about how, very clearly, under the current Prime Minister, there was an erosion of that relationship that had already started during the tenure of president Obama. Of course, it has continued in the present environment and it has continued especially as we look at what is happening in NAFTA negotiations. It is very important that we reflect on these negotiations and that the government approach them in the right way. We have to be realistic in the context of those negotiations and the proposals we have put forward, and we have to seek to advance Canadian values and Canadian interests.

I had the opportunity to be in the United States during the time of the last American election. I was actually in Cleveland, which is kind of an epicentre of activity. I was there as part of a trip with a number of my parliamentary colleagues, including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We observed an interesting phenomenon in terms of what was happening there, which was that messages about trade and the loss of manufacturing were really resonating in certain particular states in the United States, and a lot of those messages came back to certain perceptions about the impact of trade deals. There was a perception, I think an incorrect perception, that some of these trade deals had contributed negatively to the economy of these areas. The electoral success of Donald Trump was significantly informed by his ability to get out his message with respect to trade in those key electoral markets.

We have to recognize, then, that it was what was in the administration's mind when it talked about renegotiating NAFTA. I do not think that when Donald Trump talked about renegotiating NAFTA, his principal objectives were adding sections on gender and indigenous rights. Maybe I was reading different coverage of that election from what others read, but the message about renegotiation was very clear in terms of the objectives.

It does not mean that we should have the same objectives. In fact, it is important that we counter misinformation about the alleged negative impacts of trade, but it is also important that we go to the negotiating table with a realistic sense of what we can achieve and with a goal to do what we can realistically to protect Canadian jobs and interests. The government, in articulating its negotiating objectives, has put itself in a position of very clearly talking past the administration and, in some cases, has put forward proposals that do not even relate to federal jurisdiction. For example, it has talked about what have been dubbed right-to-work laws at the state level in the United States.

We have a federal system in Canada, so the government should understand how a federal system works, that the federal government cannot, in the context of these types of negotiations, demand that states get rid of state-level labour laws. That is not within federal jurisdiction. For the government to suggest that somehow these negotiations should hinge on changes to state-level laws is a fundamental misunderstanding of how federalism works, and it is a strange proposal to come from another country with a federal system that has strong subnational governments.

In general, whether it is labour laws or specific legal protections on indigenous or gender issues, these are the kinds of things that would be the subject of significant substantial national debate in the United States. It is hard to imagine that Canada demanding them as part of NAFTA talks is going to be the spur that makes them happen. In reality, the specific reason the Americans were going into NAFTA renegotiations was to address this perception about economic interests. What we need to do to be effective in those negotiations is highlight how trade deals have been beneficial to the economy of North America as a whole; we have benefited from trade, but so has the United States benefited from trade.

It is not a zero-sum game. I have used this analogy before. Some people talk about trade as if it is winning or losing, and that is just so outside of what we know to be true about economic interactions. It is like saying, if I go to a restaurant to order a meal, one of us is winning and one of us is losing. Am I winning and the restaurant losing, or is the restaurant winning and I am losing? That is obviously ridiculous. We are both winning. We are winning by mutually beneficial exchange: I am getting a meal and the restaurant is getting business. The same is true of trade. People choose to engage in trade because they have an opportunity that has opened up for them for mutually beneficial exchange.

The Prime Minister of Canada, as the leader of a trading nation, a nation that needs trade and has benefited so much from trade, should be championing the value of the open economy on the world stage.

He should be doing what many Conservative members are doing in opposition, which is standing up for Canada. He should be going to the United States to speak specifically about the economic benefits of trade. He should be trying to make the case, in those critical electoral markets like Ohio or Michigan, about the benefits that have accrued to those areas as a result of mutually beneficial trade, as a result of the freedom to exchange goods and services between Canada and the U.S.

We know those benefits exist. The case can be made there, and yet the Prime Minister only talks about trade in the context of wanting to redefine and talk about progressive trade agreements. In large part, he is taking what Canada has done for a long time. The Conservative government signed many trade deals, and in every case we were dealing with, as was realistic and practical in the context, provisions in the agreements and side agreements that dealt with issues like labour rights and other rights.

The trans-Pacific partnership was negotiated by the Obama administration. We still have yet to hear from the Liberal government its position on that or on some kind of successor deal that does not include the United States. The government should at some point take a position with respect to the trans-Pacific partnership, or at least the idea of a trans-Pacific trading bloc, whether or not that includes the United States. These deals have for a long time included these elements.

It is clear that the Prime Minister wants to find a way to rebrand NAFTA, which was a Conservative-negotiated deal under prime minister Brian Mulroney, and somehow put his stamp on it. It may well be in the end that we get some big unenforceable language in there about some of the issues that the Prime Minister has talked about, but there is just no realistic scenario in which, as part of trade negotiations, the United States would agree to making dramatic changes to its rights frameworks, especially insofar as those changes might impact federalism, just in response to a Canadian demand.

Not only is this relationship eroding under the Liberals, but their approach to these discussions seems to portray a fundamental misunderstanding of the United States, even the constitutional sharing of powers as exists in the United States, and also some of the key political motivations and dynamics that they should be responding to as they are supposedly seeking to advance Canada's national interests.

The problem is that we do not see the advancing of that interest in many different ways. We see the eroding of a voice for Canada's interests and in general of Canada's voice on the world stage. The emphasis instead is on image, photo ops, state dinners, and so on, not on achieving results.

We on this side of the House are in favour of legislation that would make the border more effective. Bill C-21 would improve the efficiency of the border. It is a good piece of legislation that builds on momentum put in place under the Conservatives. It would cut down on costs, it would make the border more efficient, it would address smuggling, and there are a number of different areas where we see concrete improvements coming through the bill.

However, we are concerned about the overall picture when it comes to Canada-U.S. relations. More broadly, when we speak of the government's foreign and trade policy we see a seeming lack of interest in standing up for Canadian interests and Canadian values.

Our objective on the world stage should not be to, above all else, get a seat on the UN Security Council, to cozy up to whomever and do whatever it takes to get there. Our goal should be to ask how we can concretely make life better for Canadians through more trade, more effective borders, and the kinds of opportunities that come with that.

How can we make life better for people across this country in concrete, tangible, and measurable ways? How can we reflect people's values, people's moral convictions in the kinds of causes and principles that Canada stands up for on the world stage? Canada's interests and values should be our priorities, not the image side.

While we do support this bill, we call on the government to do better when it comes to the Canada-U.S. relationship, and to do better when it comes to foreign policy in general, to reflect those priorities that Canadians are telling us they want us to focus on.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

September 26th, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. Since he knows a lot about how Parliament and the legislative process work, I would like to ask him a question. There have been a number of bills on important issues such as national security. Most recently, we examined Bill C-23 on preclearance at the border. Like Bill C-23, Bill C-21 contains provisions that give the minister a lot of discretionary power over regulatory changes that will be made after the bill is passed. Looking back, when Bill C-23 was being examined in committee, public officials were asked for a list of regulatory changes that would be made to implement the provisions of an agreement with the United States. However, they were unable to provide us with a comprehensive or even a definitive list.

Does my colleague agree that the legislative process requires accountability and transparency, and that this is an unacceptable way of doing things? We understand the need for regulations, but when they are used to circumvent the legislative process, that can cause problems.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

September 26th, 2017 / 4 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in support of these legislative amendments proposed in Bill C-21, which would amend the Customs Act to enable the Canada Border Services Agency to collect exit information from all travellers leaving Canada.

We all understand the importance of collecting basic biographic information on people coming into Canada, such as who they are, where they are from, how long they are staying. That is just basic security, but there is also value in keeping track of travellers who are leaving Canada. In this regard, Canada is quite a bit outside the mainstream. In fact, we are laggards in this regard.

While most other countries collect basic information on everyone who enters and exits, Canada collects information on only a small subset of people who leave our country. This means that at any given moment we cannot say for sure who is in this country. We know that they came in, but we do not know where or when they left, or if they ever left.

Consider that right now with no means of identifying precisely who is exiting our country, we cannot know if dangerous individuals may be leaving Canada to escape justice. Nor for example do we know whether we are expending valuable immigration enforcement resources trying to track down someone who has been ordered to leave Canada when that person may well have already left the country on their own.

Not collecting exit information also limits our capacity to respond to Amber alerts or suspected abductions in a timely way, among other shortcomings. This is an obvious and unacceptable security gap and one that many of our international partners have already closed. We need to catch up.

Let me be clear. We are not talking about the collection of reams of personal information from people leaving Canada. We are talking about basic biographic information, the so-called tombstone data that appears on page 2 of everybody's passport, including name, date of birth, citizenship, gender, travel document type, document number, and the country that issued the document.

The only other information that would be collected would be the location and time of departure, and the flight number in the case of people leaving by air, in other words, the same information that people volunteer when they enter Canada or any other country. That is it. No new information would be collected. Notably, no biometric data, such as photographs or fingerprints, would be collected or exchanged as part of the entry-exit initiative and travellers will not notice a difference. That is important.

This is how it would work. For people crossing the Canada-U.S. border by land, border officers in the country they enter will simply send that passport information and departure details back to the country they just left. In this way, one country's entry is the other country's exit and vice versa. The exchange of information in the land mode would occur on a near real-time basis following a traveller's entry to either country, usually within 15 minutes.

The exchange would take place through an existing secure electronic channel between Canada and the U.S., the same system that is used to transfer information between Canada and the U.S. under the Nexus, FAST, and enhanced driver's licence programs currently in place.

For air travellers, no new exchange of information between countries would be required. The information would come directly from airline passenger manifests. To obtain an exit record in the air mode, for example, the CBSA would receive electronic passenger manifest details directly from air carriers, with information on passengers scheduled to depart Canada aboard outbound international flights.

This information would be received up to 72 hours prior to departure to facilitate the identification of known high-risk travellers attempting to leave Canada by air. This is a key point for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it would help Canadian authorities recognize when someone with links to violent extremist groups was preparing to leave the country and stop them from travelling abroad to participate in terrorist activity. In fact, Bill C-21 would help border officials deal with a number of threats they currently lack the tools to address.

The CBSA is our first line of defence against threats originating overseas. It uses a system called “lookout” to identify persons or shipments that may pose a threat to Canada. Lookouts are based on information in the CBSA's possession or that may come from sources, including the RCMP, CSIS, Immigration officials, and local or international law enforcement agents. While lookouts are effective for identifying inbound threats, the absence of exit information means that they are not effective for identifying outbound threats. However, Bill C-21 addresses that shortcoming.

In a global threat environment with dangerous individuals leaving or trying to leave peaceful, stable democracies to join extremist organizations, collecting reliable exit information has never been more vital to support Canada's national security. We must equip the Canada Border Services Agency with the statutory authority to collect the same information on outbound travellers that it does on inbound travellers.

With the passage of these legislative amendments, CBSA's lookout system would be strengthened, allowing the agency to notify partners if and when a known high-risk individual intends to leave or has just left Canada. This information would close the loop on an individual's travel history and fill a gap that has been exploited by people trying to evade the law.

As a final note, it is important to recognize the care that has been taken to ensure that this initiative is designed to respect and comply fully with Canada's privacy laws and obligations. The communication and collaboration between the CBSA and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and the design and implementation of the entry-exit initiative has been extensive, productive, and instructive in protecting privacy rights. The protection of those rights is paramount, and this bill would ensure that those rights are indeed protected. It is a shining example of the balance between security and privacy.

There is no question that this bill would enhance the security of Canada and its allies. I urge my colleagues to support its swift passage and ensure that the women and men of the CBSA have the resources and tools they need to do their job of securing our border and facilitating the free flow of legitimate trade and travel.

Trade, of course, is important to Canadians. This bill would help facilitate trade between Canada, the U.S., and our other international partners. Bill C-21 is required and necessary to close a gap to make sure that Canada is in line with our international partners. It is a good piece of legislation that would do good work. I urge all members to support this bill.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

September 26th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is my first speech in the House.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Saint-Laurent for their strong support in the April by-election.

We are very lucky to live in the beautiful riding of Saint-Laurent, which is one of the most multicultural ridings in the country.

We live in peace, which shows what this beautiful country of Canada is about.

It is my great pleasure to participate in this important debate on Bill C-21, an act to amend the Customs Act. The amendments proposed in this bill will give us a more complete picture of the people leaving Canada. They will strengthen the integrity of our data on who is entering and exiting Canada by closing gaps with respect to individuals' personal travel history. I want to emphasize that this will in no way delay travellers. It will enhance our security, improve our administration, and strengthen our border without interfering with the efficient movement of legitimate travellers and goods.

I would like to provide an overview of how the existing system works. When the current phase of the entry-exit initiative was launched in 2013, Canada and the United States began to exchange basic biographic entry information on third-country nationals, permanent residents of Canada, and lawful permanent residents of the United States crossing at automated land ports of entry. The record of land entry into one country can be used to establish an exit record from the other.

Since this summer, Canada has also been providing the United States with basic biographic information on American citizens and U.S. nationals who leave the United States and enter Canada at land ports of entry. At present, our two countries securely share the entry records of nearly 80,000 travellers a day.

This exit information is limited in scope and is not intrusive. Basically, apart from the time and location of the departure, the only other information collected is that found on page 2 of passports. That information is already collected upon entry. This includes the name, nationality, date of birth, and the issuing authority of the travel document.

However, Canadian officials do not know everyone who leaves the country, because the sharing of information gathered by Canada does not affect Canadian citizens and is limited to the land mode. We need a full picture of people's travel history to manage our borders effectively. The changes proposed in Bill C-21 regarding the collection of current information on the movements of all travellers will improve security and the integrity of Canada's borders.

I also want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that no new requirement will be imposed on travellers for the collection of this data. Travellers leaving Canada by land will simply present their passport to the U.S. border security officer as usual and the United States will automatically send the data to Canada.

As for travellers leaving Canada by plane, airlines will gather the basic passport information that is on the passenger manifest and provide it to the Canada Border Services Agency before they leave.

Some will be surprised to learn that we are not already gathering this information. In fact, many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, keep track of people who leave their countries. It is time that we fill this security gap and keep pace with our allies.

There are countless benefits to this new legislation. First, it will help authorities react better to known high-risk travellers before or shortly after they leave Canada.

The RCMP or CSIS could ask border services officers to monitor individuals who are suspected of wanting to join a terrorist group or suspected of being involved in human trafficking. Border services officers would then communicate with the appropriate agency if one the individuals is identified. Canadian and U.S. authorities could then collaborate on resolving the situation.

Going after Canadians who take part in high-risk activities abroad is a key priority for our government. The collection of basic exit information will be a new important tool in preventing such activities.

Bill C-21 enhances our ability to prevent the illegal export of controlled goods, respond more effectively in time-sensitive situations such as responding to Amber Alerts, ensure the integrity of our immigration system, combat cross-border crime, and, by ensuring that we have more complete and reliable data on travel history, protect taxpayers' money by making it easier to shed light on fraud or misuse to the detriment of certain government programs.

It is important to note that people who receive benefits under the legislation will not be affected.

Naturally, proposals to enhance national security often come with concerns over privacy and freedoms. I know that the government takes its obligation to protect individual rights and freedoms, and Canadians' privacy, seriously. This is consistent with the underlying principle of our overall approach to security. We can and must protect Canadians, while protecting rights and freedoms.

Some privacy protections are built into the entry-exit initiative. Exit information will only be disclosed in accordance with Canadian law. The exchange of information within the country and within the United States will be subject to an official agreement in order to establish a framework for the use of information and mechanisms to resolve any potential problem.

I would like to remind members that the only information we are talking about is that found on page 2 of passports. This is information that all travellers voluntarily provide every time they cross the border.

The proposed changes in Bill C-21 will improve our security and help ensure our prosperity. It is important that we have a more accurate picture of the people who enter and leave Canada. Thus, we can improve the efficiency of the movement of legitimate travellers and goods while strengthening our border security. I strongly recommend that all members of the House support this bill.

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September 26th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in this place. This is my first time rising in debate since we resumed sitting here in the fall, outside of question period, of course.

I think this is a very important bill. It was introduced in response to ongoing action by the former Conservative government starting in 2011 with the beyond the border initiative, an agreement put in place by former Prime Minister Harper and former President Obama. It has two purposes, which are basically to improve the security of both of our countries and to increase the economic competitiveness of both countries by amending the Customs Act in several key ways. It is good to see the work of this agreement continuing. We acknowledge that the United States is certainly a very important partner and ally for us in many regards, as we see right now with the ongoing NAFTA talks, as well as the continued discussions on shared areas of interest, such as defence and immigration.

I will speak in support of Bill C-21, but in the context of a situation that we have seen emerge in the last several months, which is the surge of asylum claimants and people who are illegally crossing Canada's border at various unofficial points of entry, and then, of course, making asylum claims. This is a situation that started in January this year. We saw a huge spike, and I believe the most recent numbers from August are that over 27,000 migrants have illegally crossed the border into Canada from the United States through unofficial border crossings. This is the highest number of crossings in many years. Therefore, I think the bill is an important step in the right direction in the context of that particular issue. However, I am not sure that it goes far enough.

What we have heard from border officials at the CBSA is that they have been absolutely overwhelmed by this situation. We have seen this evidenced by the Liberal government's having to set up tent refugee camps on the U.S.-Canada border, and basically scramble after months of inaction in failing to denounce this activity as unsafe, and failing to put in place any sort of plan that would prevent people from getting false hopes in crossing the border illegally and making asylum claims.

Since this crisis started, all of our immigration processes and services have become backlogged by this influx. Refugee claimants are being told that it will take many months to process their claims, and in some cases years. This is far too long. However, the bill would have a direct impact on this situation by amending the Customs Act so that basic information would be sent to Canada when a person leaves the country. Currently, this information is only recorded for foreign nationals and permanent residents who leave the country. The bill would close the gap in security that currently exists so that any time a person leaves the country, it would be noted.

There seems to be a consensus in the House between the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party of Canada that the bill is necessary. However, I ask my colleagues in the NDP to consider the bill from this perspective. If we want Canada's asylum claim system to be credible and to help the world's most vulnerable, we need to make sure that the finite resources our country has are applied to helping those people.

The proposed amendments to the Customs Act would ensure that it would be recorded when the individuals who stay in Canada beyond their authorized stay do eventually leave. Currently, immigration enforcement officials do not have this information, and have to waste time and resources conducting investigations of individuals who have already left the country without their knowledge. In a situation where immigration services are already backlogged, Canada cannot afford to waste time and resources on pointless pursuits. Bill C-21 would allow immigration officials to focus their activities and not waste time and energy where there is none to spare.

However, I want to make the point that while I am supporting the bill, I do not think that the government has thought writ large of how it is managing the backlog and processing burden that the illegal border-crossing crisis is putting on our border crossing and immigration officials.

This will help. I certainly do not want to see immigration officials having to track people who have already left the country. That seems like a giant bureaucratic waste of resources that could be corrected by this simple fix.

I also think that the government needs to have a long, hard look at how it is already resourcing and enforcing some of our laws, which are not being respected in Canada right now. I have certainly heard directly from CBSA officials, who have talked to me in confidence because they do not want to be outed to their bosses. There is a lot of fear of retribution by the Liberal government on this. They say that they simply do not have the resources to cope.

As a Conservative, to me the first instinct is not to say that we should dump a bunch more money into a situation. We should look at the determinants or reasons why things are happening, try to correct them, and then ensure that we proceed accordingly. In this situation, this is why our party has been making a strong case that the government needs to look at the component of the safe third country agreement that allow people crossing the U.S-Canada land border through unofficial points of entry to make an asylum claim. We believe that that particular loophole should be closed.

To my colleagues from the NDP who are asserting that somehow this is not necessary, this information is readily shareable. I do not think it is very intrusive. I think it would make our immigration system and border agencies work a little more effectively, so that we can potentially be directing resources to those who need them the most.

I want to emphasize that in the scope of this bill we are sort of remiss as a House of Commons if we are not looking at some of these other determinants such as the illegal border crossing crisis. There are a couple of other reasons for that.

This bill speaks to tools and the need to prevent human trafficking into this country. There is a lot of concern in the community, evidence, and certainly speculation of increased activity by human smuggling rings into Canada as the illegal border crossing crisis has picked up. There was a story published on CTV News entitled, “Saskatchewan woman faces human smuggling charges in connection with illegal border crossings”. This woman was arrested after being stopped by the police with nine people in her vehicle. All nine individuals, originally from west Africa, had entered Saskatchewan at the northern portal Northgate crossing. They were taken into custody by the CBSA. Through the course of the investigation, the CBSA uncovered evidence to suggest that suspected smugglers were allegedly bringing foreign nationals into Canada from the United States by facilitating their illegal crossing between designated points of entry.

This is a huge concern. Earlier this year, with the Speaker of the House I had an opportunity to visit Mexico City. We visited one facility that assisted refugees who were coming from the northern triangle of Central America. The impression I was left with was just how dire the situation was and how many people were migrating from this area. I was also left with a concern that there was a significant amount of human trafficking resulting from this situation.

My concern is that if we are not tracking people exiting and entering our country in more effective ways, and making sure we are not facilitating these groups by leaving a glaring loophole such as the one in the safe third country agreement open, we are making it easier for these people to participate in these activities. My concern is that there is a disproportionate number of women who are affected in negative ways by this activity.

At the UN General Assembly last week, I believe the UN High Commissioner for Refugees talked about the need to ensure that women and their rights are protected in migration. We have certainly seen in the Middle East that over 70% of women who are migrating experience some sort of sexual violence. Certainly we do not want to see that happen across our Canada-U.S. border. Our efforts need to be expanded here.

I hope all members in the House of Commons will support the bill because it is a common-sense measure to ease some of the burden on the CBSA right now. If that is the goal of the legislation, we need to look further and close the loophole in the safe third country agreement.

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September 26th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-21 is being introduced at a rather interesting time and pertains to a very sensitive subject, specifically, privacy. The bill proposes amendments to the Customs Act to allow the collection and sharing of exit information on anyone who leaves Canada, including Canadian citizens, with American authorities.

We in the NDP have to question the legality of this sharing of personal information on Canadians with American authorities, and we believe that Canadian officials should not be collecting this information for the United States or any other country. This should be the responsibility of the American border officials, who already collect data on travellers who enter the United States.

I agree that security imperatives must be taken into account and we must ensure the strength and effectiveness of the the Canada-U.S. border, but this cannot be done at the expense of the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

Data gathered by the Canada Border Services Agency should never be disclosed to foreign agencies, except in exceptional circumstances. In such cases, police forces, such as the RCMP and CSIS, already have measures and practices in place that they can use.

In recent years, whistleblower Edward Snowden spoke to us about U.S. surveillance programs, in particular NASA's program. U.S. President Donald Trump is a populist politician who is lawless, racist, unstable, and, unfortunately, the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. He wants to increase electronic surveillance and the collection of information about foreigners, whether they are tourists or U.S. residents.

Bill C-21 would increase the exchange of information between Canada and the United States. There has been a system to collect and subsequently share exit and entry information at the Canada-U.S. land border since 2011. In 2013, it was established that this only applied to third-country nationals and permanent residents. Since then, the information exchanged by our two countries has not decreased. Americans are always looking for more information.

After hearing this, should Canadians be concerned about their privacy? We believe that the answer is yes. The giant next door influences our policies. After assuring the international community that Canada is back, our Prime Minister is making our country bend once again to what the U.S. wants.

Are we going to again allow our neighbours to dictate their demands without worrying about the consequences for our lives, our freedoms, and our privacy?

Not content with invading the privacy of its own citizens, the United States now wants to invade the privacy of Canadians crossing the border. Bill C-21 would authorize officials to collect data about every individual leaving Canada, including Canadian citizens, and share it with U.S. authorities.

Why does the government think it has the right to decide that it will collect private information about its own citizens and share that information with foreign governments?

I do not have a problem with Canada sharing information with the United States. These days, we need to strengthen our international bonds. However, authorized law enforcement agencies, such as the RCMP and CSIS, can already exchange information in exceptional cases.

With this bill, the government will make information exchange routine regardless of the consequences and how U.S. authorities will use that information. We do not know how our information will be used or who will get it. I cannot fathom why this government wants to collect and exchange even more personal information absent adequate independent oversight by our national security agencies.

Canadians recently lost the protection that was previously afforded to them under the Privacy Act. In January, President Trump signed an order allowing the U.S. to access information on any individual, including Canadians, to verify their identity.

In other words, anyone crossing the border at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, which we are hearing a lot about these days, or at Stanstead can be asked by American customs agents to turn on their phone and give the agents their password for Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network. That is a complete invasion of our privacy. Our own Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, warned us about this initiative.

He said, and I quote:

The issue is that if you allow greater information-sharing, the legal standards authorizing this activity should be such that law-abiding Canadians, ordinary Canadians who should have nothing to fear from surveillance activities of the state, are not caught by the information-sharing regime.

The bill that is currently before us does exactly the opposite. Although we need to take into account security interests and ensure our safety and the smooth exchange of information at the Canada-U.S. border, as I was saying, we need to be careful and protect our rights and freedoms within Canada. The information that is collected by the Canada Border Services Agency must not be disclosed and shared with foreign authorities.

In addition to all that, it is important to keep in mind the Trump administration's disturbing actions. In light of the discriminatory immigration orders, which, as my colleague from Beloeil—Chambly mentioned, led to the racial profiling of Canadian citizens travelling to the U.S., it comes as no surprise that the right to privacy of non-Americans has been suspended. That is very worrisome. Now, more than ever, this bill poses a threat to the fundamental rights of Canadian travellers.

When will the Liberal government keep its promises and protect its constituents? If it does not set clear limits on the exchange of information and if it does not enhance protections, we will clearly end up in a position of weakness. This affects privacy, but also other areas. The other worrisome thing is how this data will be used. According to The Economist, information is worth more than oil. That says it all. I need not remind the House that many information giants are American, including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, and that our Canadian and Quebec companies are competing in this environment.

Can we believe for a moment that the information shared with the Americans will remain in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security? There is nothing in this bill or in the government's interventions to indicate that the information that will be disclosed will be used for security purposes only. Economic intelligence gathering is nothing new; the practice is used by both our adversaries and our allies. We get the impression that the Liberal government is hoping that the Trump administration will keep its word.

Trump will swear to us, as he often spontaneously does, hand on heart, that his American administration will never allow that information to be misused for economic purposes. If anyone believes that, that would be the very definition of naivety or gullibility. This is something of a recurring theme. The Liberals promised to be more transparent, and yet it is becoming increasingly difficult to access information. These days, there is a lot of talk about access to information regarding the NAFTA negotiations. We have no information about that. Confidentiality agreements have been signed for a four-year period. These negotiations will have repercussions on all Canadian workers.

The Liberals promised to remove from Bill C-51 any excessive transfers of power to security agencies. That has not yet happened. There was a very modest reform that did not correct all the problems in Bill C-51.

The Liberals also promised to respect official languages. We still do not have an official languages commissioner to investigate complaints and ensure that bilingualism in the House of Commons improves. That still has not happened. A number of promises like that have been broken. I could name several more.

In this case, promises were made about accountability and transparency, but Bill C-21 falls short of keeping them. We want to protect Canadians and the bill on the collection and exchange of exit data does not specify how this information will be used or who it will be exchanged with.

How can we trust our legislators if they cannot get their facts straight on the issue of privacy and how this bill will ultimately work?

In conclusion, we will be opposing this bill. The Liberals are going to have to start over.

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September 18th, 2017 / 11 a.m.
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Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved that Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Customs Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, may I begin by welcoming you and and all other members back to the House of Commons to our business on behalf of Canadians.

Reflecting on the announcements that you just made at the opening of this session, members will obviously see behind me the vacant desk that was formerly occupied by the member for Scarborough—Agincourt, adorned today with flowers in his memory. We all think very fondly of our friend and colleague who passed so suddenly just a few days ago. We all share the grief of his loss.

However, if there is one bit of advice that Arnold Chan would give this House, it would be to proceed with the public business of Canada and to do so with substance, civility, and strength. We will all strive to do that in his memory.

Today we are beginning this fall sitting of the House with a debate on Bill C-21, legislation that will amend the Customs Act to enable the collection of certain basic exit information when someone crosses the border to leave our country. This bill will close a gap in our security and administrative framework by giving a clearer picture of who is actually exiting Canada at any given moment in time so that we can better ensure the efficient movement of legitimate trade and travel and keep our border secure.

Every day, around 400,000 people and $2.5 billion in bilateral trade cross the Canada-U.S. border in both directions. We and our American counterparts have frequently reiterated our shared commitment to creating an even safer border that promotes even greater prosperity, two goals that go hand in hand. The bill before us today is a big step toward achieving those goals.

It would likely come as a surprise to most Canadians that basic exit information is not collected already. We do, of course, take careful note of people arriving in Canada, but until now, we have only collected exit data on foreign nationals and permanent residents leaving the country. By contrast, most other countries keep track of who leaves as well as who arrives. We need to address this security loophole and in effect catch up to the rest of the world.

The exit information that will be collected is brief, basic, and unobtrusive. It is the name, nationality, date of birth, gender, and the issuing authority of the travel document—in other words, nothing more than what is found in the normal course on page 2 of one's passport, along with, of course, the time and the place of one's departure. This information will be gathered without imposing any new requirements on the travelling public.

When a person leaves Canada by land, they will, as usual, show their passport to a U.S. border officer and the U.S. will automatically send the information on page 2 back to Canada. For those leaving by air, air carriers will collect the basic passport data from passenger manifests and provide it to the Canada Border Services Agency before departure.

As a result, Canadian authorities will be better able to manage our border, combat cross-border crime, respond to national security threats, prevent the illegal export of controlled goods, ensure the integrity of our immigration system, and protect taxpayer dollars against the abuse of certain government programs.

As an example of how the bill would help with police investigations, take the case of Amber Alerts. When an alert is issued, the RCMP would ask the Canada Border Services Agency to create a lookout for the missing child or for a suspected abductor.

If information relayed to CBSA by U.S. border officials matched that lookout, CBSA would alert the RCMP that the person had left the country. The RCMP could then coordinate with its American counterparts to locate the child and apprehend the offender, knowing precisely when and where they left Canada. If the lookout matched someone on the passenger manifest of an imminent outbound flight, police could intercept the abductor at the airport and rescue the child before departure.

This is also useful retrospectively if an abductor has taken a child out of the country. For example, if a child is discovered missing in the afternoon and the exit data show that the child crossed into Vermont that morning, that is obviously extremely helpful for investigators in both countries as they work together to bring the child home safely and to apprehend the abductor.

The same principle would apply in the case of known high-risk travellers, such as fugitives from justice or radicalized individuals. Combatting the phenomenon of Canadians participating in terrorist activities abroad is a key priority for our government and, I am sure, for Parliament. The collection of basic exit information would be an important new tool for our national security agencies in this regard.

It would also be useful in Canada's efforts to combat human trafficking. It could help police determine the location of a suspect or a victim of human trafficking. It could help determine the travel patterns of suspects or victims, which in turn makes it easier to identify human smuggler destinations or implicated criminal organizations, and it could help police to identify other suspects or victims by learning who is travelling with the individual in question. All of this information is invaluable not only for the advancement of human-trafficking investigations but also later in the criminal justice process in support of ensuing prosecutions.

Bill C-21 would also help immigration officials to make better-informed decisions and better use of their resources. With access to reliable exit data, immigration officials would be able to base their decisions on a more complete and accurate picture of an applicant's travel history. When conducting investigations, they would be able to prioritize activities and resources by focusing on people who are actually still in Canada rather than wasting time looking for someone who has already left.

Bill C-21 would also help to protect taxpayer dollars by reducing fraud and abuse of certain federal programs with residency requirements. By establishing when people leave Canada, we would be able to better determine who is and who is not eligible for certain benefits. Of course, when people are entitled to benefits based on their residence in Canada, those benefits are properly and generously provided by Canadian taxpayers, but eligibility criteria exist for a reason, and Canadians expect the government to administer these programs accurately.

Let me be clear: people collecting benefits in accordance with the law would not be affected in any way. People currently receiving old age security would not be affected, because once they have 20 years in residence in Canada as an adult, their OAS is fully portable wherever they may choose to live in their golden years. Medicare eligibility would also not be affected, because the exit information that we're talking about today would only be used in the administration of federal programs, and the administration of medicare is at the provincial level. However, by helping to identify fraud and abuse, Bill C-21 would help ensure the integrity of benefit programs and the responsible use of taxpayer dollars.

The bill also includes measures to strengthen the ability of the Canada Border Services Agency to deal with smuggling and the illegal movement of goods out of Canada. Hon. members may well remember that the Auditor General published a report in the fall of 2015 finding that improvements were needed to combat the unlawful export of controlled goods or dangerous goods, including illegal drugs and stolen property.

Bill C-21 would help address that situation, as identified by the Auditor General, by providing CBSA with authorities regarding the export of goods similar to the authorities that already exist with respect to imports.

As with any measure that involves the collection and sharing of information, privacy considerations must be paramount. Our government takes this very seriously. We have an obligation to protect the privacy of Canadians, and privacy protections have been built into the core of this initiative, as reflected in Bill C-21.

To begin with, the government has engaged proactively on this matter with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, and we will continue to do so. Privacy impact assessments have already been completed for the current and previous phases of implementation, involving the collection of basic exit data for non-citizens. Summaries of those assessments are available on CBSA's website. An additional assessment will be done once this new legislative framework is enacted and put into place. We will ensure that we protect the privacy of Canadians.

It is important to note that before any information can be shared between CBSA and any other federal agency or department, a formal information-sharing arrangement must be established. Such an arrangement would include information management safeguards and privacy protection clauses.

The exchange of information with the United States would likewise be subject to a formal agreement to establish a framework governing the use of the information and to set up the mechanisms necessary to address any problem that might arise.

At all times, exit information would only be disclosed in accordance with Canadian law and CBSA employees would continue to receive training to ensure they would be aware of their privacy responsibilities with respect to accessing and disclosing personal information.

Crucially, as I said before, the only information we are talking about in Bill C-21 are the basic facts, as laid out on page 2 of one's passport, which, of course, is the document one hands to the foreign border service officer whenever one seeks to enter another country. It is that basic information that would be transferred back to Canada so Canadian authorities would know when a person left the country. It is nothing more than that.

As I mentioned at the outset, our government is committed to ensuring the efficient flow of trade and travel essential to our country's prosperity, while keeping our border secure at the same time. It is in furtherance of this dual objective that I introduce Bill C-21. I look forward to the constructive engagement of all hon. members as we discuss the bill in the chamber and then proceed to consider it in further detail in committee.

I thank members for their attention. My only regret today is my friend Arnold Chan is not here to participate in this debate.

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September 18th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his speech.

Some of the most egregious human rights violations Canada has, unfortunately by proxy, been a part of have often had to do with information sharing. One particular case, the most infamous, is the Maher Arar case. When we look at Bill C-21, the minister might say that it is only what is on page 2 of one's passport. What he is forgetting to talk about is the fact that this information is then being handed over to the U.S. government in a context where executive orders have been adopted, removing privacy protections from the information that is not of an American citizen.

I want to understand why the minister thinks we can start sharing exit information with our American counterparts in that context, especially given some of the discrimination that has been going on at the border lately.

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September 18th, 2017 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to pass on my condolences to members across the aisle on Mr. Chan's passing. It is a great loss, and we feel their pain.

Bill C-21 is legislation that we can all support. It would modernize our border. It would allow the free flow of goods back and forth even more effectively. If we could even move beyond this into some new type of agreement with the U.S. so we could even speed up the crossing of commercial goods across the border, that would be positive too.

What people in Saskatchewan really want to know from the minister, and it is a very important and simple question, is with respect to the proposed tax changes coming down the pipe, which are going to affect farm families and make it impossible for a family farm to pass on to the next generation. Where does he stand on these proposed tax changes?

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September 18th, 2017 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, we have systems in place that collect and provide that information with respect to foreign nationals and permanent residents. However, the legal authority has never existed to collect and make use of that information with respect to Canadian citizens. That is the critical change involved in Bill C-21 for everyone leaving the country. We have the information on foreign nationals. We have the information on permanent residents. However, we do not have that information with respect to Canadian citizens. By changing the Customs Act, we will give ourselves the legal authority to collect that data and ensure the picture is complete with respect to all persons leaving the country.

It is a bit ironic that we have forever collected the data with respect to people coming into the country but never leaving the country. Many people have observed that as a major gap in border security, which needs to be fixed. I hope the House can move quickly in order to get it done.

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September 18th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I stand in the House today to speak to Bill C-21, an act to amend the Customs Act.

Before I go any further, I would like to once again thank the leader of the Conservative Party for appointing me to his shadow cabinet as critic for public safety and emergency preparedness. I look forward to working with our leader, my cabinet colleagues, and our entire caucus so as to ensure that the concerns of all stakeholders within the public safety and emergency preparedness portfolio are heard and addressed.

I also hope to work productively with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. I am very pleased that we can begin today by discussing a bill that we believe is a step in the right direction for Canada's public safety.

One of the major stakeholders in public safety is the Canada Border Services Agency. This is an agency, as I will explain later, that will be directly affected by the bill we are discussing today.

CBSA employs nearly 14,000 individuals, including 6,500 uniformed CBSA officers who provide services at approximately 1,200 points across Canada and at 39 international locations. While most Canadians will be familiar with this agency from the interactions they have with its officers at the border crossings on land, air, and sea, they may not know just how busy this agency really is.

The CBSA's responsibilities include detaining those people who may pose a threat to Canada and removing people who are inadmissible to Canada, including those involved in terrorism, organized crime, war crimes or crimes against humanity. The CBSA also stops illegal goods from entering the country, and protects food safety, and plant and animal health.

I want to thank the people at CBSA for the hard work they do every day. I thank them for everything they do and for the work that happens behind the scenes that international travellers are unaware of. We certainly know that the CBSA agents are there working hard to protect us.

Given the state of the world today there is no role more important than to work every day on finding the best ways to enhance public safety for all Canadians.

With terrorism on the rise in many countries around the world, including Canada, unfortunately, the unspeakable crimes involving human trafficking and the pain and suffering of the victims' parents, and organized crime destroying individuals and entire families, we cannot afford to be lax in our efforts to keep Canadians safe.

What is human life worth? What lengths should we go to in order to protect our sons and daughters? How far should we go to make our children and families feel safe at home and in their community day and night?

We know that our Constitution affords rights to criminals, but it also provides rights to law-abiding citizens. Can we not balance the two?

I sometimes feel that in dealing with criminals, the rights of law-abiding citizens are taken lightly and justice is not properly served. Recently we saw the current government bend over backwards to provide long-term financial support to a young man who gladly and passionately fought against our allies. The government gave him up to $10 million for his trouble but had very little to say about the soldier's widow or her children.

I raise this point because from time to time, the Prime Minister speaks more passionately about non-Canadians and acts in ways that make every Canadian stop and think to themselves: is this Prime Minister speaking for me or for someone halfway around the world? Who does he really care about?

We agree and share the compassion of many Canadians who follow current events and see the struggles of people in faraway lands. We can never agree, though, that their interests, desires, or even hopes can be placed above the Canadians who fulfilled their duty and elected us to office to come to this place and speak on their behalf. We must remember that we speak on their behalf, so it worries me when we have cases like the recent payout to Mr. Khadr. We find the Prime Minister absent, the details of the payout secret, and Canadians left feeling uncomfortable living out their daily lives knowing that the government has made a criminal wealthy and free to walk the streets of our compassionate country.

I am all for gathering together, as we are today, to talk about bills that will make criminals and smugglers think twice about their activities. I am also strongly in favour of any bill that will make it difficult or even impossible for people to abuse or illegally benefit from our generous benefit programs.

Bill C-21 is part of a broader initiative called beyond the border, which was created in 2011 by our previous Conservative government. It is good to see that the Liberals are following in our footsteps and making this action plan a reality. The action plan includes key areas of co-operation, such as addressing threats early; trade facilitation, economic growth, and jobs; cross-border law enforcement; and critical infrastructure and cyber security, which is very important.

This bill is part of an action plan that seeks to maximize the benefits we derive from our close relationship with the United States. By moving forward with a perimeter-based security approach and by working together both inside and outside the borders of our two countries, we can improve security and expedite the legitimate flow of people, goods, and services between the two countries.

The declaration made in 2011 includes the establishment of an entry-exit system for the two countries. Bill C-21 is an important part of the initiative I just mentioned. To make such an entry-exit system possible, it must include the exchange of relevant entry information by the relevant government so that documented entry into one country serves to verify exit data from the other country.

While at this time the Government of Canada currently collects biographical information about travellers entering Canada, it has no reliable way of knowing when and where travellers leave the country. Bill C-21 would help Canada implement phases 3 and 4 of the entry-exit initiative. It would help Canada and the U.S. exchange basic biographical data on all travellers, including Canadian and American citizens using land ports of entry.

The CBSA already collects biographical exit data on all air travellers leaving Canada by obtaining electronic passenger manifests from air carriers. Such practices are not uncommon around the world. In fact, the Australian government uses movement records to track arrivals and departures at its borders. Movement records may include name, date of birth, gender, relationship status, country of birth, departure and arrival dates, travel document permission, and travel itinerary.

In 1998, the U.K. government ended its collection of paper-based exit controls and in 2004 introduced a more sophisticated approach by collecting advance procedure information for inbound and outbound air passengers. In 2015, the government also introduced embarkation checks, which are to take place at all ports to the U.K. Information collected under this legislation includes passports or travel documents and biographical information.

The Government of New Zealand has a passenger departure card system in place for outbound travellers. Before going through customs, travellers have to fill out a departure card under the country's 2009 immigration legislation. These cards are used to collect information such as a passenger's travel itinerary, nationality, passport information, date of birth, occupation, country of birth, and current address.

Since 2008, the United States has been requiring air and marine carriers to provide border police with an electronic list of all passengers and crew members before any international flight or departure under the advance passenger information system. This information must be provided before departure so that the manifests can be compared to the terrorist watch list and the information can be added to the data base.

The bill we are looking at today, which I am proud to say was originally introduced by the Conservatives, is first and foremost aimed at combatting terrorism. That is why we must not oppose it. We believe this bill will build on the good work we have already started with our American partners.

That being said, I must ask the minister to clarify one thing. Over the past year, a troubling trend has emerged. We are seeing more and more people entering Canada through unofficial crossing points, coming through fields or forests, in the depths of winter and the height of summer, steering clear of Canada's official ports of entry. We therefore welcome this bill for what it will do to strengthen border security. The border is not just a single crossing with a lineup of people waiting; it stretches from one end of the country to the other.

Our concern is that other topics like unofficial ports of entry are also relevant to our discussion today. Although this government is implementing some excellent border security initiatives that originated under the Conservative government, it does not seem to care about securing the border between official ports of entry.

I hope the minister plans to clarify this contradiction, not only for us in the House, but also for the men and women who work for CBSA and the RCMP. We have always known that the Prime Minister was not too concerned about the danger posed by criminals, and now he appears even less worried. The Prime Minister recently ordered budget cuts at the Canada Border Services Agency, and did so very quietly. On the one hand, the Liberals talk about increasing security, but on the other, the Prime Minister quietly orders budget cuts.

I recently received a call at my office from a woman who told me that CBSA services at the Oshawa airport and at the commercial office in Barrie have been completely eliminated. The Liberals are just talking out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, they say they are here for Canadians, but on the other hand, they make cuts.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2017 / 11:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

That is right.

I asked my staff to call the office of the Minister of Public Safety to get some information about that decision. We have yet to get a response. I understand that he was on vacation, so I expect to get a response fairly quickly now.

This is 2017, and the world is becoming increasingly unstable. This is certainly not the time to be making cuts to the Canada Border Services Agency and chipping away at our border controls. I have a number of questions about that, and these are things we will be discussing, so I would appreciate the people opposite paying close attention. What are their thoughts on everything that happened with illegal migrants this summer? On the one hand, here they are with a very positive bill, but on the other, they are cutting services. Earth to the Liberals.

I should add that we did not get this information from the minister's office or through official channels. People in Oshawa and Barrie called our office to ask why those offices were closed. That just does not work. We know where the criminals go. People who want to smuggle drugs and other stuff go through small airports in small towns. They do not go through Toronto or Montreal airports with their cargo. They use small airports, which is why it makes no sense to cut border services in small airports.

Honestly, what I am afraid to ask the minister today is whether we can expect other budget cuts that will affect Canadians' security. Are we going to be seeing even bigger cuts to organizations responsible for ensuring the security of Canadians as they go about their day-to-day lives? Will Canadians have even more reason to be concerned about their security? Will these agencies have to do even more work with less money, which will put more pressure on the front-line men and women? Is the minister planning other nationwide cuts?

We have already said that the Prime Minister was big on selfies and soft on crime. He is building on that reputation. Under his watch, our border agents and law enforcement officers have been sent two different messages. The first message is that they have to guard our border as if their lives depended on it. The second message is that guarding the border is overrated, that the CBSA agents and the RCMP should relax a little and allow the world to enter Canada unchecked.

We are definitely going to support Bill C-21. We must enhance security, not reduce it. In my riding and in all the beautiful regions in Canada, Canadians deserve the best security service possible. I feel very strongly about that. It is why I am here.

Like the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, I take my mandate very seriously. We must work more closely together to ensure that terrorists, organized crime, and those who cheat our immigration system cannot continue unimpeded.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the Conservative government's last term in office, 1,200 border services jobs were eliminated. What is more, from 2013 to 2015, border services received incomplete information regarding passengers on over 3,000 flights. We will come back to those cuts and the impact that they have had on national security, given the Conservatives' hypocrisy on this issue.

I want to talk about Bill C-21, which is now before us. Obviously, the Conservatives' track record on privacy leaves much to be desired, particularly considering the passage of Bill C-51 and all of the resulting privacy breaches that occurred as a result of information sharing.

I would like to know how my colleague can support an initiative that will make it possible to share more information with the United States government, when the current President has signed an order under which American privacy laws no longer apply to non-U.S. citizens. It will be difficult to move forward with this bill given Canadians' current lack of confidence in the information-sharing system established by the Conservative government and the fact that the proper safeguards are not in place.