Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
In the spirit of brevity and efficiency, I think I will forgo the opportunity to put a 10-minute statement on the record and just speak informally for a couple of minutes about Bill C-98. Evan Travers and Jacques Talbot from Public Safety Canada are with me and can help to go into the intricacies of the legislation and then respond to any questions you may have. They may also be able to assist if any issues arise when you're hearing from other witnesses, in terms of further information about the meaning or the purpose of the legislation.
Colleagues will know that Bill C-98 is intended to fill the last major gap in the architecture that exists for overseeing, reviewing and monitoring the activities of some of our major public safety and national security agencies. This is a gap that has existed for the better part of 18 years.
The problem arose in the aftermath of 9/11, when there was a significant readjustment around the world in how security agencies would operate. In the Canadian context at that time, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency was divided, with the customs part joining the public safety department and ultimately evolving into CBSA, the Canada Border Services Agency. That left CRA, the Canada Revenue Agency, on its own.
In the reconfiguration of responsibilities following 9/11, many interest groups, stakeholders and public policy observers noted that CBSA, as it emerged, did not have a specific review body assigned to it to perform the watchdog function that SIRC was providing with respect to CSIS or the commissioner's office was providing with respect to the Communications Security Establishment.
The Senate came forward with a proposal, if members will remember, to fix that problem. Senator Willie Moore introduced Bill S-205, which was an inspector general kind of model for filling the gap with respect to oversight of CBSA. While Senator Moore was coming forward with his proposal, we were moving on the House side with NSICOP, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, by virtue of Bill C-22, and the new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency which is the subject of Bill C-59.
We tried to accommodate Senator Moore's concept in the new context of NSICOP and NSIRA, but it was just too complicated to sort that out that we decided it would not be possible to salvage Senator Moore's proposal and convert it into a workable model. What we arrived at instead is Bill C-98.
Under NSICOP and NSIRA, the national security functions of CBSA are already covered. What's left is the non-security part of the activities of CBSA. When, for example, a person comes to the border, has an awkward or difficult or unpleasant experience, whom do they go to with a complaint? They can complain to CBSA itself, and CBSA investigates all of that and replies, but the expert opinion is that in addition to what CBSA may do as a matter of internal good policy, there needs to be an independent review mechanism for the non-security dimensions of CBSA's work. The security side is covered by NSICOP, which is the committee of parliamentarians, and NSIRA, the new security agency under Bill C-59, but the other functions of CBSA are not covered, so how do you create a review body to cover that?
We examined two alternatives. One was to create a brand new stand-alone creature with those responsibilities; otherwise, was there an agency already within the Government of Canada, a review body, that had the capacity to perform that function? We settled on CRCC, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, which performs that exact function for the RCMP.
What is proposed in the legislation is a revamping of the CRCC to expand its jurisdiction to cover the RCMP and CBSA and to increase its capacity and its resources to be able to do that job. The legislation would make sure that there is a chair and a vice-chair of the new agency, which would be called the public complaints and review commission. It would deal with both the RCMP and the CBSA, but it would have a chair and a vice-chair. They would assume responsibilities, one for the RCMP and one for CBSA, to make sure that both agencies were getting top-flight attention—that we weren't robbing Peter to pay Paul and that everybody would be receiving the appropriate attention in the new structure. Our analysis showed that we could move faster and more expeditiously and more efficiently if we reconfigured CRCC instead of building a new agency from the ground up.
That is the legislation you have before you. The commission will be able to receive public complaints. It will be able to initiate investigations if it deems that course to be appropriate. The minister would be able to ask the agency to investigate or examine something if the minister felt an inquiry was necessary. Bill C-98 is the legislative framework that will put that all together.
That's the purpose of the bill, and I am very grateful for the willingness of the committee at this stage in our parliamentary life to look at this question in a very efficient manner. Thank you.