An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of June 20, 2019
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act to, among other things, rename the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as the Public Complaints and Review Commission. It also amends the Canada Border Services Agency Act to, among other things, grant to that Commission powers, duties and functions in relation to the Canada Border Services Agency, including the power to conduct a review of the activities of that Agency and to investigate complaints concerning the conduct of any of that Agency’s officers or employees. It also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

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.

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 18th, 2019 / 10:10 a.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table the 37th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on Bill C-98, an act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I also want to endorse the general comments on the way in which we are so well served by those officials who are clerks and analysts. In this instance, I also want to compliment and appreciate the co-operation of my vice-chairs, the members for Beloeil—Chambly and Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, and all of the members of the committee, along with the House leadership who have moved the bill in a very expeditious fashion because it is of great importance to the Canada Border Services Agency.

I also want to generally compliment the working of the committee. We have gone through something in the order of 13 major pieces of legislation, plus numerous reports, plus numerous private members' bills and we have had a collegial atmosphere that has served us all well. I am thankful to present the bill and this report.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2019 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege, as always, to rise in the House and speak to legislation. As we near the end of this parliamentary session, one that precedes an election, we really should be wrapping up work rather than starting new work, as we all know.

Bill C-98 proposes to repurpose and rename the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP to the “Public Complaints and Review Commission” and expand its mandate to review both the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency.

In 2017, I began working as a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. In studies on the border agency and when the agency came up in discussions on another bill, Bill C-21, the issue of oversight and complaints was discussed. Professor Wesley Wark, from the University of Ottawa, who was previously a special adviser to the president of the Canadian border security agency said:

...the committee should encourage the government to finalize its plans for an independent complaints mechanism for CBSA. There have been discussions under way about this for some considerable time now.

We were told that the minister already had a plan back then, was already dealing with it and that we did not need to. During his appearance at the Senate committee regarding the border security's oversight, the minister said:

The CBSA, however, does not have independent review of officer conduct, and that is a gap that definitely needs to be addressed....

Mr. Chair, while I agree absolutely with the spirit behind Bill S-205, I cannot support its detail at this time for—

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2019 / 6:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Madam Speaker, I will continue with the public safety minister's comment at committee:

[T]he government is launching, almost immediately, a public consultation process on our national security framework that will touch directly on the subject matter of this bill, and I need that consultation before I can commit to specific legislation.

Well, that was almost three years ago. To say that the bill is late would obviously be an understatement. It has taken the minister over three years to bring forward this legislation. That is quite a long time for a minister who said he was already working on something in 2016.

In keeping with his recent history on consultations, there appears to have been little or no external consultation in preparation for the bill. Hopefully, at committee, the government will be able to produce at least one group or organization outside of the government that will endorse the legislation. However, I am not holding my breath.

The government even hired a former clerk of the Privy Council to conduct an independent report. Mel Cappe conducted a review and provided his recommendations in June 2017. It was only because of an access to information request by CBC News that Parliament even knows of this report.

A CBC News article noted:

The June 2017 report by former Privy Council Office chief Mel Cappe, now a professor at the University of Toronto, was obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act....

[A] spokesman for [the] Public Safety Minister...would not comment directly on Cappe’s recommendations, but said the government is working on legislation to create an “appropriate mechanism” to review CBSA officer conduct and handle complaints.

The proposed body would roll in existing powers of the civilian review and complaints commission for the RCMP.

The government and the minister had the recommendations two years ago, yet they are bringing this forward at the last minute. It appears to be an afterthought. Again, in February of this year, the minister said that they continue to work as fast as they can to bring forward legislation on oversight for the CBSA.

Perhaps the Liberal government was just distracted by its many self-inflicted wounds. It created many challenges for Canadians, and now it is tabling legislation in the 11th hour that deals with real issues and asking parliamentarians to make up for the government's distraction and lack of focus on things that matter to Canada, Canadians and our democracy. These are things like public safety, national security, rural crime, trade, energy policies and lower taxes.

There is an impact to mismanagement and bad decision-making. The Liberals' incompetence has had a trickle-down effect that is felt at every border crossing and also across many parts of the country.

We know that RCMP officers had to be deployed and dedicated to dealing with illegal border crossings. When the Liberals set up a facility to act as a border crossing in Lacolle, Quebec, RCMP officers were there covering people entering into Canada. Those RCMP officers were not commissioned that day. They were pulled from details across the country. They were pulled from monitoring returned ISIS fighters and from monitoring and tackling organized crime. They were taken and redeployed, most likely, from rural detachments across the country. We know that in my province of Alberta, the RCMP is short-staffed by nearly 300 officers. It is not a surprise, then, that there was a rise in rural crime while this was going on. Rural crime is now rising faster than urban crime.

However, it is not just the RCMP that has been impacted by the mismanagement at the border. It is also border officers, who will have the added oversight created through Bill C-98.

CBSA officers told me and many other MPs about more shifts and about workers being transferred to Manitoba and Quebec. The media reported that students were taking the place of full-time, trained border officers at Pearson airport. This is the largest airport in Canada, and the impacts of having untrained and inexperienced officers monitoring potentially the top spot for smuggling and transfer of illegal goods are staggering.

We have a serious issue in Canada at our borders, one that is getting worse. We know from testimony given during the committee's study of Bill C-71 that the vast majority of illegal firearms come from the U.S. They are smuggled in. At the guns and gangs summit, the RCMP showed all of Canada pictures of firearms being smuggled in as part of other packages. The minister's own department is saying there is a problem with smuggled goods, contraband tobacco and drugs coming across our borders.

Rather than actually protect Canadians, we are looking into oversight. Do not get me wrong. Oversight is good, but it is not the most pressing issue of the day.

The media is now reporting that because of the Liberals' decision to lift visas, there are many harmful and potentially dangerous criminals now operating in our country. This comes on the heels of reports that there are record-high numbers of ordered deportations of people who are a security threat. There were 25 in 2017. There are also record-low removals. Deportations were about or above 12,000 to 15,000 per year from 2010 to 2015, but that is not what we are seeing now. The Liberals, even with tens of thousands of people entering Canada illegally, are averaging half of that.

We know that the CBSA is not ignoring these issues and security threats. It just lacks the resources, which are now dedicated to maintaining an illegal border crossing and monitoring tens of thousands more people.

This failure is not just my opinion. It is the opinion of many Canadians.

A Calgary Herald headline from last August read, “Confidence in Trudeau's handling of immigration is gone”. The Toronto Sun, on May 29 of this year, wrote, “AG report shows federal asylum processing system a mess”. Another reads, “Auditor General Calls out Liberal Failures”. The news headlines go on and on.

This is not something the minister did when he implemented reforms in Bill C-59, the national security reforms. Under that bill, there would be three oversight agencies for our national security and intelligence teams: the new commissioner of intelligence, with expanded oversight of CSIS and CSE; the new national security and intelligence review agency, and with Bill C-22, the new parliamentary committee. This is in addition to the Prime Minister's national security adviser and the deputy ministers of National Defence, Foreign Affairs and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Oversight can be a good thing. Often, because of human nature, knowing it is there acts as a deterrent. From my career, knowing that police are nearby or ready to respond can deter criminals, and knowing that someone will review claims of misconduct will add credibility to an already reputable agency, the CBSA.

It is probably too bad that this was not done earlier, because it could have gone through the House and the Senate quite easily. It could have been a law for a year or two already, perhaps even more. Sadly, the late tabling of the bill seems to make it a near certainty that if it reaches the Senate, it might be caught in the backlog of legislation there.

The House and the committee can and should give the bill a great deal of scrutiny. While the idea seems sound, and the model is better than in other legislation, I am wary of anything the government does on borders. It has not managed our borders well and has not been up front with the House or Canadians about that. In 2017, the Liberals told us that there was nothing to worry about, with tens of thousands of people crossing our borders illegally. They said they did not need any new resources, security was going well and everything was fine.

Well, the reality was that security was being cut to deal with the volume, provinces and cities were drowning in costs and overflowing shelters, border and RCMP agencies were stretched and refugee screenings were backing up. According to the ministers, everything was fine. Then, in the budget, came new funding, and in the next budget, and in the one after that. Billions in spending is now on the books, including for the RCMP, the CBSA and the Immigration and Refugee Board.

What should we scrutinize? For one, I think we should make sure to hear from those people impacted by this decision, such as front-line RCMP and CBSA officers who will be subject to these evaluations.

A CBC article had this to say:

The union representing border officers has heard little about the proposal and was not consulted on the bill. Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), said the president of the CBSA also was left in the dark and could not inform the union of any details of the legislation.

How reliable is legislation when the agency it would actually impact and involve was left out of the loop?

It seems odd that the Liberals would appoint one union, Unifor, to administer a $600-million media bailout fund just after they announce a campaign against Conservatives, and, yet, the border services officers union is not even consulted about legislation that impacts it. I would hope that consultations are not dependent on political donations and participation.

That is why Parliament should be careful about who sits on this new agency. We do not need more activists; we need experienced professionals. We need subject matter experts. We need people with management expertise. We need to make sure that the people who work on these review organizations are appropriately skilled and resourced to do their work. We need to make sure that frivolous cases do not tie up resources, and that officers do not have frivolous and vexatious claims hanging over the heads.

We need to make sure that Canadians do not need to hire lawyers to get access to the complaints commission and its process.

We need to make sure that the minister and his staff, and other staffing leaders across the public safety spectrum cannot get their hands inside the processes and decisions of these bodies. We need the agency to have transparent, clear processes and systems that are fair to applicants and defendants alike. We need to make sure that these processes do not eat away resources from two agencies that are already strapped for bodies.

I hope there is time to do this right. I hope there is the appropriate time to hear from all the relevant witnesses, that legal advice is obtained, and that we have the appropriate time to draft changes, changes that, based on the minister's track record, are almost certainly going to be needed.

As the House begins its work on this legislation, I trust the minister and his staff would not be directing the chair of the public safety committee to meet their scripted timeline, which seems a little difficult to be done now with only a week remaining. Knowing that the chair is a scrupulous and honoured individual, he certainly would not suggest that legislation needs to be finished before we can hear the appropriate testimony.

There is a lot of trust and faith needed for the House to work well on legislation like this and many other pieces, trust that is built through honest answers to legitimate questions, trust that is reinforced by following integrity and the need to get it right, rather than the need to just be right.

I hope, perhaps just once in this legislative session, we could see the government try to broker such trust on Bill C-98, but I will not hold my breath.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2019 / 6:45 p.m.
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Green

Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to get up and speak to this important issue. I would like to start by recognizing the voters in Nanaimo—Ladysmith and thank them for seeing fit to elect me; and my team, my volunteers and my family, for supporting me through this process. This is my first time to have an opportunity to speak in Parliament. This is an interesting bill to get up and speak to.

My sister is a police officer. She has served some 23 or 24 years with the Ontario Provincial Police. She knows that when police are caught doing things they should not be doing it reflects poorly on all police officers. We need to respect the work that our men and women in uniform do: members of our armed forces, members of our police forces and members of the Canada Border Services Agency. It is very important to have oversight of these bodies, so that when there are legitimate complaints from citizens, they do not taint an organization.

I have just been reading a news article about a woman who was strip-searched coming into Canada and treated very poorly. There are many cases like this. When we cross the border, we enter a legal no man's land where we have no rights and we must do what we are told. When we are asked to hand over our cellphone and computer and give over the passwords, we are giving away some of our most personal information and letting people dig into our lives. When people are disrespected in this process, they need a proper way to complain about how they have been treated.

Bill C-98 would create an independent review and complaints mechanism for CBSA. This is very important. The objective is to promote public confidence in the system and for the employees. Those employees deserve to have confidence in their work and what they do. They deserve confidence and they deserve the respect of the public. The existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP would assume responsibility for review and complaints for the CBSA as well. It would be renamed as the public complaints and review commission, and be divided into RCMP units and a CBSA unit with similar powers, duties and functions and some modifications.

Why do we need this bill? Why do we need this oversight body? The CBSA is the only federal law-enforcement agency without an oversight body. It holds significant powers, including to detain, search, use firearms, arrest non-citizens without a warrant and conduct deportations.

We had a case in which the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands had to defend an indigenous man who was handcuffed, detained and taken away from his home during Christmas because he had an issue with his citizenship. He had been a resident of Penelakut Island and he was an indigenous person who has rights across the border. Indigenous communities and first nations in some cases do not recognize the border because the border is a false line that runs through their territories. For this person to be treated in this way, being bound, detained and forced from his home in this ruthless way, was highly problematic. It is important to have a complaints commission and somebody to review these kinds of cases and look at the conduct of the officers who were involved.

It is reported that the CBSA investigated over 1,200 allegations of staff misconduct between January 2016 and mid-2018. The allegations included sexual assault, criminal association and harassment. At least 14 people have died in custody since 2000. Those are incredible statistics, and a good reason why we need some oversight over this agency.

The public complaints commission would respond to a review conducted as a result of PMB S-205 in the 42nd Parliament, and the 2015 Senate report, “Vigilance, Accountability and Security at Canada's Borders”.

In the fall of 2016, the Minister of Public Safety announced the government's intention to address gaps in the CBSA's framework for external accountability, a feature already present in countries like the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and France.

I know we are getting late in this Parliament and we are early in the stages of this bill, but I think it is very important that we work on getting this through so that we can pass it before the House rises so there would be proper oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency. Then people would have a process to go through where they would have confidence, and other members of the CBSA would know there is a way for people who are bad apples in the system to have proper oversight over the kinds of actions they have taken, and the citizens of this country and the people travelling here can be confident that they will be treated with respect and dignity at our borders.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2019 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, this is a continuation of my remarks on Bill C-98 from over a week ago.

I would be remiss if I did not note my disappointment with the last vote. This was an opportunity for the government, with a Prime Minister who said that the government would be transparent by default, to release the critical document in the Admiral Mark Norman affair, the memo from Michael Wernick, from the early days, on why Mr. Norman was picked out of 73 people on a PCO list. Mr. Wernick is not a lawyer, so it is not legal advice. Canadians know Michael Wernick and they know the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Unredacting that memo would have been a gesture of goodwill on the part of the government, in light of the fact that the Crown had to admit in court that it had no reasonable prospect of success at trial. After the terrible ordeal Mr. Norman has been through, that would have been a nice recognition. I have to say that I was disappointed.

As I was saying in my previous remarks, one of the main issues I have with Bill C-98, and with some of the bills we are debating now, in the final days of this Parliament, is the fact that if the bill were coming here after robust consultations with the people affected, we might be in a position to say that this is legislation that is in the long-term interest of the RCMP and other groups caught by the legislation, but it is not.

Bill C-98 is another example of legislation related to public safety, related to peace officers and related to police officers that misses the mark yet again. It is unfortunate, because as the minister would know, we tried, in good faith, at the beginning of this Parliament, to work with the government on these issues.

The minister would remember Bill C-7, the RCMP unionization bill. We worked with the government, and thanks to the member for Beaches—East York, it accepted our recommendations to make the provisions of Bill C-7 more equitable for members, regardless of what province they were in with respect to workplace injuries, rehabilitation and supports. On legislation related to the RCMP, we provided substantive input that helped with that legislation.

Canadians see at the end of this parliamentary session that we are getting a little raucous and a little feisty. An election is on the horizon. I will remind them that at the beginning of this Parliament, when it came to the RCMP, in light of a Supreme Court decision—

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2019 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Karen McCrimmon Liberal Kanata—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, since the fall of 2016, our government has been dramatically reshaping Canada’s security and intelligence apparatus to ensure that it has the authorities and the funding it needs in order to keep Canadians safe. At the same time, we have been ensuring that those agencies, which we trust with tremendous power, have strong and robust independent review mechanisms so that the public can be confident that they are using their powers appropriately.

These mechanisms instill confidence in the public that these agencies are using their powers appropriately. Since 2018, following the passage of Bill C-22, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, or NSICOP, has been reviewing classified national security information. The committee, which is formed of three senators and eight elected members of Parliament, recently released its first annual report. This brings Canada into line with all four of our other Five Eyes alliance allies when it comes to parliamentary or congressional review of national security activities.

Bill C-59, which is currently awaiting third reading debate in the Senate, would create a national security and intelligence review agency. This would be a stand-alone review body that would incorporate the existing Security Intelligence Review Committee, or SIRC, which reviews the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, and the Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner, which reviews the Communications Security Establishment, CSE.

The agency would also have the powers and authorities to review any department with a national security function. Some academics and experts have dubbed this idea a “super SIRC“. They have argued for years that such a body is needed so that it can follow the thread of evidence from one department to another rather than ending its investigation at the boundaries of a single agency. The Federal Court has also suggested that this kind of super review agency needs to be created. We have done all of this so that Canadians can be confident that our security and intelligence community has the tools it needs to keep Canadians safe.

This brings me to Bill C-98. The one piece missing from this review architecture puzzle, should Bill C-59 pass, of course, is an independent review body for non-national security-related reviews of the Canada Border Services Agency, or CBSA. Bill C-98 would fill in that gap by creating PCRC, or the public complaints and review commission.

The new agency would combine the existing review body for the RCMP, known as the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, CRCC, with the yet to be created review body for the Canada Border Services Agency. It would add a mandatory new deputy chair position to the new agency. Budget 2019 has provided nearly $25 million over the next five years to ensure there is enough staff to take on this new important role.

I would now like to walk members through how the PCRC would work in practice. A Canadian who has a complaint about the actions or behaviour of a CBSA member would lodge a complaint with either the Canada Border Services Agency itself or the PCRC. Regardless of where it is filed, one agency would alert the other to the complaint. There will be no wrong door for Canadians to knock on. The system will work for them in either case.

The CBSA would then be required to investigate every complaint, much like the existing CRCC does for the RCMP. If the chair believes it would be in the public interest to do so, the PCRC can initiate its own investigation.

The vast majority of complaints to the CBSA are already handled to the satisfaction of the complainant. For those who are not satisfied, complainants would be informed that they can request a subsequent complaint review from the fully independent PCRC. The review agency would have full access to documents and the power to compel witnesses in order to ensure it can undertake a thorough investigation. If, upon review, the PCRC were not satisfied with the CBSA's investigations and conclusions, it would make a report with any findings and recommendations.

There are several areas that the CCRC would not be able to investigate because there are already existing bodies which could handle those types of complaints. For instance, officers of Parliament like the Privacy Commissioner and the Commissioner of Official Languages are best suited to deal with complaints that fall within their jurisdiction.

Should someone file a complaint with the CBSA or the CCRC that falls within those realms, either body would decline the complaint but inform that individual of the proper course of action.

The chair of the new PCRC would be able to conduct reviews of CBSA activities, behaviours, policies, procedures and guidelines not related to national security. National security reviews would, of course, be handled by NSIRA. The Minister of Public Safety could also ask the agency to undertake such a review.

In addition, the PCRC would be notified of any serious incident in which the actions of a CBSA officer may have resulted in serious injury or death. This includes immigration detainees who are being held in provincial corrections facilities on behalf of the CBSA. Further, the Minister of Public Safety or the president of the CBSA may deem that in incidents of such significance, the PCRC must investigate.

Bill C-98 would complete the review architecture for the public safety portfolio by creating a review body similar to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, or the Office of the Correctional Investigator for Correctional Service Canada. This is another important step that would ensure Canadians have confidence in our border agency. However, it is far from the only improvement that our government has made over these past four years.

Let us take, for instance, the new immigration detention framework and its focus on best rights of the child, increased resources to combat gun and opioid smuggling at the border, and new money for detector dogs that will help to ensure African swine fever-contaminated meat does not enter Canada and decimate the stock of pork producers.

There is the new entry-exit legislation, which closes a major security gap by allowing us to know when someone is leaving the country, and the new Preclearance Act, which allows for the expansion of pre-clearance sites in all four modes: air, land, marine and rail. In addition, this act provides cargo pre-clearance to reduce wait times at the border.

Our government takes the security of Canada’s border seriously and knows that it not only needs to be secure from threats that would enter, but also be open to the legitimate travel and trade that drives our economy.

The time left in the 42nd Parliament is, unfortunately, growing short, and I am convinced that this piece of legislation would be, by leaps and bounds, an improvement over the status quo. There is a reason we committed to doing this particular action. We know that having independent oversight bodies will make a difference. We have worked hard to make that happen with the RCMP, and now our other national security agencies have the same kind of mechanisms. It is all about instilling confidence in the public that the powers our national security agencies have are being used appropriately and that their privacy, rights and freedoms are being respected. At the same time, our national security agencies are working hard to keep them safe.

One of the most significant steps forward was the implementation of Bill C-22 and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, because now we have representatives from Parliament actually having access to classified security information and making judgments about where we should go, what the priorities are and what the major threats are, and the committee members can share that information among themselves in a non-partisan way.

The chair of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians went before committee and talked about the work it does. It has issued its first annual report. The chair talked about the ability of this committee of parliamentarians to act in a non-partisan nature. That is what allows it to do the kind of work we need it to do. There are three senators and eight elected members of Parliament, and it is working. The other Five Eyes alliance countries have a parliamentary or congressional review body, and now Canada does too.

Bill C-59, which we have talked about, would create the national security and intelligence review agency. This stand-alone body would incorporate the existing Security Intelligence Review Committee, which reviews CSIS, and the Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner, which reviews CSE. Having this review function under one single umbrella would give it the flexibility and ability to focus where it believes it needs to be done. It would also have the power and authority to review any department with a national security function.

I like the name super-SIRC. I think it is representative of what we are trying to do, which is create an oversight organization that has the bandwidth and authority to review any national security agency's work to make sure that it is being done in terms of the legal authorities it has and that also has the ability to go across national security agencies if it needs to find information that pertains to a particular issue.

We have argued for years that we needed such a body that could follow a thread of evidence from one department to another, from one national security agency, across boundaries, to another. Even the Federal Court agrees that this kind of review agency needs to be created.

It comes back to having national security agencies that have the confidence of their people. I believe that now, with these independent oversight agencies that have been put in place, Canadians can be confident that our security and intelligence community has the tools to keep them safe while at the same time respecting their privacy, respecting their freedoms and respecting their rights.

The Canada Border Services Agency was the last piece. In Bill C-98, we would create the public complaints and review commission, the PCRC. This new agency would combine the existing review body for the RCMP, known as the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, with the yet to be created review body for the CBSA. It would add a mandatory new deputy chair position to the new agency.

I would like to walk the members through how the PCRC, the public complaints and review commission, would work in practice.

A Canadian who had a complaint about the actions or behaviour of a CBSA member would lodge a complaint with either the CBSA itself or with the public complaints and review commission. There would be two options to file a complaint. The system would be designed so that once a complaint was filed with one agency, it would automatically be transferred to the other agency. Both would know what was going on, and both would be responsible for addressing the particular complaint. On top of that, even if a complaint had not been issued, if the chair of the public complaints and review commission believed that it was in the public interest to do so, the public complaints and review commission could initiate its own investigation.

If one submitted a complaint to the CBSA and was not happy with the result, one could request a subsequent complaint review by the fully independent public complaints and review commission. This would give the agencies two opportunities to address complaints from the public. This review agency would have full access to documents and the power to compel witnesses to ensure that it could make a thorough investigation.

I am convinced that this piece of legislation is, by leaps and bounds, an improvement over the status quo. While some may want to improve some parts, I think most of us would agree that Canadians would be better off if this bill were to receive royal assent before we rise this summer. As we all know, Parliament can move quite expeditiously when we are all of a mind to do something in the public interest. If any of my colleagues in this chamber, on either side of the aisle, would like to discuss the prospects of this bill's passage, I would be pleased to have that conversation with them.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2019 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my speech with this thought: a government that is constantly embroiled in scandal cannot be effective. That is why we need to examine Bill C-98 at the last minute.

I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-98, an act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act.

This bill renames the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP. It would henceforth be known as the “public complaints and review commission”. It would also be responsible for reviewing complaints filed by the public against the Canada Border Services Agency.

This bill delivers on a Liberal campaign promise that there would be an oversight body for all Canadian law enforcement agencies. The Prime Minister will then be able to say that he kept the promise he made in 2015. However, the only thing the Prime Minister will be able to do is claim that he kept his promise.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness was just practically on his knees begging the opposition to hurry up and pass the bill. The end of this Parliament is quickly approaching, and it will obviously be impossible to get the job done properly. Unfortunately for the Liberals, they will be unable to keep their promise because they did not manage their time properly.

We are not opposed to Bill C-98, but there is still work to do. Right now, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security is stretched to the limit because, as the parliamentary secretary mentioned, it is currently examining a number of public-safety-related bills. The committee is still studying C-93. I do not see how the committee will be able to examine Bill C-98 on top of everything else it still has to do.

We need to get serious if we want the job to get done properly. The problem the Canada Border Services Agency is currently dealing with was caused by the Prime Minister's infamous tweet of January 2017. The Auditor General looked into the matter and, regardless of what the government says, he confirmed that the Prime Minister's tweet resulted in a huge influx of people at the border. Nearly 40,000 people have crossed our border illegally over the past two years. That has caused major problems for border officers on the ground and for the Canada Border Services Agency, which has had to deploy an incredible number of resources. They are still permanently deployed to Roxham Road.

The border management system is overloaded, and that is causing problems. Our border officers are doing their best. However, this type of situation, which was created by the Prime Minister, sometimes makes it difficult for them to do their job properly because of the higher-than-normal volume of border crossers.

The government is having a hard time making progress because it has to deal with scandal after scandal. We cannot forget the infamous trip to India, when the Prime Minister made Canada a laughingstock for a week. We never understood, and still do not understand, why the Prime Minister brought his wife and kids on that totally meaningless trip. Canada was humiliated, and that is what sparked the scandal. In India, the Prime Minister was photographed with a known terrorist who spent time in prison and was the invited guest of our government. The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security had to spend a lot of time managing that file and had to meet with former national security adviser Daniel Jean.

Sometimes the government wants to rush things. The Liberals tell Canadians that they are there for them, but let's not forget what happened in the past three and a half years.

Quebeckers will not forget what the Liberals did to Davie. Today, both Liberal MPs from the Quebec City area are claiming that they awarded a $700-million contract to Davie, but the opposite is true. The PMO's first decision was to do everything it could to cancel the contract given to Davie by the Conservative government in July 2015.

The news spread. Fortunately, as a result of the pressure we applied, the government finally signed the contract. Technically, this government gave Davie the contract, but it was the Conservatives who awarded it. Let us remember that the Liberals did everything they could to cancel it. Fortunately, they failed. Had the Prime Minister succeeded, 1,000 jobs at Davie shipyard, in the Quebec City area, would have been at risk.

The Liberals are now trying to smooth things over. They are trying to find contracts so they can say that they are looking after Davie and they believe in the company. However, we must never forget what happened. Let's never forget that Vice-Admiral Norman, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, paid the price for the government's political games. His career was destroyed.

This unbelievable mess has been playing out for three and a half years. Now, the Liberals are asking us to support Bill C-98. They are telling us that this is very urgent, and they are asking us to help them get this done before the end of their term.

Why should I rush and cut corners, like they do all the time? Why should the NDP cut corners? Why should we agree to help the government, which does what it wants and now needs our help?

There are certain things that could be done for the benefit of Canadians, but in this case, I see no need. They waited four years to act. On October 22, the new Conservative government will be able to get this done right.

The worst part is that we actually support Bill C-98. It is an administrative measure that is consistent with our complaint handling system. We have no problem supporting it. What we do have a problem with is the government's approach. We are certainly not about to run interference for a government that has lurched from one scandal to another and has tried in various ways to hurt Quebec, my home province. As I said, we are certainly not about to cut corners to help them.

Another issue is that Bill C-98 is being introduced to allow members of the public to file complaints about services provided by the Canada Border Services Agency. As I said at the beginning of my speech, if there are any problems with our officers in the field, it is because the Prime Minister did not help the situation. He created a huge problem, and for the past two years, it has been utter chaos.

The agency does everything it possibly can to keep our borders safe. We certainly do not want to suggest that we need to pass this bill quickly so that people can file complaints against our CBSA officers. That would send the wrong message.

The message we do want to send is that there are so many problems related to officers that people need to be able to file a complaint, and if any officers are having problems, if they are having difficulty doing their jobs, it is because of this government's decisions and the way in which it is managing our country and our borders.

We are not willing to cut corners. We are not willing to concede that this is such an urgent matter that we need to cancel the committee meetings that are already under way and set aside the other bills being studied in order to fast-track this one.

There is another reason we cannot get on board with this even though we support the principle of Bill C-98. For two years, every time we asked questions about the border, they hurled every insult in the book at us. They called us racist and accused us of fearmongering. They said we slashed budgets by $300 million and blamed us for management and resource problems, but the reports my colleague found put the lie to that. Yes, there was rationalization. Yes, there were changes at CBSA under the Conservative government, but it was all at the administrative level and had no impact whatsoever on the work of front-line officers.

On the contrary, one important decision the Conservatives made at the time was to bring back land border offices. Before that, there was a night officer on duty, which is crazy when you consider the kind of danger that poses to officer safety. Now there are always at least two people at each post. The Conservatives also decided to arm customs officers.

Conservatives do not just talk about security; we take concrete steps to ensure security. The laws we passed to crack down on criminals were undone by the Liberals.

I can support the bill, but I cannot support a government that says one thing and does another, a government that attacks us for trying to earn back the esteem of Canadians, while everyone knows that the problems we are having are due to this government's mistakes and terrible decisions.

I would not want Canada Border Services Agency officers to hear that we need to pass this bill right away in order to allow people to file complaints against them when the union has not even been consulted. The union should at least have been consulted. The Liberals had four years to get their ducks in a row. They did not even bother to consult the union to say that they were moving in this direction. There was no consultation. These are the things we have a hard time understanding.

As an hon. NDP member said in his question, given the vast resources at the government's disposal, it is hard to believe that the task was simply too daunting. It is obvious that this is a simple administrative measure, and a carbon copy of the one involving the RCMP, to boot. As such, I believe this is all just political rhetoric in an attempt to once again rush through an important bill.

A few weeks before the end of the parliamentary session, the Liberals are trying to make Canadians believe that passing Bill C-98 is a national emergency, when that is not true. They did nothing for four years. There was another national emergency yesterday but now it seems to have passed. Now there is a new emergency, and this bill has to pass in a hurry so the opposition needs to be on board.

That is not going to work. There are times when we are willing to collaborate, but we will not be made fools of. There is no cause to treat the official opposition, the NDP, the Bloc Québécois or the Leader of the Green Party like fools. Let us be professional. No one can claim that this file was handled in a professional manner. It was bungled from the start.

What is more, we know very well how this works. Even if we wanted to hastily push the bill through, it still has to go through the regular legislative process and all that that entails. Bill C-93 is still being examined in committee. It is technically impossible to complete the study of the bill in committee, send it to the Senate and have it passed there in the few weeks that remain in the session. It would take until August to complete the process properly.

The government messed up in the case of Bill C-98. The Liberals were unable to get the job done properly in the time allotted. Rather than being professional, this government has been caught up in scandal after scandal. It lost a tremendous amount of time because the Prime Minister was not and is still not ready to govern. Even if we support Bill C-98, it is not so urgent that we need to skip any steps. I am asking the government to do the job properly if it wants the official opposition to co-operate.

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May 17th, 2019 / 10:55 a.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for his work as vice-chair on the committee. It has been a pleasure to work with him and the hon. member from the NDP. I would describe it as a high-functioning committee.

Given that there is a general consensus by all parties that Bill C-98 is an important bill and that there has not been a great deal of disagreement among the parties, and given that the committee members work well together, would the hon. member be prepared to deal with this bill in an expeditious manner at committee, and would he be prepared to let the motion for second reading come to a vote today so that it can be referred to the committee and avoid all of the angst that comes with time allocation motions?

It seems to me that in the House there is a fairly significant consensus, so why not let it come to a vote and be referred to the committee? Then I will solicit my hon. colleagues' co-operation in laying on additional meetings for dealing with Bill C-98.

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May 17th, 2019 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to finally have the opportunity to contribute to a long-awaited debate on an oversight body for the Canada Border Services Agency. It has been over a decade since Justice O'Connor recommended that there be an independent oversight for the CBSA. Since then, a chorus of voices have consistently and persistently called for accountability for the CBSA.

I will state very clearly that the NDP supports Bill C-98, as this is something the NDP and stakeholders have been calling on the current Liberal government to act on for a very long time.

In fact, back in 2014, the BC Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, issued a joint press release and called for an independent review of all of CBSA's national security enforcement and border policing activities.

The CBSA is the only major federal law enforcement agency without external oversight. CBSA officers have a broad range of authority. They can stop travellers for questioning. They can take breath and blood samples. They have the ability to search, detain and arrest non-citizens without a warrant. They can interrogate Canadians. They also have the authority to issue and carry out deportations on foreign nationals. Many of these authorities are carried out in an environment where charter protections are reduced in the name of national security. However, despite these sweeping powers, it is astounding that there is no independent external civilian oversight for complaints or allegations of misconduct for the CBSA.

Without a doubt, the overwhelming majority of CBSA officers carry out their duties with the utmost respect for the individuals they engage with and recognize that the authority provided to them is to be used responsibly. However, stories of horrific misconduct have also come to light, and the complaint mechanism is anything but open and accountable.

Joel Sandaluk, a Toronto immigration lawyer, said, “CBSA, for many years, has been a law unto itself.”

Mary Foster of Solidarity Across Borders said, “We have enough experience to know that making a complaint to the CBSA about the CBSA doesn't really lead anywhere.”

It is my understanding that between January 2016 and the middle of 2018, the CBSA investigated around 1,200 allegations of staff misconduct. The alleged misconducts are wide-ranging. They include things like neglect of duty, sexual assault, excessive force, use of inappropriate sexual language, criminal association and harassment.

In 2013, there was a case where a woman, reportedly fleeing domestic violence, died in the CBSA's custody. An inquest into the death concluded that there is “no independent, realistic method for immigrants to bring forward concerns or complaints.”

In 2016, two more people died in the CBSA's custody within a span of just one week.

With incidents such as these, it is vital that there is accountability and transparency to ensure that procedures are respected and that there is no abuse of power. That means it is critical that there is an independent oversight body in the event that complaints are lodged.

Right now, if there is an incident where travellers, whether Canadians or foreign nationals, feel something is not right, be it harassment or use of force, the only recourse is to submit a complaint to the CBSA, which undergoes an internal review. We must keep in mind that the nature of the power imbalance that exists between border authorities such as the CBSA, and travellers, especially those in a foreign country, makes lodging any sort of complaint very difficult. Some people elect not to file a complaint. There are real fears, especially if the process is not well known and the body looking into the complaint is not an independent body. People fear, for example, that future travel could be impacted. People are afraid that by speaking out against mistreatment, they may be punished the next time that they try to travel.

We should keep in mind that for some, such as temporary residents and visitors to Canada, they simply are not around long enough to file a complaint or to see it through. We have a responsibility, especially as a nation that welcomes millions of tourists a year, has our own citizens exploring the world and welcomes hundreds of thousands of newcomers who immigrate here each year, to ensure that people feel safe, respected and protected by our border officials. This is why it is critical that there is a public, independent, civilian oversight body for the CBSA.

The BC Civil Liberties Association has studied this issue closely and has done a report on it. From its report, “Oversight at the Border: A Model for Independent Accountability at the Canada Border Services Agency”, it has recommended “two separate accountability mechanisms for the CBSA, one charged with providing real-time oversight of CBSA’s policies and practices, and one charged with conducting investigations and resolving complaints.”

I would be very interested to hear what it and witnesses say about this proposed bill, and whether or not they feel it meets the call for independent oversight and accountability measures for the CBSA.

I must note that while we debate Bill C-98, another bill, Bill C-59, is currently moving to third reading stage at the Senate. We expect we will see that bill return here in the near future.

Bill C-59 introduces a review agency, the national security and intelligence review agency, or NSIRA. This new body would replace the Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner and the Security Intelligence Review Committee, as well as the national security review and complaints investigation functions of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission. This means that the new body would have jurisdiction over activities that fall under the umbrella of national security. As for what remains as the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, it will continue to have the external investigative body that reviews complaints from the public about RCMP conduct. However, the bill before us today would rename the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to the public complaints and review commission and expand its mandate to have a similar review function to the CBSA.

As a result of these changes, depending on the nature of the complaint against the CBSA, a different body with different authorities will be the reviewer of conduct. This will undoubtedly cause confusion at times. Therefore, one wonders why this approach was taken and why it is being done in two separate bills.

However, more concerning is the lack of lack of consultation and the last-minute nature of this proposed legislation. Too often we have seen the government consult and consult, and then do nothing, but then in areas where consultation and study are vital to ensuring that the legislation is what it needs to be, the process is short-changed.

The Customs and Immigration Union, which represents over 10,000 Canadians working on our borders, was not consulted on Bill C-98. This makes no sense to me. Why would the government not be seeking out the views of those individuals on the front lines who are doing the work and who would now have a new body reviewing them and their representative organization? This is not a good way to proceed.

Sadly, as the NDP critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, I have become incredibly familiar with the Liberal government's failure to follow through on its promise on good governance.

As we have seen in Bill C-97, the budget implementation act, the Liberals have decided to ram through dangerous changes to Canada's refugee determination system and put vulnerable lives, especially women and girls fleeing violence, at risk. I suspect that the Liberals are feeling the pressure from the right and want to be seen as being tough on asylum seekers. With an election six months from now, they are jamming draconian changes through in an omnibus budget bill.

I suppose, at least in this case with Bill C-98, while the measures for the changes for the CBSA complaint process were announced in the budget, they at least are tabled in a separate stand-alone bill, Bill C-98.

That is more than I can say about the changes to the refugee determination system, which are being rammed through with minimal study in the omnibus budget bill. In a rush to look tough on borders and caving to pressure and misinformation campaigns by the Conservatives, the Liberals again, without consultation, made very sweeping changes to the asylum system in the budget. Experts immediately called for the provisions to be withdrawn or, at the very minimum, to table them as a separate stand-alone bill. The Liberal government refused.

Some 2,400 Canadians wrote to the Prime Minister calling for the same action. That too fell on deaf ears. Its advice, as recently reported by the Auditor General, was that the 1.2 million calls to the IRCC last year did not get through to the government. I will say that Bill C-98 is at least a stand-alone bill.

With that being said, it must also be recognized, given that the Liberals have failed to take action until the eleventh hour, that there is a chance this bill might not receive royal assent prior to the election. If that occurs, this would then represent yet another broken promise by the Liberal government, another broken promise through its failure to act.

I do wonder what took the government so long to table this bill. Why did it wait until there are only five weeks left in the sitting of the House to bring Bill C-98 forward? I suspect that the Liberal government would employ time allocation measures to limit debate, a tool that Liberals consistently spoke against when the Conservatives were in government. I fear that they will once again have our debate in this place limited because the government could not get its legislation in order in a timely fashion.

The risk that this represents with a bill of this magnitude cannot be ignored. The government, in the rush to table it before the session ends, has failed to properly consult the experts on what the bill should look like. Now, in a race against the clock, the Liberals, if they want to be able to claim that they followed through on their promise, will need to limit the democratic debate of this bill. That is what I expect will happen.

This is not a good recipe for good legislation. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The government has stated that in 2017 and 2018, over 96 million travellers were engaged by CBSA employees, which is over 260,000 per day. They processed more than 21 million commercial shipments, which is over 57,000 per day. They processed over 46 million courier shipments, which is over 126,000 per day. This is a serious matter and deserves thorough debate.

It is our hope that the government will allow for a thorough study of this bill at committee. I also hope that the government, upon hearing from stakeholders and experts at the committee stage, will be amenable to any amendments that expert witnesses put forward. I hope that the government will allow for that work to be done in a proper fashion and is open to input by stakeholders.

This bill has been long awaited for by the community. I regret that the government has waited this long, until the eleventh hour, with only six months until the election and only five weeks of sitting in this place, to table Bill C-98. Canadians deserve to have an independent, external civilian oversight process for the CBSA. The government should have done this work much earlier to ensure that the proper process is in place for all Canadians.

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May 17th, 2019 / 12:45 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly support Bill C-98. I share the views around this place that it is lamentable that it has come forward now.

I just wanted to share a brief experience, which chilled me to the bone, of how this country can treat people. This was in the 41st Parliament.

Richard Germaine is an indigenous man who was born in California and lived his whole adult life on Penelakut, in Nanaimo—Ladysmith. He is married. He is a community leader. Right before Christmas, with no warning that his citizenship papers were in any sort of disarray and that he should take steps, CBSA officials showed up at his home. They put him in leg irons. They took him away, in front of his wife, who is a residential school survivor, traumatizing her, their children and their grandchildren. In leg irons, they took him in a van to a detention centre in Vancouver, where he was ordered to be deported as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, he was working with an ethnobotanist from the University of Victoria, who contacted my office. I contacted the former minister, Chris Alexander. We stopped the deportation and got his citizenship. What was really chilling was that as Richard left there, everyone around him said, “We have never seen anyone get out of here. Everyone gets deported.”

We need a citizen overview agency for CBSA. I agree with my hon. colleague that we needed this bill sooner. It is a gap in Bill C-59, but I commend the government for fixing the gap. Let us get this bill through the House and to the Senate. If there is any way at all we can get unanimous consent to get this bill through third reading and report stage by unanimous consent, let us get it to the other place and then keep our fingers crossed.

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May 17th, 2019 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have just seen a classic example of people not being able to get out of their partisan lanes.

We now know that the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP and the Green Party agree that Bill C-98 is a good bill and that it should move forward. However, what are we going to do? We are going to spend the rest of today, and possibly into the next sitting of the House, talking about a bill that we all agree is a good bill.

Every day that we talk about it here is a day we cannot talk about it in committee, which means that we cannot hear witnesses on the very issues the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands raised. We cannot deal with the issues the previous speaker raised, and we cannot bring in witnesses who have useful things to say about the operation of this bill.

This is a classic example of some dysfunctionality in this place at a level that is really quite distressing. Everyone agrees that this is a bill that needs to be passed. This is a bill that needs to hear witnesses. It is going before a committee that I have the great honour of chairing and that functions at a very high level. The member for Beloeil—Chambly is a very helpful and co-operative member, as is the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. Both are vice-chairs of the committee who help with getting legislation through. I daresay that there is not a great deal of distance between the government's position and the opposition parties' positions. The situation continues to evolve.

As the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands said, this sounds like an egregious set of facts for which there is no oversight body. That is why we are here. It is to get an oversight body put in place for the CBSA.

The CBSA apparently interacts with between 93 million and 96 million people on an annual basis. That is about three times the population of Canada on an annual basis. Some are citizen interactions, some are permanent resident interactions, some are visitor interactions and some are refugee claim interactions. I daresay that with 93 million to 96 million interactions on an annual basis, not every one will go well. That is something we are trying to correct.

There is something in the order of 117 land border crossings, some of which are fully staffed, such as at Toronto Pearson International Airport, Montréal-Trudeau International Airport or wherever, but others are simply a stake in the ground. There are about 1,000 locations across this long border over four time zones. The CBSA facilitates the efficient flow of people and goods, and it administers something in the order of 90 acts and regulations. It administers some of those acts and regulations on behalf of other levels of government.

In addition to having 93 million to 96 million interactions on an annual basis, the CBSA collects about $32 billion in taxes, levies and duties over the course of the year.

This is an enormous organization. It has enormous numbers of interactions with people, services and goods, and I dare say, not every one of them goes the way it should, as much as we would like to say otherwise. Hence the bill before us as we speak.

I heard the other speaker say that we have not had enough consultation, and the speaker before that said that all the government does is consultation. They cannot have it both ways. Either there is too much consultation or there is too little consultation.

All I know is that we have very little legislative runway left. We are speaking on a Friday afternoon about a bill that we all agree on, and by speaking on it, we are in fact preventing the bill from proceeding to committee, where it could be dealt with. I would be absolutely delighted to give up my time in order to let debate collapse and allow us to go to the vote, but there does not seem to be a huge amount of enthusiasm. Therefore, regrettably, members are going to have to listen to me talk for the next 15 minutes about a bill that we all agree on.

The unusual part of the situation in which we find ourselves is that unlike the case with the RCMP, unlike CSIS, unlike various other security services, there is no actual oversight body. That is a clear gap in the legislation.

Bill C-59, which I had the honour of shepherding through the committee, is an extraordinarily complicated piece of legislation.

I know, Mr. Speaker, that you love flow charts and appreciate the way in which legislation proceeds, and I commend you. The flow chart produced by Professor Forcese on Bill C-59 shows that Bill C-59 is extremely complicated in making sure that there are enough supervisory bodies for the various functions of CSIS, the RCMP, CSE, etc., spread over quite a number of agencies. There are at least three ministries responsible, those being defence, public safety and global affairs. It is an extraordinarily complicated piece of legislation. We anticipate and hope that it will return from the Senate and receive further debate here—though hopefully not too much—because it is really a revamping of the security architecture of our nation.

One of the gaps, as has been identified by other speakers, is the absence of an oversight body with respect to the activities of the Canada Border Services Agency. I expect to have an interaction with the Canada Border Services Agency in about two hours. Many of my colleagues will similarly be having interactions with the Canada Services Border Agency within a very short period of time, and I am rather hoping that my interaction and all of their interactions will go well, as I dare say they probably will.

The committee is now in place, and I want to talk about one further piece of legislation that has passed and is functioning, Bill C-22, which established the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. In addition to its reporting function to the Prime Minister, there is a reporting function to the public safety committee. I know you, Mr. Speaker, were present as the chair of that committee presented his first report to the public safety committee. I have to say that while listening to the interactions with the chair of that committee, I felt that the questions by the members of the public safety committee were of quite high calibre and gave very pointed and useful insight into the work of that committee.

Bill C-98 fills a gap. It is being strengthened and renamed the public complaints and review commission, or the PCRC, and will have, in effect, a joint responsibility for both the RCMP and the CBSA. If the PCRC were to receive a complaint from the public, it would notify the CBSA, which would undertake an initial investigation. I dare say that this would resolve a great percentage of the complaints the public may have. In fact, 90% of RCMP complaints are resolved in this way.

The PCRC would also be able to conduct its own investigation of a complaint if its chairperson was of the opinion that it would be in the public interest to do so. In those cases, the CBSA would not start an investigation into the complaint.

Therefore, in effect, there is an ability on the part of the CBSA to say it is not going to refer it to mediation or some further investigation, but to simply assume the jurisdiction and move forward with it. To make that request, the complaint would have to be made within 60 days of receiving notice from the CBSA about the outcome of the complaint. The idea here is that the complaint does not just languish.

When the PCRC receives a request for a review of a CBSA complaint decision, the commission would review the complaint and all relevant information and share its conclusions regarding the CBSA's initial decision. It could conclude that the CBSA's decision was appropriate, it could ask the CBSA to do a further investigation or it could assume the jurisdiction and investigate the complaint itself.

The commission can also hold public hearings as part of its work. At the conclusion of the PCRC investigation, the review body would be able to report on its findings and make recommendations as it sees fit, and the CBSA would be required to provide a response in writing to the PCRC's findings and recommendations.

In addition to its complaints function, the PCRC would be able to review, on its own initiative or at the request of the minister, any activity of the CBSA, except for national security matters. I think that is an important thing to take note of, because we do not want national security matters dealt with in an open and public forum, if at all possible. Then it would be reviewed by the national Security Intelligence Review Committee, under Bill C-59, which hopefully by then will be passed and brought into force.

PCRC reports would include findings and recommendations on the adequacy, appropriateness, sufficiency or clarity of the CBSA policies, procedures and guidelines, the CBSA's compliance with the law and ministerial directions, and the reasonableness and necessity of the CBSA's use of its power. On that latter point, the members previously have indicated instances where one would reasonably question the use, reasonableness and necessity of the CBSA's interactions with members of the public. Hopefully, with the passage of this bill and the setting up of the PCRC, those complaints would be adjudicated in a fashion that is satisfactory to both the service and members of the public.

With respect to both its complaint and review functions, the PCRC would have the power to summon and enforce the appearance of persons before it and compel them to give oral or written evidence under oath. It would have the power to administer oaths and to receive and accept oral and written evidence, whether or not the evidence would be admissible in a court of law. That provides a certain level of flexibility. As this is not a criminal case, we are not asking for a standard of beyond reasonable doubt; rather, by passing this legislation and giving these authorities, we are trying to create an environment in which issues can actually be resolved.

It would also have the power to examine any records and make any inquiries that it considers necessary. However, beyond its review and complaint functions, Bill C-98 would also create an obligation on the CBSA to notify local police and the PCRC of any serious incident involving CBSA officers or employees. That includes giving the PCRC the responsibility to track and publicly report on serious incidents, such as death, serious injury or Criminal Code violations involving the CBSA. Hopefully, we could reasonably anticipate a reduction in these incidents by virtue of just the very existence of this entity because, as has reasonably been said by speakers previously, there is nowhere to go when one has a complaint with the CBSA.

Operationally, the bill is worded in such a way as to give the PCRC the flexibility to organize its internal structure as it sees fit, and to carry out its mandate under both the CBSA Act and the RCMP Act. The PCRC could designate members of its staff as belonging either to the RCMP unit or the CBSA unit. Common services, such as corporate support, could still be shared between both units. There are several obvious benefits that can be generated by operating in this fashion. For example, expertise could be shared between the RCMP and the CBSA. Hopefully, by doing so, the agency would be strengthened. Clearly identifying which staff members are responsible would also help with the management of information.

In addition, a vice-chair and chair will be appointed to the PCRC, which would be mandatory. It would ensure that there will always be two individuals at the top who are capable of exercising decision-making powers.

Under Bill C-98, the PCRC would establish and publish an annual report covering each of its business lines, the CBSA and the RCMP, and the resources devoted to each. The report would summarize their operations throughout the year, such as the number and types of complaints and any review activities, and would provide information on the number, type and outcomes of serious incidents. I am hopeful that this will be a readily accessible report, transparent to all, so that those who follow these issues can operate from the same set of facts.

The annual report would be tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Presumably, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security would be able to review that report, call witnesses and examine the functionality of the entity.

The new public complaints and review commission proposed under Bill C-98 would close a significant gap in Canada's public safety accountability regime.

As I said earlier, the number of interactions we have with Canadians, visitors, landed folks, refugee claimants and others is quite significant, because Canada is open to receiving not tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, but millions of people crossing the border on an annual basis. The legislation is long overdue.

I would urge my colleagues to get out of their partisan lanes and let the bill move to committee. The complaint seems to be that the bill is last minute and will therefore never see royal assent. Well, the bill will certainly never see royal assent if the chamber holds it up. All parties are responsible for House management, and I would urge all party representatives who are responsible for House management to let the bill move to committee sooner rather than later.

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May 17th, 2019 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have absolute confidence in the hon. member's contribution to the flow of legislation through the House.

We are getting to the end of a Parliament and frankly, we should be looking in the mirror. There are times that this place is thoroughly dysfunctional. It is even dysfunctional on things that we agree on, which is really quite sad.

Moses came down with the Ten Commandments. I am sure that we could have at least four weeks' worth of debate, whether it should be 10 commandments, or 20, or two, for no particular advantage to the Canadian people.

I wish that the bill would come to our committee sooner rather than later. I would urge hon. colleagues over the course of this afternoon to reflect on the fact that if we are to have any chance of seeing Bill C-98 receive royal assent, the bill needs to move along and it needs to move along today.

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May 17th, 2019 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to follow my friend from Scarborough—Guildwood, who has had millions of minutes in this chamber. However, I am at a loss to ascribe any real substance to those minutes, despite the fact that I hold him in great affection. He has been very helpful on some projects related to veterans, and on that matter, maybe he can help get the Afghan monument finally done.

I share the comments from a lot of people today in that I have frustration with when the bill is being put forward. I think all members of this chamber have tremendous respect for the men and women who wear the uniform of the RCMP or wear the uniform of the Canada Border Services Agency, CBSA, who would be impacted by the bill. Nothing shows a lack of priority like introducing bills when the tulips are coming up here in Ottawa. This is when we are in the final weeks of the parliamentary sitting, and so when the government introduces something in this time period, it shows how much it has prioritized it. If the Liberals are doing that in the fourth year of their mandate with literally a few weeks left in the session, it actually shows disdain for the underlying issues of the bill when they have had four years related to it.

My friend from Scarborough—Guildwood was suggesting that we needed to stay in our partisan lane and was bemoaning the fact that we are decrying the lack of consultation and lack of prioritization by the government, but the Liberals have left us no choice. We do not even think, at the pace things are going, that this will be substantially looked at in committee, despite his nice offer to take phone numbers of union members who were ignored in the preparations behind the bill. We will not even be able to get time to hear from them, and that is amiss, because our job as an official opposition is to hold the government to account, critique and push for better. I should remind my friend, the Liberal deputy House leader, that better is always possible, and this is an example.

The bill was introduced on May 7, 2019, literally in the final weeks of Parliament, much like Bill C-93, another public safety bill, which was introduced in the same month. What is shocking is that these are areas the Liberals have talked about since their first weeks in government. In fact, the marijuana pledge is probably the only accomplishment of the Prime Minister in the Liberals' four years in government, and they are putting the cannabis records suspension bill to the House in the final weeks. Who have they not consulted on that? It is law enforcement, which is really quite astounding.

Canadians might remember that in the first few months of the Liberal government, back in 2015-16, the Liberals were fond of consultations, which I think my friend from Sarnia—Lambton and others have made note of. In fact, there were little vignettes created saying, “We're going to consult. We're going to have public consultation.” I guess after that the Liberals stopped doing it entirely.

My real concern in the matter of public safety and security bills is that the CBSA alone will be swept into elements of Bill C-98 and the 14,000 people in that department, including the almost 7,000 uniformed people at 1,200 locations across this country, should be consulted on a substantive piece of legislation that would impact them. They were not. In fact, the Customs and Immigration Union has been demanding to be consulted, and not at the committee stage in June, a few days before Parliament may rise and go into an election. They should have been consulted prior to drafting the legislation. That is the real problem I have with this.

It is the same with the cannabis record suspension legislation, which is another public safety bill being thrown into the mix in the final weeks. The Canadian Police Association was not consulted. Tom Stamatakis, the president, had this to say:

Were we directly consulted? Not in an extensive way. We had some exchanges, but we didn't have a specific consultation with respect to this bill.

It is the same now with Bill C-98. The underlying people impacted by it, including members of the Customs and Immigration Union, were not consulted on the bill.

We also see other important pieces of public safety legislation still lingering in the legislative process. For example, Bill C-83, legislation to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, is now at committee. That committee is already charged with other legislation from the final year of the government.

A lot of us are watching Bill C-59 as well, a quite comprehensive, almost omnibus bill on national security. It is in the Senate committee. I have been advocating on that bill with regard to the no-fly list, supporting the good work done by the families of the no-fly list kids to make sure that we can have a system to remove false positives and remove children from this list, which is ineffective in terms of public safety if it has tons of erroneous and duplicative names on it.

It is also substantially unfair to Canadians, especially young children, when they are impacted by being on the no-fly list. We need a mechanism for them to take themselves off the list. That is in Bill C-59. I am publicly urging Senate colleagues to make sure they do a proper review, but get it done quickly.

As we can see, there is already a backlog of public safety and security legislation in Parliament now, not to mention a number of other bills being introduced in May.

Stepping out of the public safety area for a moment, it should also concern Canadians that some of the signature issues for indigenous Canadians also had to wait until the final months of the government. They include child welfare legislation, which I think I spoke about in this place maybe 10 days ago, and the indigenous language bill, which was also tossed in at the end of the year when the flowers are coming up here in Ottawa.

That is a lack of respect. It shows there is a priority given to speech, imagery and photos with the Prime Minister, and a lack of priority given to action on public safety issues and on issues related to reconciliation. Governing is more than lofty language. It is delivering on the priorities for Canadians and the things they need.

To review, I would like to see substantive committee time for Bill C-98 so that the Customs and Immigration Union can be properly consulted. The same goes for the RCMP. In fact, I was the public safety critic before I took a little diversion and a national tour to get into a leadership race. We actually worked with the government on Bill C-7, which was the RCMP union bill. We have tried to work with the government, particularly when it comes to uniformed service members. In fact, we pushed for amendments to Bill C-7 so that there would not be a hodgepodge approach to workers' compensation for our RCMP men and women and so that there would not be different standards in different provinces. These are important bills, and people should be consulted.

I would also urge the former chair who spoke, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, to make sure that adequate time is given. Despite the government's claim that it would never use time allocation and never use omnibus bills, we have seen it use these measures literally by the week. The government House leader appears to relish it now. My friend the deputy House leader wishes he could erase all the speeches of outrage he gave in opposition about the use of time allocation and omnibus legislation, because now he is part of the government House leader team that the member for Scarborough—Guildwood blamed for the delay that we have with these bills, and he uses it with relish.

Let us make sure we have the proper committee time to look at the changes to the RCMP Act and the CBSA Act to make sure we are doing a service to the people who will be impacted by them, whether it is on a public complaints process or other elements in Bill C-98. The consultation should have been done first, but to do this properly, the committee debate time cannot be rushed. We will work with them, but we want to make sure the people impacted are part of the committee review process.