Preclearance Act, 2016
An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States
Ralph Goodale Liberal
In committee (House), as of March 6, 2017
Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-23.
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.
- 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.
Business of Supply
March 21st, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
Matthew Dubé Beloeil—Chambly, QC
Mr. Speaker, on the eve of the budget presentation, I am pleased to speak to an opposition motion that deals with the budget. In a way, we are beginning the budget debate a day early.
We agree with many of the Conservatives' proposals, particularly regarding the problems related to privatizing airports. Of course, we also agree that the Liberals are completely out of touch with today's reality and the inequality that Canadians currently face. They talk about helping the middle class, but on the ground, that is definitely not what is happening.
Nevertheless, we unfortunately cannot support this opposition motion. One reason for that was addressed by my colleague from Vancouver East. This does nothing to tackle tax problems, such as the tax rate for large corporations. These issues are very important to us.
Despite the heckling we heard during the question and despite the tax cut from 22% to 15%, not only did the federal treasury lose money, but the jobs that were promised never materialized. On the contrary, businesses that were supposed to benefit from the tax cut for large corporations left Canada and set up shop elsewhere.
That being said, I heard the hon. Conservative member, in his response to the question, talk about the importance of small and medium-sized businesses and his own experience as an entrepreneur. We agree on this. Although we would like to see corporate tax rates go up, which, by the way, would still keep us competitive with the United States, a neighbouring economy that is our biggest competition, we want to lower the tax rate for small and medium-sized businesses. It is important to mention that in the context of the opposition motion and especially in the context of the budget that will be presented tomorrow.
During the last Parliament, in the last Conservative budget just before the election, the Conservatives promised to lower the tax rate on SMEs over the coming years. That was good, but not quite fast enough for our liking. We wanted it to be done right away. The Liberals remained mum on the issue. During the election campaign, we heard the Prime Minister claim that if this tax cut went through it would lead to tax havens. He did all sorts of intellectual backflips. Now we realize that he does not seem to understand what real tax evasion is, because he is doing nothing about it. That is another topic we will come back to shortly.
During the election campaign we promised to lower the small business tax rate. So did the Conservatives. Then the Liberals finally decided to follow suit and they promised the same thing. They recognized, as all of us do, or at least I hope so, that small businesses are the engine of our economy at the local and national levels. They are also the main creators of jobs and we rely on them for that.
However, we have to look at the current situation. Lowering taxes for small businesses is just another broken promise.
Unfortunately, we are becoming increasingly accustomed to broken promises. We are very optimistic, but for a Liberal government, whether this one or those of the past, reneging on promises is commonplace. What is really mind-boggling is hearing the Minister of Small Business and Tourism say in committee that, in any event, the promise was just meant as a television clip or a good newspaper headline. Not keeping a promise is shameful, but admitting that they never intended to keep it is even worse. The Liberals did not give reasons for not being able to keep their promise, did not say that they had done something else, or that it would wait and they would keep their promise the next year. There was nothing of the kind. There was no honesty, or perhaps they were being too honest. They decided to look us in the eye and tell us that they never intended to do it. That is very unfortunate.
It will soon be six years since I became a member of Parliament. When I look at the chambers of commerce, particularly the Bassin de Chambly chamber of commerce and industry or the Vallée-du-Richelieu chamber of commerce and industry, I see some very dynamic chambers of commerce and a lot of young entrepreneurs renowned worldwide. I am thinking for instance of the Mobux company from Mont-Saint-Hilaire, which will go to Berlin for the G20 meeting as one of the Canadian and Quebec companies representing Canada.
We are very proud to see people and companies from home at the G20. These companies need the federal government's help. They need it to reduce their financial burden so that they can continue to grow, to succeed, and to thrive both at home and abroad. In so doing, they will set an example for other entrepreneurs in Canada. This creates a nice cycle that leads into the next generation of entrepreneurs.
However, this is not just about the tax rate for small and medium-sized businesses. The issue of infrastructure and the privatization of airports is also raised in this motion. One of the biggest problems in this file is that the Prime Minister refuses to answer certain questions that he has been asked for several months, maybe even a year now.
Almost one year ago, we heard something about consultations with Credit Suisse. We did not hear from the parties who really need the federal government’s help, but rather from the Minister of Finance’s economic council and from individuals such as Credit Suisse representatives, who are experts in privatization. This caused a great deal of concern.
We heard rumours that they were going to sell off our airports because they were no longer able to manage the finances and meet their election promises, such as using public funds to finance public infrastructure, which by the way we support. However, this is not what we are seeing here.
As for selling off airports, we asked the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance if that was going to be on the table. This was a concern for the presidents of the country’s airport and port authorities. The Minister of Transport simply replied that consumers would always be their priority, in order to get the best prices and avoid overcharging. One might say that you cannot turn down a good thing, but this is not what we are dealing with.
Experts believe that airport privatization will result in higher prices and fees. We are going to let the private sector take over our public infrastructure and charge more fees to consumers. This will also have a significant impact on airlines.
My riding is on Montreal's south shore. My constituents can go to Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau, or they can go to U.S. airports to avoid paying what they see as sky-high prices. Many people choose the latter. Airport authorities and airlines say that privatization will make things even worse. Instead of departing from Canadian airports, thereby helping to fund Canadian airport infrastructure, travellers will go elsewhere. That is a problem.
The government is doing this to keep a promise that was not even in the Liberals' campaign platform. They never mentioned selling airports. With all due respect, it seems to me we have a serious problem when even the Conservatives think privatization is going too far. The Liberal government needs to reconsider.
Privatization is not just about prices and fees. It is about safety too. Airport safety is extremely important.
Look at rail safety. When the government privatized our railroads, it went on and on about how great privatization was and how much it would benefit consumers. Serious rail safety problems have emerged since then. I may be speculating, but it is an easy conclusion to reach.
Given the threat of airport privatization raised by the government, there is cause for serious concern over airport security, supposedly an issue the government is very concerned with.
I do not want to draw conclusions that are too far-fetched, but Bill C-23, for example, would increase the powers of U.S. pre-clearance officers on Canadian soil, in the interest of safety, of course. At the same time, the Liberals want to privatize airports and potentially risk compromising security. What an odd approach to take. It shows this government's inconsistency and failure to properly manage the affairs of state.
The issue of privatization does not just concern airports. There is also the infamous infrastructure bank, another file that we have been asking the government about for many months. We asked the government about the bank's structure, what terms and conditions it would operate under, and what would be the impact on small rural municipalities that would be adversely impacted by such a bank. Clearly, the private sector will have little or no interest in investing in infrastructure projects that are not very profitable even though they would be of great benefit to our towns and to the rural communities that really need them.
Incidentally, all those questions remain unanswered. The Prime Minister always gives us the same answer with a bit of a smile, and we have heard other Liberal members say the same thing, that is, we should just wait and see what is in the budget, which will be presented tomorrow. However, this has left the municipalities and Canadians feeling very uncertain, which is very problematic.
Although the government is boasting about public investments spread over 12 years, this a bit of a charade. In fact, we now realize that most of that money will not be spent right away, but rather over a much longer period than initially planned. We also note that the government will use some of that money to open the door to the private sector.
This poses a number of problems because I firmly believe that taxpayers feel very strongly that their money should be used to finance public infrastructure that is properly managed. I firmly believe that, and I think my constituents would agree with me.
Certain things do not sit well with taxpayers, and we saw this in the debate on the Champlain Bridge, for example. If we are asking taxpayers to accept a huge deficit run up by the federal government to fund public infrastructure, not only must that infrastructure remain public, but people must not be asked to pay twice for that infrastructure through user fees and tolls. That is very important.
Many of my constituents come to see me and tell me that they are unsure where they stand on tolls and user fees, because they have to do with road conditions and public transit, which is another very important file for a suburban community like mine.
When we look at the proposals, or what we can make of them, we are given none of the details because there is no transparency, as I said. I tell my constituents that when we look at the proposals, it is not so much about whether the federal government is going to provide funding for public transit. I explain that the federal government is spending their money to fund public infrastructure and an infrastructure bank that is looking for private investment. The company investing in infrastructure will then charge tolls and user fees. None of that will fund a public transit system that will help people get to work more easily and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That is going to create a profit margin for private companies that invest in these projects.
The private company does not want to be reimbursed just for the capital it spent on the bridge, road, or whichever project is on the table: it wants a return on its investment. It is not enough to be able to tell the people of Beloeil, Carignan, or Chambly, who are stuck in traffic on highway 112, that they can now get to Brossard or downtown Montreal using a light rail system. That is another very important file that we will come back to in the coming months and years.
The private company is not in it to finance a project, but instead to make a profit.
The Liberal Party made these commitments during the last election campaign. We are seeing that it has broken its promise to use public funds to better manage public infrastructure than the previous government.
It turns out that the Liberal government intends to use public funds to privatize our public infrastructure so that private businesses can make a profit and, in effect, subject Canadian citizens to double taxation through tolls and user fees. That is a problem.
Other questions concerning the infrastructure bank remain unanswered. For instance, who will sit on the bank's executive? Where will it be located? How will consultations take place? Someone has already been appointed to help the government create a team to set up the bank. The individual in question comes from Ontario politics and knows the Prime Minister's friends quite well; they work in her office. She was already involved in starting the process of privatizing Hydro One, for which the residents of Ontario are now paying the price.
We have serious questions about the interests that will be represented. Will municipalities have a seat at the table? The municipalities are wondering. How will we make sure that Canadians and those who really need federal infrastructure help will be at the table? We need to ensure that we have public transit, infrastructure, bridges, highways, and wastewater treatment systems that meet the public’s expectations in a country such as Canada in 2017.
Once again, all these questions remain unanswered. Will we have answers tomorrow? In a way, I hope so, because we are finally going to see whether the government is heading toward disaster for our public infrastructure or whether it has finally seen the light and realized that this is the wrong direction. However, perhaps I hope not, because I am quite concerned about finding out what the end result will be. We are not the only ones who are concerned, because as I said, Canadians have been talking about this for quite some time.
Sadly, our position and the Conservatives' are far enough apart that we cannot support the motion, but I want to close by talking about one other point in the opposition motion that we do agree with, a point that merits our attention. That point is youth unemployment, which was of particular interest to me in the previous Parliament as the NDP's youth critic. Of course, young people are not the only ones without jobs.
We also need to talk about precarious work. Many young people with excellent education are underemployed. They have jobs that pay less than they should be earning with their professional qualifications. They are overqualified for their jobs. This is a major issue, and once again, we look forward to seeing what the government has to say about it tomorrow.
The Prime Minister is happy to take pictures with young people. The government is happy to talk about the youth council despite the lack of transparency that my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît has pointed out. What we do know is that the Minister of Finance, and therefore the Prime Minister, somehow thinks it is acceptable to tell young people to be okay with this reality.
Those of us in our twenties know that no matter what decisions the government makes today on our behalf and on behalf of all citizens, we are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of those decisions whether they have to do with our infrastructure, our environment, or our jobs. So far, the government has let us down tremendously.
My optimism allows me to hope that the disappointment will end tomorrow, but so far nothing leads us to believe that that will be the case. I am, however, open to the idea.
Preclearance Act, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 6:40 p.m.
Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC
Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.
If he ended up at customs and an overeager and cranky U.S. customs officer proceeded to conduct a strip search, and only a female officer was available on the Canadian side, would he be comfortable with that? Bill C-23 generally looks a lot like the existing system, but there are some very serious exceptions like this one.
Does my colleague have a problem with that? I know that there are many people who would have a very serious problem with that.
Preclearance Act, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 6:40 p.m.
Matt DeCourcey Fredericton, NB
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that my hon. friend was listening that intently, because I was entirely coherent in explaining that Bill C-23 would provide all Canadians undergoing pre-clearance with U.S. border officials the security of having that pre-clearance done under Canadian law, the Canadian Constitution, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Canadian Bill of Rights all at play.
This is an important piece of legislation that would allow for the timely exchange of people and goods, something that for many years has been central to our strong trade relationship with the United States. This is another step in ensuring that the important relationship we have with the United States continues to grow and prosper for the benefit of Canadians.
Preclearance Act, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 6:40 p.m.
Daniel Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the parliamentary secretary's speech with great attention, and I could not help but feel that maybe there was a slight incoherence lurking in the argument. I am hoping to give him the opportunity to address that.
We hear, on the one hand, that the great virtue of Bill C-23 is that Canadians will not have to submit to American processes, American law, and American officers on American soil. However, when we talk about the safe third country agreement and the travel ban, Liberals say that they are quite comfortable with the American processes, that there is no problem at all with those processes, that Canadians have nothing to fear, and that they are treated normally at the border and get good treatment. Which is it? Do Canadians have something to fear from being subjected to American border security processes, or do they not? If they do, maybe the member would reconsider his position with respect to suspending the safe third country agreement.
Preclearance Act, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 6:30 p.m.
Matt DeCourcey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise toward the end of this evening's debate to talk about this important piece of legislation. Bill C-23 will implement the agreement reached with the United States to expand pre-clearance operations to new locations and modes of travel, and it opens the door to cargo pre-clearance as well as Canadian pre-clearance operations in the U.S.
I am pleased that throughout the course of today, and over the last week or so, we have seen lively debate about Bill C-23. However, I do think it is important that as we study and discuss this proposed legislation, we ensure that we are working from a sound understanding of the bill, and a full appreciation of the significant benefits that we stand to gain from expanding our pre-clearance operations with the United States.
After the many hours of debate that have taken place for this bill, we certainly know by now what pre-clearance is, and we know that it works. We have heard how it has been a part of the Canada-U.S. border management success story. Many of us have been pre-cleared ourselves before boarding flights to the United States. As has been noted, we have been operating pre-clearance successfully in the air mode since the 1950s.
In terms of volume, we know that Canadian pre-clearance facilities process 12 million passengers headed to the United States annually. We know that the eight airports that have pre-clearance operations are far more competitive than they would be without them. With pre-clearance, Canadian airports have special direct access to non-international U.S. airports. For example, Canada is the only country serving Reagan airport with direct air services. Without pre-clearance, Toronto Pearson airport, for example, could only serve 27 U.S. cities instead of the 50 that it serves now. Pearson is the fourth-largest point of entry into the United States worldwide.
It is not only in air travel where we have seen the benefits. As members have heard, some pre-inspection sites serve rail and cruise ship businesses on the west coast. The cruise ship industry brings $435 million in economic benefits to British Columbia's coastal region, including 4,600 local jobs. Pre-inspection, which is a kind of partial pre-clearance, is important to that success. The legislation before us will enable full pre-clearance operations for those sites, with considerable advantages for the tourism industry on the west coast. Therefore, it is not surprising that there is a clear demand for more pre-clearance facilities and that both the current and previous administrations in Canada and the U.S. have been working diligently together to put the legal frameworks in place to make that happen. With the legislation before us, we will be able to further expand on these unquestionable economic benefits by paving the way for additional sites in all modes of travel and in both countries, as well as the pre-clearance of cargo.
We have heard the concerns raised about the protection of Canadians' rights, and we are certainly all sensitive to that. That is why I am proud to highlight that the protection of Canadians' rights and the requirement for compliance with Canadian law and the charter are central elements of this bill.
Pre-clearance operations in Canada must be conducted within Canadian law. It is explicitly set out in part 1 of the bill, which sets out the powers, duties, and functions of U.S. officers under the act. It states:
A preclearance officer must exercise their powers and perform their duties and functions under this act in accordance with Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
This includes powers of questioning, examination, search, seizure, and detention, powers that already exist in the current pre-clearance arrangement. Similarly, Canadian officers conducting pre-clearance in the U.S. would also be bound by the charter. That is specified in article II of the agreement with the U.S. being implemented by this bill, Bill C-23.
By undergoing U.S. customs and border procedures while still on Canadian soil, Canadian travellers will be protected by our laws and the Canadian Constitution.
I know that certain members of the opposition have argued that because this is already the case in eight Canadian airports, Bill C-23 is unnecessary. However, pre-clearance is not in place at all Canadian airports or at train stations and marine ports. Bill C-23 would pave the way for travellers in those locations to have legal and constitutional Canadian protections that are unavailable to them now.
For those who remain unconvinced of the benefits of this, I would ask that they consider the alternative. Without pre-clearance, travellers are required to submit to immigration and customs processing once they arrive on American soil. That processing is done entirely on American soil and therefore on American terms.
Another concern that has been raised is the issue of withdrawal from pre-clearance areas. It must be noted that should travellers change their minds about entering the United States and wish to leave the pre-clearance area, withdrawal will be allowed under the new act. Officers will have limited latitude to question withdrawing travellers as to their identities and reasons for withdrawing. Without this, people of ill intent can approach, enter, examine, and then leave these controlled areas, potentially weakening our border security.
To conclude, I simply wish to reiterate that pre-clearance is a crucial border management tool for Canada, both economically and from a security perspective. It also has the added benefit of allowing Canadian travellers to undergo American border procedures while protected by Canadian law and the Canadian Constitution, including our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. By adopting this important piece of legislation, which is necessary to implement the Land, Rail, Marine and Air Transport Preclearance Agreement with the United States, the advantages of pre-clearance would become available to many more Canadian travellers and businesses.
I urge all hon. members to keep these significant benefits front of mind as we further examine and study this bill, and I look forward to more constructive debate in the House.
Preclearance Act, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 6:20 p.m.
Lloyd Longfield Guelph, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak to the legislation before us, Bill C-23, an act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States.
As members know, the Prime Minister pledged to Canadians that our government would work hard to renew the relationship we had with the United States and that we would provide greater security and opportunity for Canadians. The legislation before us is part of the action we are taking to fulfill that pledge.
Last week, I spoke with grade 10 civic students in Guelph at Bishop Macdonell High School. This topic came up with the students talking about the benefits of doing clearances in Canada versus on foreign soil, so it is great to be part of this discussion this afternoon. We have strong evidence from long-standing operations at eight Canadian airports that pre-clearance is an effective and efficient way to move millions of people from Canada into the United States every year, some 12 million people, in fact. It offers many benefits, both directly and indirectly, to both nations.
For example, it allows travellers from Canada to fly directly to a larger number of U.S. cities, including to smaller American airports, with no customs presence. It makes for faster connections. Pre-cleared passengers do not have to go through customs inspection upon arrival in the United States, which means shorter connection times and early arrival at final destinations. It adds predictability to travel plans, with passengers knowing they are already screened and can just collect their luggage and leave the airport on the other side. It enhances security by better managing risks and threats.
While pre-clearance formally exists only at airports at the moment, we also know that pre-inspection of rail and marine passenger exists and works with great success at several locations in British Columbia. For the past 20 years, U.S. customs and border protection has safely and successfully used passenger pre-inspection to streamline travel and security for travellers in that province.
In addition to the concrete direct benefits, there are a number of positive impacts that flow directly and indirectly from pre-clearance operations. For example, reduced border costs and fewer delays for commercial operations can lead to increased trade and increased foreign investment. The reduced wait times for passengers can lead to increased tourism and business travel.
The economic and security benefits of these pre-clearance and pre-inspection operations have led to calls from stakeholders and governments on both sides of the border for expansion to all modes of travel and to more locations. With the proposed legislation, we are taking an important step toward making that happen. Bill C-23 will enable us to continue moving ahead with expanded operations and modes of transportation that were agreed to in principle by the Minister of Public Safety and the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security in March 2016.
In brief, the bill has two key elements.
First, it will put in place the necessary legislative authorities to allow the United States to conduct pre-clearance operations in Canada. Today, pre-clearance is authorized only at Canadian airports under the Preclearance Act of 2001. The new authorities will allow for expansion subject to site-specific agreements to marine, rail, and land modes, as well as to pre-clearance of cargo.
Second, it will provide authorities for Canada to conduct pre-clearance in the United States in all modes of travel. The bill sets out where and when pre-clearance can occur, who has access to the pre-clearance area, the authorities of U.S. pre-clearance officers working in Canada and vice versa, and how police and border services officers can assist and work with pre-clearance officers. It also includes provisions affirming that pre-clearance operations in both countries must be conducted in accordance with Canadian law, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Our government is firmly committed to moving ahead with pre-clearance measures and building on our strong partnership with the United States. Indeed, this legislation is good news for Canadians and Americans. It would strengthen Canada's economic competitiveness by accelerating legitimate trade and travel, while keeping our borders secure.
In fact, after Canada and the United States signed an agreement in principle for new pre-clearance operations in March 2016, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association said, “Customs preclearance is one of the innovative programs that demonstrates there need not be a zero-sum choice between security and an efficient travel experience”.
Similar sentiments have been expressed by Canadian businesses and associations like the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. With specific reference to rail travel, its vice president of public policy and industry affairs, Rob Taylor, has pointed out that pre-clearance makes sense from a security standpoint because border officials can intercept people before they cross the border. It makes sense for travellers, because if they get cleared before they get on the train, it is so much easier than having to stop that trip half way through.
This is exactly what pre-clearance offers. It is a way to encourage legitimate trade and travel, while keeping our borders secure. It is an idea that is gaining ground around the world, with more and more countries looking to introduce or expand pre-clearance at their airports.
This brings me back to the importance of Bill C-23.
The benefits of expanded pre-clearance have been touted by everyone from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives to local tourism operators, as well as mayors and airport authorities. Pre-clearance improves the competitiveness of Canadian business and the experience of Canadian travellers. Now is the time to expand these operations in Canada and to examine how and where the Canada Border Services Agency could implement pre-clearance facilities in the United States.
Our government is committed to working with our allies, particularly the United States, to increase travel and to enhance North American competitiveness, as well as our collective security. I urge all members to support Bill C-23 and ensure its swift passage.
Preclearance Act, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
David Graham Laurentides—Labelle, QC
Mr. Speaker, we have heard this many times today.
Clearly, this right is something new. The difference is that if there is an unreasonable delay, the search may proceed. I do not think this is unreasonable. If someone travels to the U.S. without pre-clearance, and they arrive without Canadian protections, the same thing will happen. Accordingly, it is much more efficient to go ahead with the system proposed in Bill C-23. That does not really bother me.
Preclearance Act, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC
Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.
He just said that Bill C-23 changes almost nothing in terms of the current situation, but what about the fact that the current law does not allow a U.S. customs officer to conduct a strip search without a Canadian officer of the same gender present? This has been changed, which is rather troubling, considering the eagerness of U.S. personnel. Earlier my colleague from Windsor said he was very familiar with borders. In fact, people from Detroit and Windsor spend much of their lives going through customs.
The fact that a stip search could be conducted from now on by a U.S. officer without a Canadian officer of the same gender present is a huge change.
Preclearance Act, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
David Graham Laurentides—Labelle, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to discuss Bill C-23, which would provide the necessary authority under Canadian law to implement the land, rail, marine, and air transport preclearance agreement, thereby expanding U.S. pre-clearance operations in Canada and, for the first time, enabling pre-clearance of cargo and Canadian pre-clearance operations in the United States.
Pre-clearance makes travel faster and easier for tourists and business travellers alike, and makes it faster and easier for Canadian companies to do business with Americans. It also allows Canadian travellers to undergo U.S. border procedures while under the protection of Canadian law and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The proposed expansion of pre-clearance enabled by Bill C-23 has been greeted with enthusiasm by chambers of commerce across the country, by the tourism industry, which is in fact extremely important in Laurentides—Labelle, by the trucking industry, and by government partners, among others. For example, the mayor of Quebec City has called it a great victory for his city.
Pre-clearance operations for passengers have been a success story for more than 60 years, but they currently exist in only eight Canadian airports, and they do not exist for cargo at all. It is time to build on that success.
The proposed expansion to new locations and modes of travel requires an agreement with the United States. That agreement has been reached, and the United States has passed the legislation needed for implementation in their country with unanimous support in both houses of Congress. However, if we do not pass Bill C-23, the agreement will come to naught, and the benefits of pre-clearance will remain limited to those Canadians who already enjoy them.
Nevertheless, throughout this debate, the NDP members have been advocating in favour of the existing legislative framework. According to the member for Vancouver East, the current pre-clearance system is working well. The member for Beloeil—Chambly has said that the current pre-clearance system works just fine. The member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke said that pre-clearance is working very well already. In addition, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh said that she understood that pre-clearance is a process that exists today and it works.
Yes, it does, and I agree that the current legal framework, which has been in place since 1999, has served Canada well, but the NDP support for it is interesting because, in 1999, when this legal framework was proposed, the NDP had a very different take.
At the time, the member for Winnipeg—Transcona, Bill Blaikie, said that the bill raised questions about privacy protection. Mr. Blaikie stated reservations concerning the power of U.S. authorities to detain people, in particular, and he was afraid that U.S. law would be applied on Canadian soil. This sounds somewhat familiar.
The then member for Winnipeg Centre, Pat Martin, said he had serious reservations about the bill. He said it was too “intrusive” and “a breach of Canadian sovereignty”. He was worried that foreign officers would have the right to hold people and stop people from leaving. He argued that by passing the bill, the House was granting foreigners powers on our soil, which the NDP did not think was necessary. He went on to declare that the NDP remained firmly opposed to the creation of Canadian offences for resisting or misleading a foreign pre-clearance officer. He accused proponents of the bill, a group that now seems to include the NDP caucus, of being ready to trample on Canadian sovereignty. The best part is that he said that the bill opened up such a can of worms that it should be sent back to the other place for them to try again and take into consideration such basic things as national pride.
Clearly, a couple of decades later, the NDP realizes that its concerns back then were overblown, not to say unfounded, but here we are again. A new legal pre-clearance framework is again being proposed and the NDP is again sounding the alarm about perceived threats to Canadian sovereignty and perceived powers granted to foreign officers. It will not surprise me if 20 years from now New Democrats leap to the defence of Bill C-23 while insisting that any changes to it would mark the demise of the sovereignty of Canada.
Let us be reasonable. In many respects, Bill C-23 is very similar to the current framework. As concerns authorities to detain, question, search travellers, and seize goods, Bill C-23 is either identical to the existing law or very nearly so.
The same is true regarding penalties for obstructing or lying to an officer, and the right to withdraw from a pre-clearance area is maintained. A traveller just has to say who they are and why they are leaving.
The totality of U.S. pre-clearance operations in Canada would be subject to Canadian law, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act. That is an improvement over the present situation, where travellers arrive in the United States and clear customs without any of those protections.
The motion put forward by the member for Beloeil—Chambly asks us to reject Bill C-23 because of what he referred to as the climate of uncertainty at the U.S. border, but it is precisely with legislation like this that we are best able to reduce uncertainty for Canadian travellers.
The bill provides a clear legal framework governing the actions of U.S. officers on Canadian soil and requires U.S. officers in Canada to adhere to Canadian legal and constitutional standards.
Today, for instance, a Canadian taking the train from Montreal to New York has to disembark after crossing the border and submit to U.S. customs and immigration processes without any Canadian legal protection. With Bill C-23 in place, that traveller could be processed at the train station in Montreal with Canadian constitutional safeguards in force and with Canadian authorities on site.
In other words, not only would the legislation bring about substantial economic benefits and make trips to the United States quicker and more convenient for Canadian travellers, it would also enhance constitutional and legal protection for those very travellers.
That helps regions like mine. In my riding, we have the Mont Tremblant International Airport at La Macaza, where flights coming from outside Canada land. At present, it is very difficult to get customs services at that airport, even though it is a port of entry, since it is very costly to bring customs officers from Mirabel.
In the long term, it would help us if U.S. airports already had Canadian customs officers, since they would be able to go to any airport in Canada. That would save a lot of time and improve the economy in the Laurentians. It would solve a problem that has existed for a very long time: the fact that La Macaza is unable to accommodate enough flights from outside Canada, since the costs associated with customs services are too high.
I therefore think this bill is very important for the Laurentians region. I hope it will pass and we will see a number of U.S. airports offering Canadian services. I think that will benefit our entire economy. I know of a number of situations where it will save a lot of time.
When I was younger, I often travelled to the United States. I attended secondary school there, and I took the train or drove to get there. If I had had the option of clearing customs before getting on the train, I would have saved a lot of time. The train left Toronto at 7:00 a.m. and arrived in Buffalo at 2:00 p.m., when the trip by car took less than two hours. That enormous waste of time was caused by customs procedures.
Often, when the train gets to the border as it leaves the country, whichever direction it is going, customs officers check exports, and that takes an hour and a half. Then, when the train gets to the other side of the border, customs officers check imports, and that takes another hour and a half. That means that, altogether, passengers spend three hours at the border, something that simply would not happen if that checking were done at the outset.
Bill C-23 is an improvement over the existing situation. It gives Canadian officers on American soil the same rights as American officers on Canadian soil. It will also improve the economy in all of Canada’s tourist regions.
I am very eager to see this bill come into force.
Preclearance Act, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 6 p.m.
Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC
Mr. Speaker, the member was speaking about his experience at the borders and being with a friend from an ethnic minority. I just today saw an article from Global News about a Montreal woman named Manpreet Kooner, born and raised in Montreal, being refused access at the border. She was with her Caucasian girlfriends who were not stopped. They were going to go to a spa on the U.S. side of the border and were turned away. It was clearly racialized. It was clearly profiling. It was clearly an attitude from U.S. customs officials and border guards.
In this pre-clearance process, which we generally support, it is very convenient to be able pre-clear before we go through the border. What I do not understand and no government member has explained it to me, maybe the hon. member from the NDP can explain it, is why we have this change in Bill C-23. We have pre-clearance now, in the Ottawa airport, before going to the U.S. It is a good idea to expand it to other places. Why do we need to give permission to U.S. border guards, in the current climate of racial profiling, to behave in this way? I think that is one of the key things the Trump White House is telegraphing to border guards: they can discriminate and it will be okay. Why give them active powers?
Preclearance Act, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
Brian Masse Windsor West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today but disappointed in many respects, because Bill C-23 is being expedited through the House. It is unfortunate. Many times Liberal members criticized the Conservatives for using time allocation as an archaic way of processing legislation through the House, and today it seems to have become the regular way of doing business. It was an exception to the rule no less than 15 years ago, but now time allocation has become the standard operation of Conservative and Liberal governments. That is unfortunate because errors in bills continue to happen because they do not have a full examination.
The Liberals are starting to see that come true by what is taking place. Not only is there the arming of U.S. border patrol agents but also the basic disregard of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is quite alarming that the so-called party of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has disavowed standing up for Canadians. We saw that today in the House of Commons with the weak-kneed approach of Liberal members to what is taking place on the border where Canadians are being denied entry into the United States for racial and ethnic reasons. The website states why they cannot enter into the United States but racial and ethnic profiling is not one of the reasons. The Liberal government has had plenty of opportunities to speak strongly to the United States, but it has not done that. That is a charter right. It is quite clear that the way the United States processes individuals entering the country violates our strong relationship with that country.
Before I move from that topic, it is important to note that the Liberal government is compliant with the U.S. behaving in such a manner. We have signed agreements with the U.S. on several issues relating to border security, relating to processing at the border, relating to immigration and other things, and that country has decided to dump those agreements, go it alone, without a peep from our government. It is shameful.
Back in 2002-03 I was at the Canadian embassy when then ambassador Raymond Chrétien identified that there were going to be five to seven nations, such as Pakistan, that were going to be put on a separate list for going into the United States. I said that we should object to this because a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and that once an individual has been vetted through our process, that person should be treated as such. To this day we have yet to have a prime minister, whether it was Prime Minister Chrétien or Prime Minister Martin, stand up against this. We knew Prime Minister Harper was not going to do that. However, this body here has had plenty of opportunities to do so.
Putting closure on this debate brings up a number of sensitive issues that need to be vetted.
I grew up near the border. I live and work there. I am raising my family there. I have been crossing the border all of my life. One of my first negative experiences with crossing the border was at the age of 18 when my best friend Jeet Pillay and I were going over to watch a baseball game. He was asked by U.S. officials what country he was from. He said that he was from Canada. I am as white as a bag of milk on a beach but he happens to be brown skinned. These border officials said, “No, no, no. We want to know what country you are from. Where were you born?” He said that he was born at Hôtel-Dieu Grace hospital, which is only three blocks away from where we were crossing on the Canadian side. The officials pulled us in and detained us for about three hours just because of Jeet's skin colour. We missed most of the game.
I have become very used to what is taking place at the border and also what happens under the leadership of presidents and others. The Department of Homeland Security, which has become the over-arching thing, is a relatively new phenomenon. We forget about this. It has become one of the biggest bureaucracies, if not the biggest, in the world, but it is only a recent creation by the United States government.
We have problems with customs and border protection and also having their agents on Canadian soil and making decisions about our citizens. We also have problems with its agents on Canadian soil being able to make decisions about Canadian citizens, decisions that could affect their livelihood, decisions that could prevent them for social reasons from entering the United States. Decisions that could embarrass them publicly and shame them are being made by U.S. officials on our soil.
On top of that, they could now be armed on our soil. People say, “That is not too bad, they would have to go under these rules, terms, and conditions; they are really good fellows and there is no problem there, it is fine”, but what have we done in this act? We have not done any oversight as in making sure that we are actually going to screen and have accountability there. It is very weak. Who are we talking to?
We are talking about a problem that they have in the United States, that the customs and border protection system right now has a corruption issue. The Americans have a serious corruption issue that has been growing in the United States. Those recent problems that they have faced involved everything including drug trafficking, bribery, human smuggling, false statements, and breaking of personal privacy. These are real things that are actually happening. These are real men and women who have done those wrong things in the hire of the U.S. government for many different reasons that I do not know, but they are real cases. I am going to talk about a couple of those cases because it is important that we know the type of people who could be on our soil doing our yeoman's work that should be done by Canadians, and without the proper checks and balances. The Liberals know because they are getting squeamish about this. There is no doubt about it. When they allow another country to come in with arms and put their beachhead down here, then they ultimately have to be overseeing this properly, which the Liberals have not done.
Hence, there is the rush to put this through. At a time when the U.S. is basically tearing up agreements that we have had and denying people entry into the United States for reasons that the Americans describe as normal cause and at a time when we have more people from the United States coming to Canada as refugees, the Liberals want to rush this out the door. It does not make any sense, aside from political pressure and political damage, as opposed to doing the right thing and going through this every single step and every single way to make sure every voice is heard. In watching the debates today, it might be one of the reasons Liberals often do not take their full allotted time. That is the reason to shorten their time in the House.
I want to talk about a few of the cases because they are important. Manuel Eduardo Pena, customs and border protection officer, was convicted by a federal grand jury in Brownsville. Special agents witnessed Pena take the firearm from the store and deliver it to another person in exchange for money. He was sentenced to five years' probation. Adam Bender, from my neck of the woods, worked on the Windsor-Detroit border crossing at the tunnel, minutes from my home. He admitted that he used his position to allow illegal immigrants to enter through his lane at the Detroit-Windsor tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge. For human smuggling, he got 24 months in prison. John Ajello is another customs and border protection officer. He got a misdemeanour of supplementing federal salary. He was accepting payments during an operation related to information sharing that he should not have done. He was making money during an investigation. Luis Alarid got seven years in prison for trafficking and bribery, conspiracy to smuggle more than 100 kilograms of marijuana into the United States, and receiving more than $200,000 in bribe money. They were all convicted. Noe Aleman Jr.'s crime was encouraging and inducing illegal immigrants to stay in the country. He was a veteran of six to 10 years. A lot of them, well over half, are veterans of the service. It goes to show us that the danger is not just with the new people who are hired, but it actually can be corruption through the system that the Americans have.
There are many good officers out there. I deal with this. I travel. I have season's tickets to sporting events in the United States. I go through all the time. There are wonderful people there, but there is also this shadow of conspiracy, conviction, and unauthorized behaviour that now we are actually empowering at a time when there is investigation.
Preclearance Act, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC
Mr. Speaker, that is a good question.
It all depends on what is said. The member is presenting a theoretical example. If an individual wanted to withdraw and it was not a complex case, I imagine that it would be fairly easy to do so. There are standards set out in Canada's jurisprudence. These standards will be applicable under Bill C-23. If Bill C-23 had been in effect, perhaps authorities would not have been able to question this woman for six hours.
Preclearance Act, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
Robert Aubin 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?
Preclearance Act, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
Francis Scarpaleggia 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, 2016
March 6th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
Kate Young 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.