Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.
I am happy to speak to Bill C-23, the preclearance act, 2016. This legislation has a number of significant implications for Canada. It is important to our economy and our security, just as it is for our bilateral relationship with the United States.
I have heard concerns from some people in my community about the bill and its perceived impact on the rights of Canadians. I will address these concerns in the course of my speech, but I would like to note at the outset that I am confident the legislation will not adversely affect our rights. In fact, the rights accorded to Canadians under a pre-clearance regime clearly include the extra protections we enjoy in Canada due to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Border management is a top priority for our government, with officials from Public Safety Canada and its portfolio agencies working closely with their counterparts in the United States on a wide range of issues to ensure that we keep our border effective and functional.
Border management is a priority for our government and for senior officials at Public Safety Canada and the agencies within its purview, which are working closely with their American counterparts on a wide range of issues to keep our border effective and functional.
This includes putting in place the best framework and policies that allow for the smooth flow of people and goods while securing our border. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that we are enthusiastic to make further bilateral progress on the pre-clearance initiative. To put the statement “smooth flow of people and goods” into context, more than 400,000 people flow back and forth between Canada and the United States every single day. Close to $2.5 billion in two-way trade moves between these two countries every day.
Pre-clearance has long been a part of our strong border relationship and will be key to our future one. With this bill, we have the opportunity to usher in even greater security and economic benefits when it comes to Canada-U.S. border travel. Let me highlight the key elements of this bill and why it is so important that members join me in supporting its passage.
Once passed, this bill will open the door to move ahead with the ratification and implementation of the land, rail, marine, and air transport pre-clearance agreement which was signed by Canada and the United States in 2015. That door, once opened. will offer tremendous benefits to Canadians. There are two primary benefits from this legislation. One, it sets out the legislative authority governing pre-clearance operations conducted by the United States and Canada, including possible future expansion to additional sites and modes of travel. Two, it provides the basis necessary for Canada to eventually conduct pre-clearance in the United States just as the U.S. has done for so long in Canada.
Indeed, the United States has conducted pre-clearance in Canadian airports for many decades. As I live in Toronto, I have seen the pre-clearance regime that is currently operating in one of our airports, that being Pearson International Airport. It is currently operating in eight major Canadian airports, and in five pre-inspection sites in B.C. for rail and marine. Last year, more than 12 million passengers went through U.S. pre-clearance in airports located in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto Pearson, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax.
Pre-clearance has been a boon for business and leisure travel from both nations. For Canadians, having pre-clearance in Canadian airports allows us to land in U.S. airports that have limited or no customs facilities. It nearly doubles the number of American destinations that are accessible directly from Toronto.
The first part of the bill sets out the important aspects of pre-clearance, including where and when new sites can operate, who will have access to the pre-clearance areas, what U.S. pre-clearance officers can and cannot do while working on Canadian soil, and how Canadian police and CBSA officers work with the U.S. officers.
It is at this point that I would like to address some of the concerns that I have heard about this bill. In particular, some have raised a concern that Canadians will have diminished rights in the pre-clearance zones. It is stated, not only in the preamble but also in clause 11, that the operations of pre-clearance by U.S. officers on Canadian soil are subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The preamble states, among other things:
Whereas the exercise of any power and performance of any duty or function under United States law in Canada is subject to Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act;
Clause 11 of the bill states:
A preclearance officer must exercise their powers and perform their duties and functions under this Act in accordance with Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
This statement in the preamble and the wording in clause 11 are very important to me. I believe they respond to some of the concerns I have heard. In fact, the bill appears to provide greater protection to Canadian travellers in a pre-clearance zone than we would have at a U.S. border crossing in the United States on American soil. We would not have the protections of the charter, our Bill of Rights, and the Human Rights Act. These are things that are specific to our rights in our country.
I need to underline that there is no compromise on this. Canadians expect us to keep their rights and values top of mind in all of our work, and this is no exception. On this point, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has been abundantly clear.
As it has been clearly established, all pre-clearance activities in Canada must be conducted in compliance with Canadian laws, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There can be no compromise on that. Canadians expect us to always make their rights and values a priority in all of our work, and this is no exception.
The second part of this bill is where we see the reciprocal element come into play. Along with the enforcement authorities that have been provided under U.S. laws, it would give the Canada Border Services Agency the authority to conduct pre-clearance in the U.S., in all modes of transport: land, air, rail, and marine.
This legislation would pave the way to expand the benefits of pre-clearance to any site and any mode of transport in either country pursuant to future agreements.
As we have heard, this legislation will pave the way to expand the benefits of pre-clearance to any site and any mode of transport in either country pursuant to future agreements. Canada and the United States have already announced their intention to begin the expansion with the Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City, the Billy Bishop airport in Toronto, Montreal's Central Station, and the Rocky Mountaineer Station in British Columbia. These sites were covered by agreements in principle signed during the state visit to Washington last March.
Already in Canada we have made these announcements. The necessary American legislation was adopted last December. It is now time for Canada to do likewise, so we can move forward with this important initiative. Bill C-23 would allow us to build on more than 60 years of pre-clearance co-operation.
I encourage all members to give this legislation their support.