Preclearance Act, 2016

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

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

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

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

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

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

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

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.

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.
See context

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?