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Preclearance Act, 2016

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

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

In committee (House), as of March 6, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-23.

Summary

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

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

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

March 6th, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will make a quick response to the comment that was just made about the work of committees. A lot of experts came before committee with respect to Bill S-201 and Bill C-22 and made recommendations that were unanimously adopted by that committee, only to have the government completely ignore and refute those recommendations.

In asking us to put faith in the committee process and in the government respecting that process, I am sorry to say that my patience with that line of argument is wearing very thin at the moment.

My question to the member is about the part of the bill that gives authorization to U.S. customs officials to carry firearms on Canadian soil. I have yet to hear a convincing argument from the Liberal benches as to why this is necessary. Why, when we have a perfectly capable police force in Canada, would we cede this kind of sovereignty to U.S. agents on Canadian soil?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, things are not always perfect in a democracy, so therefore whether the committee process will work or will not work, it is important to note that we can vote bills down in the House or eliminate them.

With regard to U.S. border guards carrying arms, whatever the Canadians can do, the U.S. border guards can do at the pre-clearance point. Reciprocity is contained within the bill. If there are any clauses that make no sense to committee members, they should have the chance to review and refuse or eliminate those clauses.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, this is a good news bill. We are talking about pre-clearance for many Canadians travelling to the U.S.

My question is about recognizing the economic value, and I will use the Lester Pearson airport as an excellent example. Virtually half of U.S. airports do not have U.S. customs officers, and this prevents aircraft from flying into those jurisdictions. That is why, over the years, pre-clearance has been seen as a positive thing that both Canada and the U.S. benefit from.

I am wondering if my colleague could comment on the benefits that Canadians get as a result of pre-clearance.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to discuss Bill C-23, which would provide the necessary authority under Canadian law to implement the land, rail, marine, and air transport preclearance agreement, thereby expanding U.S. pre-clearance operations in Canada, and, for the first time, enabling pre-clearance of cargo, and Canadian pre-clearance operations in the U.S.

Pre-clearance makes travel faster and easier for tourists and business travellers alike, and makes it faster and easier for Canadian companies to do business with Americans. It also allows Canadian travellers to undergo U.S. border procedures while under the protection of Canadian law, and, most importantly, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The proposed expansion of pre-clearance enabled by Bill C-23 has been greeted with enthusiasm by chambers of commerce across the country, by the tourism industry, the trucking industry, and by government partners, among others. The mayor of Quebec City, for example, has called it a great victory.

Pre-clearance operations for passengers have been a success story for more than 60 years, but they currently exist in only eight Canadian airports, and they do not exist for cargo at all. It is time to build on that success. Expansion to new locations and modes of travel require an agreement with the United States. That agreement has been reached, and the U.S. has passed the legislation needed for implementation in their country with unanimous support in both houses of Congress. That is no small feat. However, if we do not pass Bill C-23, the agreement will come to naught, and the benefits of pre-clearance will remain limited to those Canadians who already enjoy them.

Nevertheless, throughout this debate, the NDP members have been advocating in favour of the existing pre-clearance framework. According to the member for Vancouver East, the current pre-clearance system is working well. Similarly, the member for Beloeil—Chambly has said that the current pre-clearance system works well. The member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke has said that pre-clearance works just fine. To quote the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, “I understand about pre-clearance. It is working. It exists today.”

Yes, it does, and I agree that the current framework, which has been in place since 1999, has served Canada well. The NDP support for it is interesting, because in 1999 when this framework was proposed and debated, that party had a very different take. At the time, the then member for Winnipeg—Transcona said that he had concerns about the bill having to do with privacy protection, with the power of U.S. authorities to detain people, and concerns that this would be a further application of U.S. law on Canadian soil.

The then member for Winnipeg Centre said that he had serious reservations about the bill. He said it was too intrusive and a breach of Canadian sovereignty. He was worried that foreign officers would have the right to hold people and to stop people from leaving. He argued that by passing the bill, the House was granting foreign powers on our soil which the NDP did not think was necessary. He went on to declare that the NDP remained firmly opposed to the creation of Canadian offences for resisting or misleading a foreign pre-clearance officer. He accused MPs in favour of the bill of being ready to trample on Canadian sovereignty. He said, and this is my favourite part, that the bill opened up such a can of worms that it should be sent back to the other place for them to try again, and to take into consideration such basic things as national pride.

Clearly, a couple of decades later, the NDP realizes that its concerns back then were overblown. However, here we are again. A new pre-clearance framework is being proposed, and, once more, the NDP is sounding the alarm about perceived threats to Canadian sovereignty and perceived powers granted to foreign officers. It would not surprise me one bit if 20 years from now New Democrats leap to the defence of Bill C-23 while insisting that any further changes would mark the demise of the sovereignty of Canada.

My point is, let us be reasonable. In most respects, Bill C-23 is very similar to the current framework. Regarding authorities to detain, question, search travellers, and seize goods, Bill C-23 is either identical to the existing law or very nearly so. The same is true regarding penalties for obstructing or lying to an officer. The right to withdraw from a pre-clearance area is maintained; a traveller just has to say who they are and why they are leaving. The totality of U.S. pre-clearance operations in Canada would be subject to Canadian law, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The motion put forward by the member for Beloeil—Chambly asks us to reject Bill C-23 because of what he referred to as the climate of uncertainty at the U.S. border. However, it is precisely, with legislation like this, that we are best able to reduce uncertainty for Canadian travellers. The bill provides a clear legal framework governing the actions of U.S. officers on Canadian soil, and requires U.S. officers in Canada to adhere to Canadian legal and constitutional standards.

Today, for instance, a Canadian taking the train from Montreal to New York has to disembark after crossing the border and submit to U.S. customs and immigration processes without any Canadian legal protection. With Bill C-23 in place, that traveller could be processed at the train station in Montreal, with Canadian constitutional safeguards in force and with Canadian authorities on site. In other words, not only would the legislation bring about substantial economic benefits, not only would it make trips to the United States quicker and more convenient for Canadian travellers, it would also enhance constitutional and legal protection for those very travellers.

With that in mind, I encourage all hon. members to give the bill their full support.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that political parties and the NDP sometimes change their position. It sometimes takes decades. That stands in stark contrast to the Liberal Party, which changes its direction from one election to when it turns into government.

That aside, I would be curious to hear about the hon. member's views on a particular section of the bill which gives the powers of U.S. agents on Canadian soil the right to carry firearms. I do not see why this is necessary on Canadian soil. Is it the fact that the Liberal government has so little faith in our own police forces that it is willing to cede our sovereignty in this area? I have yet to hear a plausible explanation as to why this particular provision in the bill is necessary. I would be eternally grateful to the member if he could shed some light on that.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, given that party's propensity to change its mind, I am not sure if his gratitude will actually be eternal if he offers it to me.

I think a lot has been made about the firearms component of the bill. Let us be clear. U.S. officers are given no greater power than what Canadian officers already have, so U.S. officers will not be armed in Canadian airports.

However, Canadian officers are already armed at land and sea points of entry. It only stands to reason that U.S. officers will have the same authority and the same powers that Canadian officers do in those situations. Frankly, I do not see why that is a problem that needs any more explanation. They need to be treated the same as Canadian officers doing the same job in the same area. I think that is reasonable.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague on the trade committee on this file, and I am curious. Looking forward, we do not have cargo included in this piece of legislation. I understand the minister has said to the media that the government will include cargo somewhere in the future.

Can the hon. member give us an idea what that may look like, and roughly the time schedule before we see that before committee?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's question, and I also appreciate working with him on the trade committee.

I am not privy to any firm schedule, but I share his enthusiasm for seeing cargo treated in a manner that would make sure that businesses on both sides of the border are able to tap into both markets. It would ensure that small and medium enterprises are able to create the jobs and create the growth that they do for our economy.

I look forward to working with the hon. member to make sure that we can get that framework in place. I share his enthusiasm that sooner is probably better.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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London West Ontario

Liberal

Kate Young LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Science

Mr. Speaker, I know my hon. colleague and I will agree that a secure, well-functioning border is essential for Canada's economic prosperity. There is no question.

I have to wonder why the opposition is so worried about this pre-clearance. I wonder if the hon. member could tell us what would happen if we did not have the pre-clearance. How would Canadian travellers deal with going across the border?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is fair to say that the pre-clearance system in the eight airports that have it now is functioning quite well. Business travellers and people who travel on vacation think it is working well. However, it needs to be expanded. It is not fair for only those eight airports to have that benefit, and it should be expanded across the country. I know a lot of people who make decisions on where they travel and what airports they fly from based on whether or not they can get pre-clearance into the U.S., especially in my home riding of Newmarket—Aurora, which is close to two airports, one being Pearson International Airport, and the other being Billy Bishop airport. Right now, people who want to fly to the United States from Billy Bishop airport are not entitled to use pre-clearance. I think it would be of benefit to travellers in my neck of the woods to have that choice as a consumer when they decide on their flight options.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jean-Claude Poissant LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-23 to expand pre-clearance activities. Pre-clearance is a system that has been around for more than 60 years. It allows travellers in Canadian airports to go through U.S. customs and immigration procedures in Canada. This prevents travellers from having to spend a lot of time waiting in line to go through customs when they arrive in the United States, allows for direct flights to U.S. airports that would otherwise only accept domestic flights, and allows Canadians to follow U.S. border procedures, while remaining protected by Canada's laws and Constitution. This arrangement, which is already in place in eight of our airports, has been very successful for Canadian citizens, Canadian businesses, and especially Canada's tourism industry.

In listening to the debate on this bill, I noticed that hon. members generally seem to agree that pre-clearance is a good thing. I am thrilled to hear that. However, I also heard members of the NDP and the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands say that, although they are in favour of pre-clearance, they would like to keep it under the current legislative framework and they do not understand why new legislative measures are necessary.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to explain. I will give a detailed explanation, but here is the short answer: if we stick with the existing legislation, we will be limited to the existing pre-clearance locations. However, if we want more Canadians in more parts of the country to enjoy the benefits of pre-clearance, including easier travel to the U.S. and increased trade with the U.S., we must pass this bill.

Pre-clearance activities require action by two countries, in this case Canada and the United States. Any expansion of pre-clearance requires the consent of both parties. Such an agreement has just been reached and is known as the agreement on land, rail, marine and air transport pre-clearance. An implementation act must be passed by both countries in order for the agreement to be implemented.

We can choose to either pass Bill C-23 so that we can establish pre-clearance in new Canadian locations and for different means of transportation, the pre-clearance of shipments, and Canadian pre-clearance in the United States, or not pass the bill and not reach any of these objectives.

Given the considerable positive impact of expanded pre-clearance, this bill would have to have a major downside for anyone to justify denying Canadians the economic opportunities and the benefits to travellers of expanded pre-clearance.

Reacting to provisions that set out powers granted to American pre-clearance officers, the NDP and the Green Party would have us believe that this bill is downright apocalyptic. However, on reading the provisions of the bill, it is clear that they are modest and reasonable and very similar to the existing legislative framework. For example, under the current law, U.S. pre-clearance officers can frisk travellers. Under Bill C-23, U.S. pre-clearance officers can frisk travellers.

Under the current law, a U.S. pre-clearance officer can detain a traveller if there are reasonable grounds to believe that he or she has committed an offence, and the traveller must be transferred as soon as possible to Canadian custody. Under the current law, a U.S. pre-clearance officer can detain a traveller for the purpose of a strip search and must request a Canadian officer to conduct the search. Under Bill C-23, a U.S. pre-clearance officer can detain a traveller for the purpose of a strip search and must request a Canadian officer to conduct the search. The only difference here is that U.S. officers could conduct the search themselves in the very unlikely event that Canadian officers are unavailable.

In the existing law and in Bill C-23, the provisions governing use of force by American officers are virtually identical. The provisions laying out the penalties for lying to or obstructing pre-clearance officers are exactly identical. In addition, neither the existing law nor Bill C-23 confers any powers of arrest whatsoever on U.S. officers in Canada.

Under the existing legislation and Bill C-23, travellers can leave the pre-clearance area. The only difference now is that travellers who do leave the pre-clearance area may have to show some identification and say why they are leaving. The intention here is simply to address the problem of people who enter pre-clearance areas looking for weaknesses in border security before leaving undetected.

As far as firearms are concerned, U.S. pre-clearance officers would only be authorized to carry the same firearms as Canadian border services officers in the same environment. In other words, since Canada Border Services Agency officers do not carry firearms in Canada's airports, the same would be true for their U.S. counterparts.

This provision and the entire pre-clearance agreement with the United States are reciprocal. That means that, when Canadian pre-clearance officers start to conduct activities in the United States, they will have the authority to carry the same firearms as American officers in the same circumstances. Contrary to what some are saying, this is not about ceding our sovereignty. This is about a mutually beneficial agreement that confers the same powers and obligations to both parties.

Most importantly, U.S. pre-clearance officers operating on Canadian soil would have to conduct themselves in accordance with Canadian law and the Canadian Constitution, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

To put that in practical terms, a traveller flying today from Quebec City to New York has to submit to U.S. border procedures after landing in the U.S., with no Canadian legal protections. With Bill C-23 in place, that traveller could be processed by U.S. officials while still in Canada.

If people are concerned about how they might be treated by American border officers, would they not rather undergo questioning and searches under the umbrella of Canadian Charter protections, rather than fending for themselves in a U.S. airport?

I appreciate that it is the role of the opposition to put legislation through the wringer, and I certainly do not begrudge the opposition members their right to raise concerns and vote against the bill if they so choose. However, we are talking about a measure that would bring tremendous benefits to Canadian travellers and businesses. The worst criticism that the New Democrats can muster is that a person who wants to leave a pre-clearance area may have to say why.

To me that seems an odd hill to die on. For my part, I will be supporting this legislation and looking forward to the advantages of expanded pre-clearance. I encourage all hon. members to do the same.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member from La Prairie for that impressive speech to do with folks being up in arms about the pressing issue of travellers being frisked at the border. People sometimes get confused when they try to go too fast, which is, incidentally, exactly what the Liberal government is doing today by putting closure on this bill.

Does the member agree that many people on this side of the House support the bill? The fact is that it will speed the flow at the border. Nevertheless, members should have been given more time to express their support for a bill that will make crossing the border easier. Those are the pressing matters before the House.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to round out what my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable said and add that while many people may want to support this bill, a number of other people want to raise some serious concerns and clear reservations. We learned this morning that only 18 out of 338 parliamentarians had the opportunity to speak to this issue before we resumed debate today.

Add to that those who will have had the chance to speak today and deliver speeches to convey the concerns of their constituents, and we will not even reach 10%. Only 10% of parliamentarians in this House will have the opportunity to speak to such an important issue.

When I hear the argument that this is not about leaving Canadians to deal with American customs officers on American soil, but rather about bringing those practices here to Canada, I think the difference is very subtle and deserves to be examined more closely.

Does the member not agree that it is beyond the authority of the House to put this bill under time allocation when no Canadian lives are in danger, it does in fact overstep the powers of this House and constitutes a clear denial of democracy for all Canadians?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too want to denounce the fact that we are under time allocation to debate this very important bill. We are talking about security and upholding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We recently saw all sorts of activity at the border that verges on racial discrimination. People are being detained and turned away at the border because of their ethnic origin or religion.

Is this not in fact an important debate that deserves more reflection to ensure that we are not in fact legislating this manner of overstepping and borderline racist and xenophobic behaviour? We know that things are not going so well with the Trump administration, which just signed another order barring entry of nationals from predominantly Muslim countries.

Where does the government stand on this issue?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Jean-Claude Poissant Liberal La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I do not want to mix up the two files. There is the issue of people arriving from the United States. However, today, we are debating Bill C-23, which seeks to make improvements and to increase the number of pre-clearance stations. I have confidence in the committee that will be studying Bill C-23 and making recommendations.