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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 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I consider the debate that has gone on in the House to be very thorough and has provided an opportunity for many members to engage in this wholesome debate. We do have an agenda where we want to ensure that legislation is carefully considered, and this legislation has been carefully considered.

We have a lot of work to do. Our government wants to provide change. That is what the government was elected to do. In order to do that, we need to ensure we have the time to bring forward all legislation and provide the changes we promised in the election.

My response is, yes, we have had very wholesome debate, over three days of debate, and it has been very worthwhile. We are ready now to move on with the vote on the legislation.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

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

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to speak to Bill C-23 and to argue in support of the reasoned amendment by my colleague, the member for Beloeil—Chambly. His amendment instructs the House to decline to give second reading to the bill because of several important reasons, which I will be happy to explore later in my speech.

I also want to note that it is very unfortunate we are conducting this debate today under a time allocation passed by the Liberal government earlier today.

The tone of this debate on the legislation has heated up considerably over the past few days during which it has been debated. In particular, there have been some misleading and grossly exaggerated statements from Liberal members of Parliament. There has been a general mischaracterization of the NDP's concerns, combined with over-the-top and fiercely partisan attacks, which have at times sunk this debate to a new low.

I hope to raise the tone of this debate with reasoned arguments against letting Bill C-23 pass at second reading.

Let me make one point perfectly clear. The New Democrats are in favour of measures that will facilitate fluid movement across the U.S. border, but not at the expense of human rights, respect for privacy of Canadians, and Canada's sovereignty.

I support pre-clearance as it currently operates. In fact, I have used the service several times in my life at the Vancouver International Airport when travelling to the United States, and it certainly works well as it currently exists.

I understand that pre-clearance is an important part of the Canada-U.S. relationship and to the free flow of trade and travellers between our two countries, but the provisions contained in Bill C-23 are too problematic for me to give my support.

Bill C-23 neglects to take into account the climate of uncertainty at the border following the discriminatory policies and executive orders of the Trump administration. Canada and the United States signed the agreement on land, rail, marine, and air transport preclearance on March 16, 2015, under the previous Harper government.

Bill C-23 was introduced by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on June 17, 2016. There was little fanfare at the time, as Parliament was more consumed by Bill C-14's progress through the Senate, and we were certainly all looking forward to the upcoming visit of then President Obama and his address to the House of Commons, which I think we can all agree was a tremendous speech.

The times have changed dramatically since that time, and they provide an even starker contrast to the reasons why this bill is so problematic. The Liberals are moving ahead with the agreement signed under Obama's presidency as if everything was simply business as usual. However, we must take into account the change in U.S. leadership.

The legislation was problematic before the inauguration of President Trump, but recent discriminatory orders and invasions of privacy now leave no doubt about the potential dangers and abuses that will result from the agreement. This is a president who excels at making statements with no empirical evidence to back them up. The most recent example is his shocking allegation that former President Obama ordered wiretaps on his phone during the election.

This man has little understanding of what a warrant is, of the checks and balances of the United States system, the constitution, and he has undermined the judiciary of the United States on repeated occurrences.

The U.S. customs and border protection agency is the largest federal law enforcement agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security. It is an extremely powerful arm of the executive branch of government, but it is now headed by someone who I do not think is fit for that office.

Agencies take their cue from the people at the top. This is a fact. Bill C-23 is proposing to give more power to foreign agents that are lead by an administration that routinely uses fear, lies, and personal attacks on its political opponents to advance its agenda. I cannot, in good conscience, support such a bill.

The third point I wish to address are the increased powers that Bill C-23 would provide for U.S. officers on Canadian soil, provisions regarding carrying of firearms, the power to conduct strip searches, detention, and interrogation.

In particular, I feel strongly that it is unacceptable to see officers of a foreign country who are in a position of authority bear and ultimately use firearms in the performance of their duties on Canadian soil. As is provided for in the summary of the bill, part 3 of the enactment makes related amendments to the Criminal Code to provide the United States pre-clearance officers with an exemption from criminal liability under the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act with respect to carriage of firearms and other regulated items. Bill C-23 would violate our precious Canadian sovereignty by increasing the powers of American pre-clearance officers on Canadian soil with respect to carrying firearms and by not properly defining a criminal liability framework.

There are those within the Liberal and Conservative ranks who dismiss this concern or see it as simply irrelevant. In fact, repeated speakers from the Liberal Party have used rather poor reasoning, in that U.S. agents would only be granted firearms if their Canadian counterparts were similarly armed in the same area. This sidesteps the issue and avoids the question as to why this measure is necessary.

I fully realize that with the combined Liberal and Conservative support for the bill, it is most definitely going to pass second reading. The troubling thing for me is that not one Liberal or Conservative MP has bothered to raise any concerns about this erosion of Canadian sovereignty.

The Liberals like to call themselves the party of the charter, but not one of them has addressed Canadians' concerns about being interrogated, detained, or turned back at the border based on race, religion, travel history, or birth place, as a result of policies that may contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Liberals have also failed to speak up about the lack of provisions protecting the rights and freedoms of transgendered persons during strip searches, in spite of the government's support for Bill C-16.

The Conservatives like to wrap themselves in the flag, and they talk a good game when it comes to protecting our border and our sovereignty, but not one of them has stood to address the fact that we would be giving more powers to agents of a foreign government on Canadian soil.

The final point I want to make is that Canada Border Services agents and the RCMP are filled with great men and women, who do their job in a most capable way every day. They are required to take the oath of allegiance before they can assume their duties as uniformed officers. Allegiance is given to the crown and other institutions that the sovereign represents within the federal and provincial spheres, including the state, its constitution, and traditions. On the other hand, U.S. customs and border patrol agents give their oath of allegiance to the United States Constitution and promise to faithfully discharge their duties in the office that they are about to enter, which is fully an institution of the United States government. This is the crux of the problem. United States officials operating on Canadian soil owe their allegiance to a foreign government, and yet we are prepared to give them powerful new measures, such as carrying firearms on our sovereign soil.

I think that borders matter and that they certainly need to be treated with respect. Also, sovereignty matters and precedents matter. Therefore, I think this is a slippery slope. If we pass Bill C-23, if we allow agents of a foreign government to operate on our soil in this matter, what more demands will be presented at a future instance from the United States government?

All I ask hon. members to do is pause and think about the wishes of their constituents. Did their constituents send them to this place to pass legislation to give agents of a foreign government the power to carry firearms on Canadian soil? This is a real sticking point for me, and I know from the correspondence that I and many of my colleagues have received that this is a major concern. We will certainly be raising it at every opportunity that we can.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of my speech, I said that New Democrats support pre-clearance. We know that eight Canadian airports currently have pre-clearance operations, and, as I stated in my speech, I have used them. Having the ability to be pre-cleared on Canadian soil is a good thing, but this bill goes beyond that. If we were simply expanding the service to include other airports without all of the powers that the United States is demanding, we would look at that in a favourable light.

The member across the way has failed to address the concerns I presented in my speech, and indeed no member of Parliament on the Liberal side has addressed my concerns about U.S. agents carrying firearms. I would love to hear a plausible explanation as to why that is necessary. I am still waiting after an entire day's debate.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his excellent speech.

He said that a number of improvements still need to be made, because several concerns are still being raised. The problem we have with the Liberal government is that we are having a hard time trusting it when it comes to committee work.

We saw some concrete examples just recently. For instance, the government completely ignored the results of all the hard work done by the committee that was examining electoral reform. It also ignored the work of another committee that was studying a bill on health.

How could we possibly trust this government, especially after it imposed a time allocation motion on this bill today? It is limiting debate as well as the work we can do in the House of Commons to improve the bill and better understand it.

After so many examples to the contrary, can we really trust the government when it says that the bill will be improved upon in committee?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Drummond raises an excellent point. Let us go through the examples.

We can look at the clear recommendation that was made by the committee on electoral reform. We can look at the clear recommendation that was made by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Bill C-201. We can look at the clear recommendations that were made by the public safety committee with respect to Bill C-22. In each one of those instances, the committee did its due diligence, listened to the experts, and presented its recommendations to the House, only to have the government completely ignore the evidence and recommendations and proceed along a predetermined path.

Therefore, my friend raises a valid concern. In every instance, the Liberals tell us to trust in the committee process. I have trust in it, but I have no trust in the government following the recommendations and hard work that those committees do on behalf of the House.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
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Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount Québec

Liberal

Marc Garneau LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member if he is clear on the notion that U.S. customs officers in airport terminals will not be carrying weapons. They must comply with the same rules as the host nation, and customs agents in Canada do not carry weapons. I want to make sure that he understands that. I would like to hear if he does.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

No, I simply did not. What I was pointing to was part 3 of the bill, which gives U.S. customs officials the power to carry firearms if Canadian officials carry firearms. My question with regard to this specific provision was why it is necessary. Why are the Liberals ceding our sovereignty to U.S. agents? Why are they writing it into the bill?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
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London West Ontario

Liberal

Kate Young LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Science

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in debate today about Bill C-23, the preclearance act, 2016. This legislation has a number of significant implications for Canada. It is important to our economy and security, just as it is for our most important bilateral relationship with the United States.

As members well know, Canada and the United States share a proud history of working together, particularly when it comes to the management of our shared border. Our government is committed to building on this relationship in many ways, including through the pursuit of border measures that facilitate the free flow of people and goods and keep us safe.

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 U.S. on a wide range of issues that ensure we keep our borders effective and functional. This includes putting in place the best frameworks and policies that allow for the smooth flow of people and goods while securing our borders from shared threats.

It should therefore come as no surprise that we have been especially enthusiastic to make further bilateral progress on the pre-clearance initiative. As members know, pre-clearance has long been a part of our strong border relationship, and it will be key to our future relationship. With Bill C-23, we have an opportunity to usher in even greater security and economic benefits when it comes to Canada-U.S. cross-border travel.

Let me highlight the key elements of the bill and why it is so important that members join me in supporting its passage. Once passed, the bill will essentially open the door for us to move ahead with ratification and implementation of the land, rail, marine, and air transport preclearance agreement, which was signed by Canada and the United States in 2015. That door, once opened, offers tremendous economic and security benefits for both nations. It does this in two key areas. One is by setting out the legislative authorities governing pre-clearance operations conducted by the United States and Canada, including possible future expansion to additional sites and modes of travel. Two is by providing the authorities and enacting the provisions necessary for Canada to eventually conduct pre-clearance in the United States, as the U.S. has long done in Canada. Indeed, the United States has conducted pre-clearance at Canadian airports for many decades. From its early days at Toronto Pearson International Airport, to its current presence in eight major Canadian airports and five pre-inspection sites in B.C. for rail and marine, pre-clearance has been a boon for business and leisure travel for both nations.

The first part of the bill would allow for potential expansion of U.S. pre-clearance to other forms of transport in Canada, defining important aspects, such as where and when these new sites can operate, who would 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 would work with these U.S. officers. As has been clearly stated, all pre-clearance operations in Canada must be conducted in accordance with Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 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.

The second part of the bill is where we see the reciprocal element come into play. Along with enforcement authorities that would be provided under U.S. law, 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. CBSA officers and other Canadian public officers, as appropriate, would have the authority to administer, at designated sites in the United States, the Canadian laws that they regularly use at ports of entry in Canada, including the Customs Act.

The bill also clarifies how the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act applies in the pre-clearance context.

As we have heard, this legislation will pave the way to expanding the benefits of pre-clearance to any site and any mode of transport in either country, pursuant to future agreements.

Already Canada and the United States have announced the intention to begin that expansion with Quebec City's Jean Lesage International Airport, Billy Bishop airport in Toronto, Montreal's Central Station, and the Rocky Mountaineer in B.C. These sites were the object of agreements in principle reached during the state visit to Washington last March.

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 will allow us to build on more than 60 years of pre-clearance co-operation, further enhancing our two countries' mutual security and facilitating the cross-border movement of travellers and goods in all modes of travel. This is vital to Canada's prosperity.

I encourage all members to give this legislation their support.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member from London north centre. She lives in the same part of the world as I do, and we know how important it is to have clearance at the border. Our industries rely on that. We have many pieces of equipment that go back and forth across that border on a regular basis, so pre-clearance is essential.

Our Conservative government obviously took a major role in that and committed to putting in the Gordie Howe bridge, which will certainly enhance industry in my riding and also industry in the city of London, which this member represents.

I have a serious concern. I wonder if there has been any discussion about what the Americans will do about it when and if we legalize marijuana. We know that the border crossing gets thick. Frequently, when we have members who drive trucks with shipments, and they admit to being users of marijuana, they get shut down at the border.

I am wondering if there have been discussions with the American government about that particular issue, because it will thicken the border.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kate Young Liberal London West, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker, it is great to be able to talk about this with my colleague who lives very close. Actually, I am the member for London West. London North Centre is adjacent to my riding, but I wanted to clarify that in case anyone was watching and thought I had jumped over a riding.

I think the member has a good point. It is something the committee could ask, and certainly that is one of the questions we should be concerned about. Of course, we have a lot of questions that are still to be answered about the legislation dealing with marijuana. I look forward to those questions being raised at the committee level.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the debate today, government members have tended to pooh-pooh the concerns of the Green Party and the NDP about the changes in pre-clearance. I just want to add a voice in posing my question to the hon. member, not from a political party but from the former chair of the Canadian Bar Association, citizenship and immigration section. Michael Greene notes the following:

Under the new proposed bill, [a prospective visitor to the U.S.] wouldn't be able to walk out. They can be held and forced to answer questions, first to identify themselves, which is not so offensive, but secondly, to explain the reasons for leaving, and to explain their reasons for wanting to withdraw. And that's the part we think could be really offensive and goes too far.

Mr. Greene also notes the change in administration since this was originally negotiated. In the Trump administration we have a more volatile and potentially more discriminatory approach to travellers to the U.S.

I ask my hon. colleague if she is at all troubled by the change from working with the Obama administration, when this was negotiated, and now working with Mr. Trump.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kate Young Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, as is currently the case, travellers will be entitled to withdraw from pre-clearance at any time. Under Bill C-23, withdrawing travellers may be required to identify themselves and give their reasons for withdrawing. This is simply to avoid the illicit probing of pre-clearance sites by people trying to discover weaknesses in border security before leaving the area undetected. That is part of the bill.

We have this agreement, and it is time for Canada to move forward. I hope the committee will, again, discuss this at the committee level.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:35 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 wonder if the member could expand on the idea that we are going beyond the eight airports that currently have pre-clearance. In particular, could she focus some of her thoughts on the rail lines in Quebec and in the province of British Columbia, where we will have pre-clearance for two companies?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this debate today. I have been looking at this issue very closely for some time now. Obviously, when we review a bill our constituents ask us questions about that bill and what it entails. These discussions with constituents keep our democracy strong.

I am pleased to continue our debate at second reading of Bill C-23, a legislative measure that allows for quicker, charter-protected travel. These essential updates to the pre-clearance framework will improve security and cross-border traffic, and will bring with it great economic and travel benefits.

We already have more than six decades of successful pre-clearance under our belts. It has been a boon to business, the economy, and regular travellers. We are now well placed to implement an agreement reached with the United States that will help provide these benefits to an increased number of Canadians in more regions of the country than ever before.

There has been a positive response from leading stakeholders, including businesses, chambers of commerce, the tourism industry, municipalities, governments, and ordinary Canadians, about the growth this bill can generate. More recently, before we adjourned the week before last to spend time in our ridings, we heard from a number of MPs who said that Bill C-23 will generate benefits for the economy and for travel while protecting Canadians' rights. It is on the right path in terms of the legislative process. We also heard from some members who expressed concerns.

We have already addressed most of those concerns in debate here and during last week's media technical briefing by Public Safety Canada and Canada Border Services Agency, which was broadcast live. That was in addition to technical briefings for parliamentarians last year. However, to ensure clarity with respect to some of those issues, I would like to focus my remarks today on two specific subjects: travellers' rights and Canada-U.S. reciprocity.

First of all, let us talk about rights. Everyone knows that Canada and the United States establish and enforce their own rules about who or what enters their own country. However, for Canadians, undergoing U.S. customs procedures while they are still on Canadian soil ensures that the Canadian legal and charter standards apply to that process. This is a distinct advantage over entering the U.S. through a regular point of entry where Canadian charter standards do not apply to the conduct of American officials.

Let us consider withdrawal, for example. If travellers changed their minds and wanted to withdraw from a pre-clearance area in Canada and not go to the United States, they would be able to do so under Bill C-23, as they can under the current pre-clearance arrangement. The only change would be that the U.S. officials could ask the travellers to identify themselves and give their reasons for withdrawing in order to prevent the illicit probing of pre-clearance areas.

The other option would be for travellers to go to the United States and be cleared by U.S. officials on American soil.

At that point, travellers can no longer withdraw from the process because they are in the United States. Travellers who change their mind or want to withdraw once in the United States are stuck on American soil in a U.S. airport.

Some members have stated that, because travellers already have that protection under the existing pre-clearance arrangement, no change is needed. The problem is that we currently have pre-clearance at only eight Canadian airports.

Travellers coming from elsewhere have no protection with respect to U.S. border procedures in Canada, so they do not have the right to withdraw. Bill C-23 will enable us to expand pre-clearance so that more Canadian travellers can enjoy its benefits and protection.

It is important to clarify another point about travellers' rights. U.S. pre-clearance officers will not have the power to enforce American criminal law or arrest people in Canada. If a U.S. pre-clearance officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a traveller has committed a crime under Canadian law, let me emphasize that I am talking about Canadian law, the officer can detain the traveller without arresting him or her, but only for the purpose of immediately transferring that person into the custody of Canadian authorities. This is not a new procedure. It is part of the pre-clearance regime that has been in place since 1999.

In other words, rights and values are not being compromised here. On the contrary, Bill C-23 extends protection guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to Canadians whose flights depart airports such as Billy Bishop and Jean Lesage in Quebec City. That protection will also apply for the first time to Canadians who employ other modes of transportation, beginning with train stations in Montreal and British Columbia.

Canadians expect us to ensure that their rights and values, the protections found in the charter, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Canadian Human Rights Act, remain a priority in all legislation that we examine in this House. By further guaranteeing the protections set out in the charter, Bill C-23 is a step forward for the rights of Canadian travellers.

I would like to address some of the questions we have heard regarding reciprocity. I think it is important to emphasize that the updated and broad-based approach to pre-clearance that we are discussing is absolutely fully reciprocal. No power or privilege is conferred upon the border officers of one country and not the other. Accordingly, each country preserves the primary jurisdiction regarding most criminal offences that could be committed by its officers in the performance of their duties, while the host country retains the primary jurisdiction regarding most serious crimes. Accordingly, any fears that this bill jeopardizes our sovereignty are unfounded.

On the contrary, Bill C-23 implements a mutually beneficial agreement that imposes the same obligations and confers the same authorities on both parties. It helps improve security for both countries and makes travel and trade more efficient and expeditious. Also, as is clearly laid out in article II of the agreement with the United States, it would ensure that each country's rights and constitutions would apply to all pre-clearance operations. This means that U.S. officers operating in Canada would have to abide by the charter, just as Canadian border officers in the United States would have to respect the laws of that land.

We cannot emphasize enough that more than 400,000 people cross the border every day. Nearly $2.5 billion in two-way trade moves between our countries 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.

This legislative measure will ensure that more Canadians 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 hon. members to support Bill C-23.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's comments. I must say that, if it were merely a matter of increasing the number of pre-clearance stations in Canada, a consensus would be reached fairly quickly.

This week, a woman was questioned for six hours. She is a Canadian citizen who wanted to go to the United States. Six hours is a long time, especially since the individual in question did nothing wrong. For those who decide that they have had enough of being questioned, that they no longer want to go to the United States, and that they would prefer to return home, Bill C-23 does not indicate what constitutes a reasonable period of time before a person can withdraw. It is often said that the devil is in the details, and this is a good example of that.

According to my colleague, how long does a normal interrogation last, if the interrogation of a Canadian citizen who simply wants to visit the United States can be considered normal?