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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 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 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-23, the pre-clearance act. This act is another example of quality negotiations completed by the previous Conservative government and left for the current government to carry over the finish line. I am glad it is managing to do so, despite needing closure.

I have had the privilege on several occasions to speak about the importance of strengthening ties with our allies and I have spoken in favour of new trade agreements many times since I was elected. It is no surprise that I am generally in favour of legislation that finalizes a cross-border initiative with our greatest friend and ally, the U.S. Pre-clearance and cross-border initiatives with the U.S. are important and help to enhance security, strengthen the integrity of the border, and create jobs and growth in Canada by improving the flow of legitimate goods and people.

I am going to speak to two specific aspects of Bill C-23 today. The first is the manner in which it would open up potential for greater business ties between Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, and the U.S. and the second is to respond to some criticisms from some members of the House regarding security provisions of the act and the powers of Homeland Security officials on Canadian soil.

Trade and travel between the U.S. and Canada are obviously key to the economic success of both nations. More than $2 billion travels daily across the border and we should always be taking steps to ensure that this relationship is strengthened and made more efficient and secure. Our relationship with the U.S. is a constantly changing dynamic and we must work together to make sure that our agreements and existing laws reflect the evolving challenges of global security, technological innovation, and 21st century trade.

Specifically, Bill C-23 pertains to legislation for the agreement on land, rail, marine, and air pre-clearance that was negotiated by the previous government. The bill is significant to our security and prosperity as it safeguards legitimate travel and trade while leveraging the work done by CBSA officers and customs and border protection officers to maintain our national security at the border.

As my colleague from Parry Sound—Muskoka has done, I would like to first discuss pre-clearance as a concept, what it is and how it has worked for Canadians over the past several decades. It is important to dispel the idea that this bill establishes wholly new concepts in Canadian commerce and security. It does not. Pre-clearance is not new to Canada. Pre-clearance operations were first implemented in Canada in 1952, when American pre-clearance officers began screening travellers for U.S.-bound planes at Toronto's international airport. This screening was informal, but it set the stage for the first air transport pre-clearance agreement reached between Canada and the U.S. in 1974.

What are the objectives of pre-clearance? Pre-clearance is designed to push the border away from the homeland. That means that travellers are screened in their country of origin before boarding a flight or train, rather than after the fact when they arrive at their destination. This distinction is important because it means that security and customs officials can identify and stop potential security threats before they enter a new country.

Of course, for Canadian travellers to the U.S., pre-clearance screening has the immensely added benefit of being able to avoid going through customs on arrival in the U.S. If travelling from a pre-clearance-equipped airport, Canadian travellers can arrive at a domestic U.S. terminal, collect their bags, and depart as if they were regular travellers. This avoidance of customs and immigration at destination is important for two reasons. First, it saves time and Canadian travellers can avoid long customs lines. Second and more importantly, for trade, business, and leisure travel, pre-cleared Canadian travellers can travel directly to U.S. destinations that do not have customs facilities.

A great example of the benefits of pre-cleared air travel is demonstrated by travellers to Washington D.C. Members of the House who have travelled to our southern neighbour's capital will know that there are two airports that serve Washington D.C.: Reagan National, which is about 15 minutes from downtown, and Dulles International airport, which is about 45 minutes away in Virginia. Reagan National does not have customs facilities. Therefore, the only Canadian-origin flights that can fly into this highly convenient airport are those from airports with pre-clearance facilities. Flights from Toronto's downtown Billy Bishop airport cannot fly into Reagan National, because Billy Bishop is not equipped with pre-clearance facilities.

We disincentivize internationally focused businesses from pursuing growth if we do not facilitate easier access to newer and larger markets. Our job, among other things, is to make things easier for Canadians. Bill C-23 would have a substantial impact for travellers and businesses that make use of facilities covered by this bill, including those based in Quebec City, those who use Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto, Montreal Central station, and Rocky Mountaineer, so that we have a fairly clear tourism and trade benefit through enhanced pre-clearance facilities, which would improve and expedite the flow of legitimate trade and travel while continuing to ensure border security and integrity.

If there was no pre-clearance, Canadians and returning U.S. tourists would not be able to take advantage of nearly half the direct flights between Canadian and U.S. destinations. They instead would need to fly to an intermediary city in the U.S. and go through customs. This would increase the cost of those trips, increase the amount of time the trips take, and ultimately make travel more difficult and therefore less likely to take place.

There is also a security benefit to pre-screening passengers. The United States and Canada have a long-standing tradition of working together to ensure that the border remains open to legitimate trade and travel and closed to terrorists, criminals, and illegal or unauthorized goods, which brings me to my second point today. Some members of the House and some media have reported concerns that this bill would enable U.S. customs and border protection officers to detain Canadians on Canadian soil. I have a few responses.

First, the legislation is clear that customs and border protection officials are not peace officers, and that the powers of arrest lie only in Canadian hands. Travellers would not lose their rights or be detained indefinitely in a Canadian airport. This legislation does not enable that behaviour. However, CBP officials may hold individuals for questioning at the discretion of the inspecting country officer. In treating the customs checkpoint as if it was an actual physical border checkpoint, the inspecting country should have the ability to determine the security risks posed by an individual in question. This evaluation is critical. Once a flight takes off, there is no other checkpoint for the inspecting country to stop a potential threat.

It is also important to remember that the bill is only at second reading. In committee, we can hear grave concerns from individuals, groups, and stakeholders about the legislation itself, and the recommended changes. The Minister of Public Safety is obligated to explain to members of this House and Canadians how the legislation would work, how it would protect our borders, enhance our security, and how it would not violate our rights. Sending the bill to committee will enhance our understanding of the broader effect of the legislation and clarify any concerns.

There is always work to be done on legislation before it becomes law. We must ask the minister and his officials important questions about balancing liberty, security, and trade. We have to hear from stakeholders, civil liberty groups, and customs and immigration officials, the important groups that deal with the issues raised in the legislation.

It is easy to support measures which on the surface, streamline our border and make it simpler to travel to and from the U.S. However, there are practical concerns that we have to highlight, and I would like to do so with my remaining time.

First, the government has not received adequate assurances from U.S. officials yet on Canada's evolving marijuana policy. We want to make sure it is not an issue for Canadians travelling to the United States. The government has to address this issue.

Second, there would be an assumed increase in airport fees, as airports offset the costs of including pre-clearance facilities and infrastructure. We need to ensure that they have received adequate testimony from the relevant individuals so that we can be certain of the financial implications of this legislation.

Third, airlines and air carriers are important stakeholders with respect to border security and public safety, and this legislation would impact their operations. Given that airlines are a critical stakeholder affected by this bill, we have to ensure that they are substantially consulted as this legislation proceeds through the House.

Last, and this is what we have heard much about today, we must ensure that the concerns expressed by some senior members of the Canadian Bar Association's immigration section about checks on investigative powers given to U.S. border officials on Canadian soil are heard.

Bill C-23 is an important piece of legislation that can streamline our border operations to enhance trade and prosperity while balancing national security concerns. I support sending this bill to committee to further study the balancing effects of Bill C-23 on liberty, security, and prosperity.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:40 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, I appreciate the member's comments with respect to the former government. It is important to recognize that these pre-clearances have been going on for decades. We have had different administrations, whether they be under Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, Stephen Harper, or our current Prime Minister, that have taken the relationship between Canada and the U.S. seriously. What is important to Canadians is how we can better foster that relationship, and one of the ways is through pre-clearance.

I like to think that good, sound policy goes through different governments at different points in time. The member across the way made reference to this in his comments. We have talked a lot about the idea of Canadian passengers in particular being able to travel to the United States more easily. I would like the member to reflect on the importance of expanding from those original eight airports. For example, we are looking at the Billy Bishop airport in Toronto. Toronto, as a community, would benefit immensely by this, as would other communities, as would Quebec and B.C., with the new pre-clearance that would be taking place on rail. I would ask the member to expand on his thoughts on the benefits to those communities.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of benefits to this bill.

I used to be in the tourism industry. I was a very proud hotelier and convention centre manager. I grew up and have worked throughout B.C., and I can say that Rocky Mountaineer is an excellent example of a private sector company which took over a failing government railway, expanded it, and created many thousands of jobs throughout B.C. This program would only help it.

It is going to be wonderful to be able to fly from the Billy Bishop airport in downtown Toronto to Reagan airport in Washington. This is an excellent opportunity. Also, it is a wonderful opportunity, along with Bill C-23, to revisit allowing jet planes to fly out of the Billy Bishop airport and sell some of those wonderful C-Series Bombardier jets.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will add to my colleague's comments. This bill is obviously important to us, but it does not warrant having the government impose time allocation. This evening we will be voting on the bill, but we will do so gagged.

Will my colleague admit that other members of our party would also have liked the opportunity to speak and to remind us of the good decisions made on this file by the previous government?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am for the bill, but I am against time allocation. There have been a lot of grave concerns brought forward by our colleagues in the NDP, and these issues have to be addressed. They are very serious issues. We are not served by bringing in closure on debate. I wish the government had chosen a different path. As I mentioned, I am supporting the bill, but I do not support invoking closure on the issue. There are too many important things to debate on the bill, and that debate should be heard by Canadians.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the words that were shared by the hon. member, and I have a couple of questions.

Could the member elaborate on the benefits to tourists and people who will be visiting this great country for Canada's 150th anniversary? We do expect to have many visitors. I wonder if the member thinks there would be a more thorough debate at committee, as there is the ability to bring in witnesses, and to study the legislation at committee.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I support the bill, but there are questions that have to be answered. We want to get the bill to committee, but I see no value in invoking closure on this debate before the elected representatives for the Canadian people have had a chance to stand here and ask the government their questions.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Chandra Arya Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise in debate today at second reading of Bill C-23, the preclearance act, 2016. One of our government's top priorities is to ensure that the border is run smoothly, efficiently, and securely.

Pre-clearance was high on the agenda last March in Washington, at which time we reached an agreement in principle with the United States to expand pre-clearance to new Canadian sites and modes of travel. During the trip to Washington earlier this month our two countries made a firm commitment to establish pre-clearance operations for cargo.

On the American side, the legislative measures necessary for these expansions were included in the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016, which was enacted this past December with unanimous support in both houses of Congress. The necessary Canadian legislation is the bill before us today.

Pre-clearance is a vital border management program that enhances border security, improves the cross-border flow of legitimate goods and travellers, and allows for border infrastructure to be used more efficiently. Quite simply, it involves determining whether individuals and goods may enter another country while those individuals and goods are still physically located in the country of origin.

As members of the House know, pre-clearance is not a new concept. In fact, with this agreement, we are building on a long-standing, productive collaboration between Canada and the United States. This is a highly successful, cost-effective program that produces economic benefits on both sides of the border.

Air passengers have enjoyed these benefits for more than a half century, and currently do so at eight major airports across Canada. As well, some pre-inspection sites serve rail and cruise ship lines on the west coast. In the airline industry alone, every year some 12 million passengers are pre-screened before boarding planes in Canada, avoiding lengthy customs lines in the U.S. and improving air security. It also allows airlines and travellers to gain direct access from Canada to airports in the U.S. that do not have local customs facilities.

We know that pre-clearance already provides tangible economic benefits to our national and local economies while enhancing security and border integrity. It only makes sense to find ways to make these benefits available to a greater number of Canadians. That is exactly what Bill C-23 would do.

This legislation would replace the current Preclearance Act, 1999, which only applies to air transportation. In doing so, it would preserve the benefits of the existing regime for air travellers and the airline industry while opening up opportunities for pre-clearance in other modes of travel, as well as pre-clearance of cargo. In general, travellers familiar with existing pre-clearance operations would not notice a difference, beyond the fact that pre-clearance would be available in more locations. Let us look in broad strokes at the key elements of the bill.

First, it puts in place the legislative authorities required to allow the United States to conduct pre-clearance operations in Canada in all modes of travel. That includes: one, defining where and when pre-clearance can occur; two, who has access to the pre-clearance area; three, the authorities of the U.S. pre-clearance officers working in Canada, in other words, what they can and cannot do; and four, how Canadian police and Canadian border services officers can assist U.S. pre-clearance officers.

Much of this is very similar to the existing pre-clearance act. In addition, Bill C-23 explicitly requires U.S. pre-clearance officers to exercise their powers and duties in a manner consistent with Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Canadian Human Rights Act. These safeguards are not in place when Canadians are processed by U.S. customs and border protection in the United States. In other words, Bill C-23 would allow more Canadian travellers to undergo American border procedures while under the protective umbrella of Canadian law and the Canadian Constitution.

The second part of the bill provides the authorities and provisions required to enable Canadian pre-clearance operations in the United States. With the appropriate agreements in place, this would mean that for the first time travellers and goods could be pre-cleared before arriving in Canada, something that has long been sought by industry and government on both sides of the border.

This part of the bill authorizes the Canadian border services officers and other Canadian public officers to administer in the United States all of the acts that are regularly applied at ports of entry in Canada such as the Customs Act. It also clarifies how the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act applies in the pre-clearance context.

Eventual Canadian pre-clearance sites in the United States would be determined based on factors such as economic benefits and competitiveness, traffic flows, existing border infrastructure, and other considerations.

With this legislation in place, Canada and the U.S. would be able to move forward with the implementation of pre-clearance operations at new locations and in new modes of transportation, as well as with the pre-clearance of cargo.

The expansion would begin with four new sites agreed to in Washington last year: Billy Bishop airport in Toronto, Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City, Montreal Central Station, and Rocky Mountaineer in B.C. This marks the first ever expansion of pre-clearance in Canada to travel by rail. Our hope is that it is only the beginning of further expansion to new locations and modes of transport on both sides of the border.

I look forward to a full discussion of the bill with members on all sides of the House. I hope hon. members will support this legislation that would benefit the Canadian economy and further strengthen the economic and interpersonal ties between Canadians and Americans that underpin so much of our mutual security and prosperity.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:50 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, my colleague highlights a very important fact. We have two airports, one in Quebec and one in Ontario, that would be getting pre-clearance and the economic benefits and the convenience of Canadians and permanent residents being able to use pre-clearance is of critical importance.

I like to use the comparison of the Toronto Pearson International Airport, where because of pre-clearance, they are able to fly to something like 20 destinations in the U.S. today that do not have U.S. customs located there. If they did not have the pre-clearance, they would not be able to fly into those destinations.

When we look at the bill and the agenda of the government, would the member not agree that there is immense economic and social value to see pre-clearance expanded here in Canada, not only by plane, but also by train?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, it has been great to be a part of the debate here today. I had to get up and ask a question because Billy Bishop airport has been mentioned a couple of times. It is going to have pre-clearance now which is a great thing, but at the same time the Liberals, about two minutes after the election without any science-based data or all of this data they were going to have before making a decision, shut down the ability of Billy Bishop airport to extend its runway to make this worthwhile, to fly farther, and make use of pre-clearance. Will you reconsider that untimely shutting down of the expansion of the Billy Bishop airport to allow it to really make use of this pre-clearance?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to address my question for the member concerning part 3 of Bill C-23. I have asked this question at various times today, and it seems the Liberals' answers are slowly progressing. My question is about the authorization to allow U.S. agents on Canadian soil to carry firearms, and the latest line of reasoning from the Liberals is that they would only be permitted to carry firearms if their Canadian counterparts were carrying firearms. That still begs the question as to why it is necessary to arm the U.S. officers on Canadian soil in the first place. Does the member have a lack of confidence in our own forces to do the job properly, our own forces who have taken an oath of allegiance to the crown, to Canadian institutions, and to the Constitution? Does the member feel comfortable with arming U.S. agents on Canadian soil when our own forces are perfectly capable of doing the same job?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member has been an advocate for small businesses, so I would like to ask him if he feels that this legislation would actually support the pre-clearance of goods and services that will be going to the U.S. and that in fact it would help our small businesses become more export oriented.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue our second reading debate about Bill C-23, legislation that gives us the opportunity to provide faster, charter-protected travel for Canadians. These crucial updates to the pre-clearance framework would enhance security, improve cross-border flow, and produce substantial economic and travel benefits for Canadians.

We have already benefited from over six decades of successful pre-clearance. It has been a boon for business, for the economy, and for ordinary travellers. We are now in a position to implement an agreement with the United States that would make these advantages available to more Canadians in more parts of the country.

We have heard the support of voices of key partners for the expansion that this bill would allow, from business, from chambers of commerce, from the tourism industry, from municipalities, and from governments and ordinary Canadians alike.

Most recently, before we adjourned last week to spend time in our ridings, we heard from many members of this House that Bill C-23 would bring economic and travel benefits while protecting Canadian rights and that it is on the right track to continue through the legislative process.

We also heard concerns from some members. Many of these concerns have already been addressed, both during the debate in this chamber and through the technical briefing provided to journalists last week by Public Safety Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency, and live-streamed by the media. This was on top of the technical briefings provided to parliamentarians last year.

However, to ensure the clarity on some of these issues, I would like to focus my remarks today on two specific topics: travellers' rights and the reciprocity between Canada and the United States.

First, with respect to rights, everyone knows that both Canada and the U.S. set and enforce their own rules with respect to who or what enters their country. For Canadians, undergoing U.S. customs and immigration procedures while still in Canada ensures that Canadian legal and charter standards apply to that process. That is a distinct advantage over entering the United States through a regular port of entry inside U.S. territory where Canadian charter standards do not apply to the conduct of U.S. officers.

Let us take the example of withdrawal.

If travellers want to withdraw from a pre-clearance site in Canada and not continue to the U.S., they would be able to do so under Bill C-23, just as they can under the current pre-clearance arrangement. The only adjustment would be that American officials could ask the travellers to identify themselves and give their reason for withdrawing in order to avoid illicit probing of pre-clearance sites.

The alternative is to go to the U.S. and submit to examination by U.S. authorities on U.S. soil. At that point, a traveller cannot withdraw from the process at all because they are already in the United States.

I have heard some members argue that travellers are already protected in this way under the current pre-clearance arrangement and so no change is needed. The problem there is that we only have pre-clearance right now at eight airports in Canada.

If people are travelling from anywhere else, the protection of undergoing U.S. border procedures in Canada, and therefore having the right to withdraw, is not available to them. With Bill C-23, we can begin expanding pre-clearance so that more Canadian travellers can enjoy its benefits and protections.

Here is another point about travellers' rights that is important to clarify. U.S. pre-clearance officers would not have the authority to enforce the U.S. criminal laws or make arrests in Canada.

If a U.S. pre-clearance officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a traveller has committed an offence under Canadian law, they can detain that traveller without making an arrest, but only in order to transfer the person to Canadian authorities right away. This is not new; rather, it is part of the existing pre-clearance framework that has been in place since 1999.

In other words, there is no compromise here on rights and values.

On the contrary, Bill C-23 would expand the protective umbrella of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms so it could apply to Canadians flying out of airports such as Billy Bishop in Toronto or Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City, which are not currently covered. It would also be applicable for the first time to Canadians travelling by other modes of transportation, beginning with train routes in Montreal and B.C.

Canadians expect us to ensure their rights and values and the protections afforded by the charter, our bill of rights, and the Human Rights Act are front and centre in all legislation we consider in the House. By making charter protections more widely available, Bill C-23 is a step forward for the rights of Canadian travellers.

Next I would like to address some of the questions we have heard about reciprocity.

It must be stressed that the updated and expanded approach to pre-clearance we are discussing is absolutely and fully reciprocal. There are no authorities conferred on the border officers of one country that would not be conferred on those of the other. Each country retains primary jurisdiction over most criminal offences that might be committed by its officers in the course of their duties, while the host country retains primary jurisdiction for the most serious crimes. As such, fears that the bill constitutes the ceding of our sovereignty are misplaced. Rather, Bill C-23 implements a mutually beneficial agreement that imposes the same obligations and confers the same authorities on both parties.

The bill would improve safety and security for both countries. It would make travel and trade more efficient and expeditious. As is clearly laid out in article II of the agreement with the United States, it would ensure that each county's laws and constitutions would apply to all pre-clearance operations. That means U.S. officers operating in Canada will have to abide by the charter as will Canadian border officers in the United States.

It cannot be stated enough that more than 400,000 people flow across our border every day. Close to $2.5 billion in two-way trade moves between our countries each and every day. It is mutually beneficial for both countries to build on the success of existing pre-clearance operations, while simultaneously protecting, even enhancing, the rights of Canadian travellers. That is the backbone of the bill before us today.

The legislation would ensure that more Canadians would have access to the protections provided by pre-clearance, while making cross-border travel and trade easier, more profitable, and more secure.

I encourage all members to support Bill C-23.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government House leader is keenly interested in tourism and supporting tourism in our country. Tourism alone, including 12.5 million overnight travellers from the U.S., accounted directly for $35.5 billion of Canada's GDP and over 600,000 jobs. It is this pre-clearance that encourages tourism, that makes it easier, and makes those travelling have a pleasant experience. This is absolutely vital to improving tourism and making the travel experience easier and more enjoyable.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech on Bill C-23.

I have had an opportunity to speak several times now about the time allocation motions moved by the Liberal government. This is the twelfth time allocation motion, and yet, the discussions on this bill were going very well. A number of my colleagues had an opportunity to discuss this, because this is a bill that we, too, on this side of the House, are very familiar with.

Does my colleague think that rushing the passage of Bill C-23 was the right thing to do?