Preclearance Act, 2016

An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Ralph Goodale  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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

This enactment implements the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America (the Agreement), done at Washington on March 16, 2015, to provide for the preclearance in each country of travellers and goods bound for the other country.

Part 1 of the enactment authorizes United States preclearance officers to conduct preclearance in Canada of travellers and goods bound for the United States and, among other things, it

(a) authorizes a federal Minister to designate preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters in Canada, in which preclearance may take place;

(b) provides United States preclearance officers with powers to facilitate preclearance;

(c) establishes that the exercise of any power and performance of any duty or function by a United States preclearance officer is subject to Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act;

(d) authorizes Canadian police officers and the officers of the Canada Border Services Agency to assist United States preclearance officers in the exercise of their powers and performance of their duties and functions;

(e) allows a traveller bound for the United States to withdraw from the preclearance process, unless the traveller is detained under Part 1; and

(f) limits the ability to request the extradition or provisional arrest of a current or former United States preclearance officer.

Part 2 of the enactment provides for the preclearance in the United States, by Canadian officers, of travellers and goods bound for Canada. Among other things, Part 2

(a) specifies how the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act will apply to travellers bound for Canada who are in preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters in the United States, and extends the application of other Canadian legislation that relates to the entry of persons and importation of goods into Canada to those preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters;

(b) authorizes the Governor in Council to make regulations adapting, restricting or excluding the application of provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and that other Canadian legislation in preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters;

(c) prevents, as required under the Agreement, the exercise of powers of Canadian officers under Canadian law with respect to questioning or interrogation, examination, search, seizure, forfeiture, detention and arrest in preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters, as similar powers will be conferred under the laws of the United States on Canadian officers; 

(d) allows a traveller bound for Canada to withdraw from the preclearance process, unless the traveller is detained under the laws of the United States;

(e) deems an act or omission committed in a preclearance area or preclearance perimeter to be committed in Canada, if the act or omission would constitute, in Canada, an offence relating to the entry of persons or importation of goods into Canada; and

(f) grants the Attorney General of Canada the exclusive authority to commence and conduct a prosecution of a Canadian officer with respect to an act or omission committed in the United States.

Part 3 of the enactment makes related amendments to the Criminal Code to provide United States preclearance officers with an exemption from criminal liability under the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act with respect to the carriage of firearms and other regulated items. It also amends the Criminal Code to provide for a stay of proceedings against a United States preclearance officer when the Government of the United States provides notice under paragraph 14 of Article X of the Agreement.

Part 3.‍1 of the enactment provides for an independent review relating to the administration and operation of the Preclearance Act, 2016.

Part 4 of the enactment makes a consequential amendment to the Customs Act, repeals the Preclearance Act and contains the coming-into-force provision.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


June 21, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-23, An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States
March 6, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
March 6, 2017 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That”, and substituting the following: “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-23, An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, because it: ( a) neglects to take into account the climate of uncertainty at the border following the discriminatory policies and executive orders of the Trump Administration; (b) does not address Canadians’ concerns about being interrogated, detained, and turned back at the border based on race, religion, travel history or birthplace as a result of policies that may contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; (c) does nothing to ensure that Canadians’ right to privacy will be protected during searches of their online presence and electronic devices; and (d) violates Canadian sovereignty by increasing the powers of American preclearance officers on Canadian soil with respect to the carrying of firearms and by not properly defining a criminal liability framework.”.
March 6, 2017 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-23, An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

June 21st, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Ajax Ontario


Mark Holland LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise again to speak to Bill C-23. I had an opportunity to illuminate many of the great benefits the bill would bring to Canadians in my speech at second reading.

I want to begin my comments by thanking all the members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for their work. It is evidenced by the fact that our government adopted all of the committee's amendments, including the NDP amendment for a five year review. There is an excellent relationship between the committee and our ministry in making sure we have the most effective bill possible. It has been a pleasure to work with the committee members, and I want to take the opportunity now at third reading stage to thank them.

It is appropriate that we are speaking to Bill C-23 on the eve of summer. Many Canadians are getting ready for their travel plans, visiting family, or taking a vacation. One of the things they do not want to deal with on vacation is long lines, hassles, and problems getting to where they want to go.

Pre-clearance would help us facilitate the movement of goods, services, and people, making sure people are avoiding long lines, and that they can expand the number of destinations they can go to. In fact, some 12 million passengers each and every year in the airline sector alone already use pre-clearance. Some people may use pre-clearance, and not even realize they do. People flying out of Pearson have the opportunity to go through customs before landing on U.S. soil, which not only accelerates the opportunity for them to get to work, see family, or start their vacation, it also means they get to have that process happen on Canadian soil. I will get back to that in just a moment.

On the range of airports, it means there are a vast number of airports that suddenly open up to airline passengers as if they are domestic travellers. If people want to go to Nashville, for example, in the absence of pre-clearance, they will be in for a lot of transfers. With pre-clearance, they get to go there directly, roughly doubling the number of cities they can travel to as Canadian citizens. That is certainly a big benefit as a traveller.

The other point, which is incredibly important, is that often in this debate, we have a discussion in abstraction about whether or not there will be issues with moving pre-clearance on this side. Aside from the fact that it has already been happening for six decades, there is the point that someone who is already travelling to the United States gets to have that process happen on Canadian soil. The great benefit of that is that individuals have the opportunity to have the full protection of the Canadian charter, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and Canadian law, generally, so that if something were to happen that they did not agree with, there is the opportunity in the process to have that protection on Canadian soil.

It is important to look at this in conjunction with the work we are doing on oversight, more generally, to ensure as we look at our oversight mechanisms more broadly, when someone does have problems, CBSA has independent oversight. Members can see what is proposed with oversight more generally with Bill C-59, which was tabled just yesterday. It was the largest update of our security intelligence framework since the creation of CSIS. It would put in place rigorous and effective oversight, both in the form of a security and intelligence review body, but also in the form of a committee of parliamentarians. I was very pleased to see the Senate adopt BillC-22 without amendment yesterday. It will allow us to bring forward that committee of Parliament.

Therefore, it can be seen that we are looking at oversight, and making sure that the laws and powers that are extended have rigorous oversight. Of course, one of the great advantages of having pre-clearance happen on Canadian soil is the leverage. If something were to go wrong, there is the opportunity to have discussions bilaterally with our U.S. neighbours to ameliorate that.

There have been some questions about different elements of the bill. For example, if people walk into a detention area, they have to explain why they are there. Some people have taken issue with that, saying there should not be unnecessary delays. Of course, that is exactly the language of the bill. One should only be detained for a limited period of time, and it should only be to ascertain necessary information. Some people have asked, why? Very importantly, we could imagine that if somebody walked into a detention area, was just looking around, casing out a pre-clearance zone, and then made a decision to leave, we want to know why they were there, why they showed up. Asking questions in that regard is extremely important.

I spoke to many of these matters when we were at second reading. I want to come to the testimony we heard at committee. The committee had an excellent opportunity to hear from a very wide array of witnesses as to the economic and other benefits that would come as a result of Bill C-23.

We are all aware of the aspirations of the Jean Lesage and Billy Bishop airports. It is important to enumerate and talk about some of the other witnesses we heard from in terms of the benefits of this bill. In conjunction with that, technical briefings were provided to parliamentarians by Public Safety Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency that expanded upon some of the concerns, and I hope answered them.

I would like to go to the individuals from a variety of sectors such as tourism, Canada-U.S. trade, airports, and others. They told the public safety committee how pre-clearance would benefit their businesses. On that basis, I am going to begin with the tourism industry.

Rocky Mountaineer, one of the sites included in pre-clearance expansion, spoke to committee about how the current customs process works at their station in Vancouver, B.C. With routes that run between Vancouver and Seattle, Rocky Mountaineer currently uses post-clearance customs and immigration processes.

For example, on a southbound journey, U.S. customs and border protection officers conduct customs proceedings on arrival in Seattle. It can take 30 to 45 minutes to clear an entire train upon arrival. With pre-clearance, passengers would be cleared as they arrive to the train station, similar to the experience they go through at one of the eight Canadian airports with pre-clearance operations, some of which I was referring to earlier. Instead of a large group of people arriving simultaneously to be cleared, passengers could be managed as they arrive, and check in for their trip. It would be a more comfortable and manageable experience for passengers, and much more efficient for customs and immigration officers. That is the primary goal of Bill C-23 more broadly, to make the traveller experience more efficient, while maintaining security standards at the border.

As the Business Council of Canada pointed out during its testimony to committee, travellers seek out the path of greatest convenience and least resistance in air travel. It is not just the convenience factor, but there is a major economic benefit to the changes being talked about today. As Canadians or others are contemplating what kind of travelling they may want to do this summer, or any point in the year, they are going to choose the options where they are least inhibited, and are going to be dealing with the least number of headaches. Helping facilitate that is only in our best interest, particularly when we are thinking of foreign visitors who may be attempting to travel in and around North America.

Pre-clearance would give Canada a competitive advantage. It would increase the number of destinations Canadians could travel to directly. I gave examples earlier, and Reagan airport in Washington is another great example. Without pre-clearance facilities, a traveller from Ottawa would not be able to fly directly to Reagan because it does not have customs and immigration facilities. I gave the other example earlier of Nashville.

Once travellers would be pre-cleared in a Canadian airport, they would arrive in the United States just like any other domestic travellers in the U.S. It would let them step off the plane immediately, make a connection, head to a meeting, or begin their vacation, all because they were able to pre-clear at the start of their travels in Canada.

The Business Council of Canada further stated that our country has a great desire for increased trade investment in tourism, and expanding pre-clearance would give a tremendous competitive advantage. It is worth noting that, in an age when there is so much competition for trade and commerce, anything we can do to eliminate obstacles and red tape, and move people, goods, and services in a better fashion is only to our advantage. Where we do not put it in place, we have a competitive disadvantage that is incredibly inhibiting. What we heard in testimony is how important it is to have pre-clearance go through to make sure we continue to have a strong competitive advantage.

Billy Bishop Airport also spoke specifically to this advantage. It has worked extensively to bring pre-clearance to the Toronto Island Airport over the last several years, and would work to implement pre-clearance facilities at its airport with the passage of Bill C-23.

I have had the opportunity to meet with the folks who are responsible for Billy Bishop, and they are ready to go. They foresee enormous economic benefits, not only for that airport, but for the entire greater Toronto region, and of course for the Canadian economy.

Billy Bishop welcomed 2.7 million passengers in 2016 alone, generating $2.1 billion as an economic impact per year. It is a huge amount, and that is before it has pre-clearance. It is the sixth-largest departing airport for U.S.-bound passengers, and the ninth-largest airport in Canada. Expanding pre-clearance to Billy Bishop will promote speed, access to increased destinations, and efficiencies, all without compromising security or safety of the border. In fact, from my earlier comment earlier, it would enhance them. It would make sure that Canadians are getting their pre-clearance done on Canadian soil under the full protection of Canadian law.

Toronto Pearson International Airport is the original example of the benefits of pre-clearance, as the original airport to be granted pre-clearance. As the Greater Toronto Airport Authority testified before committee, each new link or flight route is an opportunity for trade and jobs, something I do not think anybody in this House wants to stand between.

Toronto Pearson has become the fourth-largest air entry point into the United States. It pre-cleared six million passengers last year alone. It has had a 30% increase in pre-clearance traveller growth in the past five years. Quite simply, these numbers demonstrate the undeniable need for expansion and pre-clearance. If we see the benefit and impact of pre-clearance at Pearson, and we imagine Billy Bishop and all the other locations that are contemplating pre-clearance, and we magnify that increase in travel and that increase in commerce, it is not hard to get to a very significant number and the billions of dollars in increased activity for our economy.

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada spoke to these benefits as well. It noticed last year that $91.6 billion was generated from tourism revenues in Canada alone. Over 627,000 Canadians are employed in the tourism industry. It is a massive number of people who are counting on us to have a regime that works for them, and facilitates movement of people, goods, and services.

As Canada's tourism industry grows, we must ensure that we are doing all we can to modernize, and expedite the flow of people and products across our border with the United States. Not only does pre-clearance attract tourists, but it can attract the air service, and allow airports to offer enhanced connectivity in an incredibly competitive global industry. It is a huge boon for both travellers and airports.

Canadian airports connect and manage over 133 million passengers each and every year. Of those, 9.8 million are tourists to Canada. In 2015, 12 million travellers were pre-cleared in Canadian airports to travel to the United States. The expansion of pre-clearance to additional airports, and other modes of travel, such as rail, will build on the success of pre-clearance operations. The economic and traveller benefits cannot be overstated. As we heard from many in the tourism, airport, rail, and Canada-U.S. trade industries, these changes are absolutely vital. Bill C-23 would ensure that more Canadians have access to pre-clearance, while making border travel and trade easier, more profitable, and more secure.

Perhaps in the closing time that I have, I can go over some of the concerns that have been raised, and how we think those concerns can be fully addressed. One of the concerns that was raised, both during the committee proceedings and outside of them, was the ability for officers to conduct strip searches of travellers in Canada.

The rules governing searches by U.S. pre-clearance officers will be almost the same under Bill C-23 as they are right now. A U.S. officer will still have to ask a Canadian officer to conduct a search involving the removal of clothing. The only difference is that in a rare circumstance that a Canadian officer is unavailable, the U.S. officer would be able to conduct the search. Any search by an officer of either country would be subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is important to note just how rare a circumstance that would be, that a Canadian officer would not be present, but also how important, that if there were not a Canadian officer, that search could still take place.

Sometimes individuals have something on their person that could represent an immediate risk and danger to officers, and if officers are unable to conduct that search, it could put them at great risk, so it is something that cannot be deferred or simply held back.

Some people have asked what protections would exist for a transgender traveller being strip-searched by a U.S. officer. I can say that CBSA has policies in place allowing exceptions to the rule that strip searches must be conducted by an officer of the same sex as the traveller. For instance, in the case of a transgender person, searches of this nature by U.S. preclearance officers in Canada would be conducted in accordance with CBSA procedures and Canadian human rights jurisprudence. U.S. officers would be provided training to ensure that their conduct met these standards. This is yet another benefit of undergoing U.S. border procedures on Canadian soil.

I think I have explained why people have to identify their purpose when they arrive in a preclearance zone, so I will not talk about that any further.

Some people have questioned the term “unreasonable delay”. They have suggested that “unreasonable delay” of someone in a preclearance area is overly vague. Liberals would disagree. The concept of reasonableness is used widely in legislation and case law and usually means that other people in the same situation would reach the same conclusion or behave in the same way.

With respect to officer authorities, it has been used to refer to generally accepted standards. In fact, when the existing preclearance law was being debated in 1999, the NDP at that point argued in favour of adding the word “reasonable” to the section on the use of force as a way of limiting officer authorities. Certainly the NDP, in 1999, agreed that the term was specific enough to provide the protection and coverage required.

Others have questioned whether Bill C-23 would entitle U.S. officers to carry guns in Canadian airport terminals. The answer is no. Let me be very clear on this point. American officers would carry the same weapons as Canadian border officers in the same environment, without exception. Canadian border officers carry firearms at land, rail, and marine ports of entry, so U.S. preclearance officers would do the same. However, Canadian border officers do not carry firearms in airport terminals, so neither would Americans.

The same principle of reciprocity would apply to Canadian officers conducting preclearance in the U.S. One of the important tenets of the agreement reached with the Americans is the element of reciprocity. We would never see U.S.border officers with guns or comporting themselves in ways that would not be applied in the U.S. under similar circumstances.

It is worth mentioning that our hope and aspiration in passing this bill is that not only would preclearance be vastly expanded to include more locations across Canada but that we would see the same economic benefits and the benefits of the rapidity of travel we saw at YYZ . However, we hope, and have every reasonable expectation to believe, that the Americans will themselves also engage in preclearance in the opposite direction, which would have tremendous economic benefits and is something we would open by adopting Bill C-23.

The last question put to us was the question of permanent residents of Canada being denied entry by Canadian preclearance officers in the U.S. That is not a concern. In almost all cases, permanent residents would be treated exactly the same way in preclearance areas as they would be at any other entry point in Canada. The rare exception would be where there was a major issue of inadmissibility, such as serious criminality. Such individuals would still come to Canada, subject to the usual admissibility rules, at an ordinary point of entry. They just would not have the benefit of preclearance.

I hope I was able to outline for the House the tremendous benefits we have before us with Bill C-23. We need to get moving on this so we can help our tourism industry, trade, and Canada more generally.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

June 21st, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, for some people, the gut reaction is that we are going to let Americans do that on our soil. Could they do it on Canadian soil and at Canadian airports, or would they have to be on American soil? When people think about it, they will realize that when they are on Canadian soil, they would have the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canadian law. If we did not have preclearance and people chose to go to American ports of entry, they would have a lot less protection, and the Americans would have more power. I think people would see the benefits of preclearance.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

June 21st, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague is absolutely right. Sometimes when we say preclearance, it sounds like an abstract concept. People get confused and do not realize that 12 million people a day are already using preclearance in air travel. Anyone who has travelled to the United States from Toronto Pearson, as an example, has already benefited from this. It has been around for six decades, and the only thing we have seen in that period of time is increased trade, greater ease of movement, and greater access to the United States.

The member makes an excellent point that this is for someone who wants to enter the United States or is attempting to leave the country. At some point, people are going to have to be searched, and the question we should ask ourselves is where that should best occur. Is it best to have that happen on U.S. soil, where there is not the protection of Canadian law and the Canadian charter and where we have very little or minor recourse bilaterally in terms of leverage, or is it best to have it on Canadian soil, with Canadian law and Canadian protection, with a reciprocal agreement that very clearly spells out the expectations with regard to how travellers are handled? It would not just be more efficient. It would not just expand benefits to the economy. There is a very strong argument that this would increase Canadians' protection and rights.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

June 21st, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Madam Speaker, it is important to understand that the preclearance agreement is not limited to just airports and train stations.

I believe that the agreement is much broader and could even potentially be extended to include other types of transportation.

I invite my colleague to explain in greater detail the scope of the agreement covering all types of transportation for expanding trade with our neighbour to the south.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

June 21st, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
See context


Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Madam Speaker, I absolutely agree with my colleague’s comments.

The change brought about by the agreement will benefit more than just airports. In my speech, I talked about how it would benefit passenger rail service, particularly in the Rockies, but it would certainly benefit marine transportation, as well. In fact, there are a lot of benefits for cruise ship passengers.

We certainly heard from the cruise ship industry. If we can imagine people who are going to multiple ports of entry in Canada and the U.S., getting those preclearance operations out of the way means they can get to the business of enjoying their cruise. They are not having to go through a whole rigamarole every time they get to a different port.

There are huge advantages to this that extend beyond the airports, and I spoke to some of them in my speech. The hon. member is absolutely correct in highlighting that it is much broader than that.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

June 21st, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I can recall a number of years ago when my wife and I were travelling between Seattle and Vancouver, and as we came into the train station, from Seattle into Vancouver, we were caged off in an area with other travellers as we were properly taken through the process of entry.

Can the member comment on the impact if the reciprocal agreements are made? How would this change the experience of people, and how would it further enhance the economic benefits in travel and tourism generally?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

June 21st, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands for sharing his experience. It is important to look at preclearance as one piece in a suite of measures being taken by the government to improve the experience of travelling back and forth across the border. For individuals who do not represent a risk, we want that to be an effortless experience. Obviously, the NEXUS program, the trusted traveller program, is an important component in helping to accelerate it. There are the automated kiosks folks see when they come off a plane. People will notice how fast the experience is as we move in those automated kiosks to accelerate the process.

Preclearance is a component of a broader strategy to help eliminate the kind of experience the member and his wife encountered. Frankly, it is happening every day and is very frustrating for Canadians. At the beginning or end of their trip it is not what they want to be facing. They either want to get to where they are going or they want to get home. We want to make sure we facilitate that.

By enabling it to be allowed on the American side, and by opening it up to more locations on this side, there will be more carefree, worry-free travel. As an example, imagine it from the American side. It could make a difference in someone deciding to visit us or not. If people are looking at their vacation plans, and they have a choice between going to Vancouver or going to Portland, we do not want a negative experience at the border to prohibit them from making a choice to visit Canada and spend their dollars in Canada and help our economy. The suite of things we are working on, not just preclearance, is to get exactly what the hon. member was talking about.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

June 21st, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, luckily I am already wearing a tie.

One of the major federal issues in my riding concerns the Mont-Tremblant international airport, in La Macaza. This airport is a port of entry with no customs service on site.

In 2008, a motion to concur in a committee report on the matter was unanimously agreed to by the House; it concerned the airport in the community of La Macaza. The motion, moved by my predecessor, Johanne Deschamps, on June 17, 2008, sought to waive the customs charges at the airport. These charges, which do not apply to the largest international airport, can run over $1,000 per airplane, because officers have to come in from Mirabel for each flight.

Bill C-23 finally provides a solution that will allow more international flights to land in our region, which is supported just as much by tourism as by the forestry industry. By eventually having Canadian preclearance services throughout the United States, we will have the opportunity to have a port of entry that we will really be able to use.

I would like my colleague, the member for Ajax, to give us an idea of the process and the timeframes involved in reaching agreements that will allow tourists to visit the Upper Laurentians by having international flights service the Mont-Tremblant international airport in La Macaza directly. This would also be a boon for the Aéro Loisirs flight school and aviation as a whole.

This is also a great help to a region such as ours that relies so heavily on the airline industry, like other similar airports and communities across the country.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

June 21st, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I know it is the end of the sitting and I am happy to rise to debate Bill C-23. The ability for me to speak on it is a privilege.

My friend, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, seemed to end the sitting a little early. He was already changing into Hawaiian shirts for the summer. He did not have his tie on. I have a lot of time for the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, particularly his concern for our men and women in uniform. I know he has been advocating on some mental health reforms, which have had him at odds with the Minister of Veterans Affairs sometimes. I respect him for doing that. I will chide him, but I will also compliment him. He also attended the Highway of Heroes Durham Light Armoured Vehicle launch in Durham last year, and that was an honourable thing to do. When he is appropriately attired, he is a very good member in this place.

Today, I want to take the time I am privileged to have to talk, for a moment, about the importance of the Canada-U.S. relationship. It has been commented on throughout the history of Canada. In many ways, we can look to Canada as a country of evolution as opposed to revolution, as one historian said. We certainly both had our roots in the British influence, although of course Canada had two founding nations in France as well. We have the parliamentary democracy in our system of government that we owe to that time. Then Canada evolved with Confederation, which we will be celebrating on July 1, recognizing 150 years of the Dominion of Canada.

Then the statute of Westminster, which kind of cut the cord with the mother country, so to speak, allowed us to emerge following the Great War. Our independent actions were celebrated, quite rightly, in France in April, with the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge. Canada very much earned its place on the world state through the blood, sweat, and efforts of our forebearers.

No relationship is more important to us than the U.S. relationship.

Each prime minister has brought their own approach to it, but I do not think any of them would say it is not the most fundamental relationship of which the Prime Minister needs to think.

In fact, the father of the current Prime Minister is quite famous for his quote, which he delivered in Washington. with respect to the U.S. relationship. He said that Canada “is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant...where we feel every twitch and grunt.” That is true. When the American economy stalled in the years of the great recession, it really took the leadership of Stephen Harper and the Conservative government to ensure we were not pulled into the depths of the global recession and the great recession the Americans saw in the United States. I am very proud we did not see that disruption, with hundreds of thousands of people permanently displaced from the workforce. In Canada, we saw a net job gain in excess of a million jobs at the end of the recession.

At times, our policies are similar. At times, we collaborate. Many times in our great history of two countries, we fought alongside one another.

I had the honour as an MP on the veterans affairs committee, to visit the Canadian Cross of Sacrifice in Arlington National Cemetery, some of the most hallowed ground in the United States. Mackenzie King erected a Cross of Sacrifice to the hundreds of Americans who died in the Great War, fighting with Canadian units. We recognize that in both the First World War and the Second World War, Canada was in the war faster than the United States, despite attempts by the government to suggest we had 150 years of peacekeeping in our past. We were in those conflicts alongside our allies and alongside our values before our friends in the United States and their own sons and, in some cases, daughters came to Canada to help the war effort.

We have a proud history as friends, as trading partners, as collaborators, as people who fought and bled together.

In all of those things, along with familial ties, and I am sure a lot of us in this chamber have relatives living and working in the United States, create a bond that is precious. Therefore, the relationship between Canada and the United States of America is critical.

Conservative governments throughout our history, particularly the Harper government and the Mulroney government, took that relationship very seriously, a relationship of equals, fighting for deals, fighting for agreements that were in our national interest. We can get along with a friend, an ally, a neighbour, but we can also fight for our own interests.

The reason I have this long prologue to my speech is because Bill C-23 represents probably the most one-sided ineffective deal I have seen in my four years in politics. I bring to that experience from my time in the military and the private sector.

The relationship between Canada and the United States, under the current Prime Minister, has been a one-sided relationship with two U.S. presidents now. This has been the history of the Liberals. We saw the antagonism under the Chrétien government, with officials from the Prime Minister's Office having to resign for publicly criticizing a U.S. president. One of the Liberal members from Mississauga made inappropriate comments about a head of state. We have seen that relationship frayed and abused under the Liberal governments, and this is a perfect example.

I will use Bill C-23 as the example of that erosion because it comes out of the Prime Minister's trip to Washington last March. On that day, as he is apt to do, the Prime Minister issued a tweet from Washington, which stated, “There is no relationship in the world quite like the Canada-US relationship.” I would agree.

Months later, the Prime Minister introduced President Obama in this chamber, the then president of the United States, before he left office. He embarrassed many of us in the House when he then referred to the two of them as a “bromance” and that these speeches would be an example of “dudeplomacy”. I hope Hansard can get that right. It is an anagram using the words “dude” and “diplomacy”. It is unbefitting for the Prime Minister of Canada to introduce the then president of the United States in our House of Commons that way. It was the same podium where Winston Churchill spoke and gave the “Some chicken! Some neck!” speech in the midst of the Second World War. To now have a Prime Minister who uses such laughable and immature terms shows why our relationship with the United States is fraying.

With that bromance in mind, how did Canada fare under the current Liberal government and President Obama? Within months of the Liberals assuming office, the president cancelled Keystone XL, a pipeline that would have ensured that Canadians got the fair world price, or a more, for our resources. It was a project championed by Canadian industry, by people who get their hands dirty in the oil sands in Alberta. Corporate Canada wanted to fund and finance it so our resource could be refined and we could have multiple options to get a better world price. He cancelled that deal because he knew the new Liberal Prime Minister would simply accept that.

Ironically, the change in politics in the United States has led to a president who is re-evaluating that deal, because Keystone has virtually zero impact on climate change. That assessment is from the U.S. State Department.

Therefore, Obama knew that he would receive silence from the Prime Minister with respect to a decision that hurt our economy and particularly hurt the province of Alberta, which we know is suffering terribly at the moment. Therefore, we lost Keystone under the bromance.

What else did Canada get? President Obama praised the Prime Minister's carbon tax scheme and carbon pricing across the country. However, we certainly did not see President Obama introducing a carbon tax regime in the United States. Therefore, by praising the ill-informed move of the Canadian Prime Minister, President Obama allowed the Prime Minister to put Canada and our North American integrated economy at a disadvantage. The manufacturing facilities in the auto sector and other industries in southern Ontario compete against U.S. plants for business.

The Bakken shale deposit in Saskatchewan does not end at the Canada-U.S. border. Therefore, if there is going to be an input cost for carbon at a plant in Windsor, because of the Prime Minister and Kathleen Wynne plan, and there is not in Michigan mere kilometres away, where do members think the new vehicle will go?

I had the honour of being legal counsel for Procter & Gamble in Brockville. I was very proud that. For many years, every Swiffer pad members used in their homes was made there, in Canada, by people in Ontario. However, these plants are integrated. Of course, consolidation of manufacturing is now happening at an American plant and it has announced the closure of the largest employer in Brockville.

The U.S. president at the time, Mr. Obama, watched as the Liberal Prime Minister put Canada's economy at a competitive disadvantage.

The third issue is defence. Mr. Obama mentioned that in the chamber as well, asking Canada to step up more to meet our NATO requirement, which is 2% of GDP. In the last two weeks, the government released, with great fanfare, a defence policy, but it is fantasy. The Liberals' first two budgets cut $12 billion from defence. However, if we trust them, sometime before 2026, they will put more money back in.

I judge people not by their words but by their actions. I had quoted Mark Twain for the Liberal government. “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” The government has platitudes aplenty, but very little action when it comes to supporting our Canadian Armed Forces and supporting our manufacturing and resource sectors.

That brings me to Bill C-23. I am glad my friends on that side are still listening at this point. Hopefully they will see I am right.

Why do I call this the worst deal in Canadian-U.S.?

Some members agree with it and some do not, but the Prime Minister's signature promise was to legalize marijuana. Therefore, this preclearance bill should have anticipated that move. However, I will tell people why this is the most comprehensive change to customs agreements between Canada in the United States.

We are giving the Americans the ability to have American officials search Canadians on Canadian soil, and I wish I were kidding. In clause 5, definitions, of Bill C-23 are frisk search and strip search. I am sad to say this late in the sitting, but in clause 23 is a monitored bowel movement. Therefore, it is an unprecedented, literally, level of access and powers, five enumerated grounds of powers for U.S. officials on our soil, including the gathering of biometric data.

What did we get in return?

The United States and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, ICE, did not even agree to remove one simple question on preclearance: “Have you ever smoked marijuana?” The Prime Minister could not even get that one question removed from the U.S. preclearance. Why is that important? Because, despite Colorado and some of the U.S. states, if a Canadian answers “yes” to that question, he or she can be banned from the United States. Therefore, people will be losing jobs, and we are already hearing of that, at a time when the government is legalizing marijuana.

The Liberal government seems to forget its evidence-based decision-making, which the Liberals talked a lot about in opposition, including my friend for Winnipeg North. It is bad for the public's health. The Canadian Medical Association has criticized this decision. It is also bad on public safety and customs.

Canadians may think it is all fine because the Liberals are legalizing marijuana, but the Americans can still ask them that question, and they can then be banned from travel to the United States.

I was intrigued when the member for Yukon rose in debate here, because the other disaster of the March 10 agreement in Washington was what the Prime Minister did to our Arctic. With zero consultation with the Inuit and first nations of our north, the Prime Minister unilaterally agreed with President Obama to restrict 10% of our waterways and 17% of our land mass in the Arctic from development. Today is National Indigenous Peoples Day. I guess he missed the duty to consult there. President Obama asked him to do it, and he gave a cursory phone call to territorial and aboriginal leaders mere hours before he pledged to give away their right to determine their destiny.

I heard about it when I was in Yukon. I know my former colleague, Leona Aglukkaq, was outraged by the Prime Minister's acting in that fashion. Right now the Prime Minister has not even been to Yukon. He has been to private islands and all over the world, but he has not been to Yukon, and we have no cabinet representation from our Arctic. That was another disaster from the March 10 agreement in Washington.

The Prime Minister and President Obama also talked about the Paris accord, but as I said before, although President Obama praised the Liberal carbon tax, he certainly did not emulate it, and we are now falling further and further behind when it comes to competitiveness on a North American basis.

Bill C-23 is the culmination of a one-way relationship: the Americans get what they want, and under this Prime Minister, Canada accepts. With Bill C-23, the Liberals could not even get the Americans to take one preclearance question out of the ICE questions they can ask Canadians. They could not even get one question removed, but they are prepared to allow American officials to search our people on Canadian soil and they think that is fine.

The relationship between our two countries is critical, but it is also critical to look at it as a relationship of equals. So far, all that I have seen the current government achieve in Washington is a state dinner, tickets for family and friends, and lots of photos. In fact, if we look at the tweets, the public safety minister was more impressed with tours of the Oval Office in Washington in March than he was in securing a deal in Canada's interests. At a time when we are seeing our auto and resources industries falling farther and farther behind, with marijuana becoming legal, people feel they can just voluntarily tell an American official that they have smoked marijuana. They probably do not know that they could lose their ability to travel for work because the Liberals could not get that one question removed.

Finally, the most egregious element of that day in Washington that led to Bill C-23 was the mistreatment of our Arctic and the lack of respect for our Inuit and first nations. The Prime Minister, who talks about healing the relationship as being central to the current government, gave a courtesy phone call to territorial leaders minutes before announcing that he was restricting their ability to be the masters of their destiny over their traditional lands and their traditional waterways.

I am glad my friends on the government side have listened intently. I hope they can reflect on these elements and how critical it is for Canada to have a mature foreign policy with our friends in the United States. I hope they can come back in the fall and rein in the Prime Minister and tell him that we want deals that are not just good for Canada, for our workers, for our first nations, and for our aboriginal people, but we want to make sure that our friends in the United States take us seriously. It is more than just tweets, photos, and state dinners; it is about getting a result that is good for Canada.

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June 21st, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, I was going to ask the member opposite if he is worried about the cannabis question because he is afraid of saying yes.

On a more serious note, the access to information, privacy and ethics committee has recently undertaken a study of the protection of Canadians' privacy at the border and in the United States. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the BC Civil Liberties Association, and the ACLU testified at committee recently. We walked through the guidance from the government to the CBSA. There was an argument over the extent of the privacy protections, and although there are substantive protections in place for searches, particularly of electronic devices at the border, we heard from the ACLU that there are zero protections for Canadians crossing United States borders and that Canadians who refuse a full search of their electronic devices would be sent back to Canada.

When we talk about preclearance and the protection of Canadians' privacy rights, is it not important to have the searches and questioning of Canadians take place on Canadian soil, with Canadian laws and Canadian protections?

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June 21st, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I like the member for Beaches—East York for two reasons. I used to live in Beaches, and I like him and the neighbourhood a lot. I also like how he gives people in what used to be called the Langevin Block some headaches. I hope he continues to do that in the run-up to announcing his bid for the NDP leadership. Was I not supposed to say that?

I will answer for the benefit of my friend in Winnipeg North, who has been a good friend the last few weeks. I have quoted him at length, not from this Parliament but the last one. I know he does not like that, so I will answer the question. The answer is no, because I wanted to join the Canadian Armed Forces.

However, I did think in the last Parliament that we should have modernized our approach to cannabis, and I was on the record about that. I and the former Toronto police chief, now a member of this place, had some good debates on that question.

The member has raised a good point. The only way that Canadians can assure themselves of their privacy protections and protections against search and other things granted in Bill C-23 is to withdraw from preclearance, which means not to go to the United States. It is in the bill.

As I said, this was an example of three things that were rushed that day in Washington, and we should take more time to get it right.

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June 21st, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, the speech of my hon. friend from Durham was riveting. There is just one really big problem with the thesis, which is that this terrible bill—and I agree with him on that—is not the product of bad negotiations by the current government, but bad negotiations under Stephen Harper, because the preclearance bill was negotiated and concretized in 2015 between the previous government and the Obama administration.

The U.S. Congress passed its version of the bill back in early December. This version, we were told in committee, is take it or leave it, because it is already in an agreement that was negotiated under Stephen Harper. I believe it is better to leave it than to take it, but I did want to correct that aspect of my friend from Durham's narrative, as riveting as it was.

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June 21st, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to respond to my friend from Saanich—Gulf Islands. I enjoyed my time in her lovely riding during my travels in the last eight months.

She is partially correct. The last government was very close to a deal, but this was one of areas that led to its not being confirmed. In fact, Prime Minister Harper at the time was very well known for his strong advocacy for Keystone, even in the U.S., where he said it was a no-brainer. The member is only partially right. This was a central negotiation point because Harper fought for deals in Canada's interest. I have yet to see this from the current Prime Minister.

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June 21st, 2017 / 6:30 p.m.
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Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-23 today. Since the last time this came up in the House, we have gone through the committee review process, and I would now like to share some of my thoughts.

I would like to begin, though, by reiterating why we, New Democrats, are opposed to Bill C-23. First, it grants egregious powers to American officers on Canadian soil. I want to make it clear that we recognize the benefits of preclearance, which is already happening. That is why we have to wonder why expanding a system that is already working very well means giving American officers all of these additional powers. We never did get an answer to that question from the minister or other experts who testified in favour of the bill.

The government's main argument, which we heard earlier in the parliamentary secretary's speech, is about the economic benefit of expanding the preclearance process, which would happen in more airports, train stations, and eventually, border crossings.

If that is the only argument in favour of doing this, we need to ask ourselves what justifies these additional powers.

Let us go through some of the powers to be given to American agents, on Canadian soil, through the bill and through the deal that was been signed by the Government of Canada and the U.S. administration.

First, there is the excessive powers of American agents in a situation where a traveller chooses to leave a preclearance zone. The minister assures us this is okay, that it simply has to do with the safety and integrity of these preclearance zones. We have police, CBSA officers, and other forms of security in airports already. Therefore, it is difficult to understand why an American agent would be given the power, on Canadian soil, to question a Canadian who chooses to leave the preclearance zone and, even in some cases, detain that individual under the vague language in the bill.

A Canadian would rightfully say that this seems reasonable, that if someone leaves the preclearance zone, it must be suspicious. That is not the case. We have seen some of the treatment Canadian citizens receive at the border. They are victims of American agents based on their religious beliefs, or the colour of their skin or their country of origin. This was testimony at committee. Who is to say that Canadians of certain origins might decide that an abusive line of questioning is not something they are willing to accept, so they decide to take their bags and go home. That would be sufficient reason to leave the preclearance zone. Unfortunately, under the bill, and under the agreement, that would allow the American officer, on Canadian soil, to potentially go all the way to detain them and interrogate them. We find that unacceptable.

The other very important matter has to do with strip searches, another issue raised by the parliamentary secretary. We can all agree that we give up some of our rights when we go through customs. For instance, we allow our luggage to be searched. Still, I have difficulty understanding why we should allow American agents to search Canadian citizens on Canadian soil.

The bill states that if no Canadian agents are available or willing to do the search, perhaps because they do not consider it necessary, an American agent may do it. The minister justified this by saying that it is nothing to worry about because in the 60 years that preclearance has existed, no Canadian agent has ever been unavailable or unwilling to do a search.

Just because the exception happens to prove the rule in this case does not mean that this legislation safeguards the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

Legislation cannot be drafted on the premise that the exceptions prove the rule. Our legislation must be robust and comprehensive in order to ensure that there are no potential loopholes that would allow the rights of Canadians to be violated on Canadian soil.

The other issue is with regard to the carrying of firearms. The bill, based on reciprocity found in the agreement, would exempt American agents from elements of the Criminal Code that would normally prevent an American agent officer from carrying firearms on Canadian soil.

The minister has assured us that there are memoranda of understanding that it is reciprocity, and that this would only happen in places where Canadian border officers are already carrying firearms. The example the minister gave was at Pearson airport where the Peel Regional Police ensures security. The American agents would not be carrying firearms because Canadian agents do not. It is the local police that ensure the security of the airport.

I asked the minister in committee if he could tell me, given the fact that the bill would specifically create these Criminal Code exemptions, if there was any other legal provision or protection beyond memoranda of understanding, which have no legal authority, and the agreement, that would prevent an American border officer from carrying a firearm. The response received was no response at all. There are no guarantees to say there is any legal remedy for an American officer that might be in said airport, for example, at Pearson, on Canadian soil carrying a firearm. That is not acceptable.

In committee, we identified a number of problems with the process. I asked officials from the Department of Public Safety a question in order to find out what regulatory changes would be made. The government is making regulatory changes to address the cases of people who are exempt from certain procedures. Take, for example, employees who work in a port and who would need access to a preclearance area to do their job every day. They would not be subject to American authority while at work, which is the least we could expect. These are the kinds of exemptions that the regulations would change.

In committee, we debated a bill that makes fundamental changes, yet no one was able to tell us what regulations would be changed. Everyone knows that regulations are not subject to debate in the House because parliamentarians do not vote on them. One fundamental problem with the changes made by the agreement and by Bill C-23 has to do with the minister's discretionary power.

I will give the department credit because it did provide a written answer to my questions. However, in the written answer, the department indicated that it was uncertain which regulations would be affected. We think it is unacceptable that we are not being given a definitive answer on this.

The government's main argument around all these issues around Canadians' rights potentially being violated by American border officers on Canadian soil is not to worry because Canadian law and charter rights apply. That is what the bill says, but what would the bill actually do?

In committee, witness after witness reminded us that, because of the State Immunity Act and how the bill is drafted, there really is no legal remedy. Even the Conservative public safety critic sitting on the committee, the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka, agreed that there is no legal recourse.

Why is that important? The protections accorded to us as Canadians by law and charter, if those rights are violated, what do we need to do? We need to go to court to uphold those rights. If we cannot bring the American officer to court, based on how this bill is drafted, then there is no remedy. Those charter protections are just words on paper and not given force of law and force of our constitutional rights. That is totally unacceptable to us.

A specific argument was raised both in committee and here in the House. The Liberals claimed they were bound by the agreement to enact certain provisions, and that they were sorry if some members did not like it. They added that the agreement was negotiated and signed under the previous Conservative government and under the Obama administration, and not under the current president, and we have to live with it.

It takes courage to say that this is a bad agreement. After the study in committee, where we heard from groups like the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, various associations representing Canadians from countries targeted by President Trump's executive orders, and the Canadian Bar Association, we concluded that it was a bad agreement. It takes courage to tell the Americans that we will not allow the rights of Canadians to be jeopardized because of the presence of American agents on Canadian soil. I think that is the minimum we can do.

The Prime Minister himself actually said that if Canadians are subject to racial profiling or their rights are violated at customs, at least it will happen in Canada where they are protected by Canadian laws and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

What this really tells me is that we currently have a serious problem regarding how American agents are treating Canadian citizens at the border. The situation is completely unacceptable.

The previous government signed the agreement. The former public safety minister, now the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, signed the agreement with his American counterpart, but the Conservatives did not get the bill through the House to set up the legislative measures needed to implement the agreement. I gather from what they said in committee that the Conservatives felt there were problems with the agreement. They may not be as disappointed as us about the loopholes this will create, but even the Conservatives on the committee recognized that it would not be appropriate for an American officer to strip search someone on Canadian soil.

It is about time, when it comes to dealing with the Americans, that we have a government that understands that when we negotiate, we do not just give. We have to get something in return, and in this agreement, beyond the expansion of where pre-clearance takes place, all we have seen here is the government being really willing to roll over, and give all these new powers to American agents on Canadian soil.

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June 21st, 2017 / 6:40 p.m.
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Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I were a member of the government, and saw how things were going in the Senate and the position the Liberals have put themselves in, I suppose I would be stirring around in the House in the same way.

We realize that the Liberals have said they are disappointed in withdrawing from Paris, and they remain completely silent on the matter of Trump's travel ban, which was outright discrimination, and flew in the face of everything we should stand for as Canadians. This is exactly what we have here with this agreement.

Once again, we see Liberal MPs in committee saying, “It is too bad. That is what the agreement is, and we have to live with it.” No, we as New Democrats refuse to just live with it. We will not accept creating loopholes in legislation just for economic gain, which we acknowledge pre-clearance can bring, just to give all these extra powers that just simply are not necessary.

If pre-clearance, as it happens today, right now, before the adoption of this legislation, is so great, as the government tells us, I keep asking the same question that I asked at the outset of my speech. Why do the Americans need all these new powers? I guess the answer would be simply because they asked for them. That is not justification enough for creating a situation where American officers can limit Canadians' rights on Canadian soil. We will not accept that.

I want to wrap up by saying that we proposed a number of amendments in committee that would have added the necessary legal protection. We even wanted to change the word “sex” to “gender” to protect transgender people.

I remember that, on the day of the photo with the pride flag and the Prime Minister in front of Parliament, everyone was running up for a picture, as usual. The government was too chicken to agree to that change so the language of the bill would be in sync with the times, open, and inclusive. They are happy to do photo ops, but they refuse to protect transgender Canadians in the legislation, and yet they go on about walking the talk.

We proposed amendments that would have guaranteed protections for Canadians. A strip search would be conducted only by a Canadian agent on Canadian soil. The government rejected that. We also proposed amendments to ensure clearer language, for instance regarding something the bill calls “lawful authority”. This is important considering how the bill is currently drafted. In fact, “lawful authority” could be an executive order. It could be the kind of executive order that states that all travellers, whether they are Canadian from Canada or from anywhere else in the world, who enter the United States must unlock their cellphone and social networks. This could be unconstitutional and yet this bill leaves the door wide open to that.

Once again, that is completely unacceptable.

We see the uncertainly with regard to the cavalier way in which the current U.S. administration treats cellphones at the border, for example. A Canadian from Vancouver was turned away at the Washington state border because American agents went through his cellphone. When they realized his sexual orientation, they were afraid he was going to the U.S. to be a sex worker.

Who is to say we will not see that kind of thing happen on Canadian soil? It is very possible with the way the bill is drafted.

In closing, I want to reiterate that when it comes to free trade agreements or any other agreement to be negotiated with the United States, Europe, or any other country we might deal with, we in the NDP will never agree to sacrificing the rights and freedoms of Canadians, especially on Canadian soil, let alone for an administration like the current American administration. That is non-negotiable.

We recognize the economic benefits of preclearance and the convenience of it under the current regime. However, there is nothing to justify negotiating an agreement that gives the big end of the stick, in fact the only stick, to American agents, on Canadian soil, to breach the rights of Canadians. We will never will stand for that.