Evidence of meeting #62 for Public Safety and National Security in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was agreement.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jill Wherrett  Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Portfolio Affairs and Communications Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Martin Bolduc  Vice-President, Programs Branch, Canada Border Services Agency
Tom Oommen  Acting Director General, Surface Transportation Policy, Department of Transport
Julie Watkinson  Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel, Canada Border Services Agency

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you.

Ms. Watts, you have five minutes.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Thank you.

I have two things I would like to address. I have both the Peace Arch border crossing and the Douglas border crossing in my riding. This relates to the beyond the border pilot project.

What I heard was that the project was under way and it came to closure. Now you're looking for other pilot projects. What were the outcomes of that, and why are you looking at other pilots when you have already done a pilot and you already have the information I'm assuming you would require?

5:05 p.m.

Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Portfolio Affairs and Communications Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Jill Wherrett

The purpose of those pilots was more to test the concept of cargo pre-clearance. It was a pre-inspection pilot where we were doing pre-inspection in Canada with still the potential need to go to secondary inspection in the U.S.

Those sites were chosen because they have a significant amount of traffic and for other factors like that, but it isn't necessarily where we would end up having pre-clearance. It was really to test the concept and how it operated, so each element about those pilots was testing different aspects of that.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Right. I know that at the Douglas border the lineups with the trucks are just horrendous, and it's been very problematic on that side of the border. I understood, as well, that the minister was saying it would take some time to get all of those things worked out.

Will you actively pursue pre-clearance of cargo?

5:10 p.m.

Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Portfolio Affairs and Communications Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Jill Wherrett

Yes. As the minister mentioned, both the Prime Minister and President have committed to pursuing cargo pre-clearance. The minister also mentioned there are a number of complexities to work out. We have to look at where cargo pre-clearance ultimately makes sense, but that is something that both countries have committed to doing.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Okay, and has that work begun?

5:10 p.m.

Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Portfolio Affairs and Communications Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Jill Wherrett

Yes. We've been in discussions with the U.S. over a number of months in terms of what our objectives are. In terms of cargo pre-clearance, both countries are looking at what kinds of legal authorities or other authorities they would require and also talking about potential pilots, potential sites for cargo pre-clearance.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Excellent. Perfect. I think we need to go down that road for sure.

My next thing is with CBSA, and I've always had a good working relationship. I was very pleased to hear, when we were all in Washington, how highly your counterparts speak of the relationship, the working relationship—

5:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Programs Branch, Canada Border Services Agency

Martin Bolduc

Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

—so I really wanted to relay that to you because we heard that on numerous occasions, and it was very clear that they really appreciated the work.

I'm going to try not to get too far off the topic, but one of the things that your U.S. counterparts did have some concerns about was the removal of visas for Mexicans. They've implemented certain measures to try to mitigate some of the serious issues that will unfold from that. Are you involved in that or are you removed from that, and how is that working?

5:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Programs Branch, Canada Border Services Agency

Martin Bolduc

I can't speak to the specific measures they would have put in place. What I can tell you is that we've had discussions with the U.S. They shared their concerns, and we're trying to reassure them, first of all, that people need to get an eTA to fly to Canada.

Our officers are trained to discover non-genuine visitors, which occurs daily, and those people either withdraw their request to enter Canada or are sent back. When I ask colleagues at Customs and Border Protection how many instances they have encountered of Mexican nationals who would have flown to Canada and made their way to the U.S. in between border crossings or at a port of entry, the number was very small. That reassured me that the measures we have in place are working as they should be, and our officers are doing a good job.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

I appreciate the fact that they don't want these people coming back into the U.S. The only thing is that probably most of them want to remain in Canada. That's why I'm asking the question.

As I said, the working relationship is really good, and if those working relationships will continue on that front, because, as I said, it was identified as....

5:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Programs Branch, Canada Border Services Agency

Martin Bolduc

Thank you for the feedback. As you said, it's a solid relationship, so when there are issues, nobody is shy of picking up the phone and calling the other side to seek advice or to work collaboratively.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Perfect. Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you.

Mr. Picard.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Thank you.

I am going to share my time with Mr. Arseneault.

Additional checks normally mean additional costs for companies, either in time or in money. At the time of NAFTA, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program, or C-TPAT, for example, required a certain number of additional procedures to be adopted. Normally, that increases delivery costs for transportation companies. Basically, that goes against the economic objective of the program.

Is the preclearance of cargo going to involve new programs? Are your current programs enough for transportation companies not to be responsible for adopting new measures in order to comply with the requirements of this new program?

5:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Programs Branch, Canada Border Services Agency

Martin Bolduc

We are not anticipating the establishment of new programs. As you know, we tried to harmonize our programs across the border so that both countries recognize the advantage that we are giving to a company. So the goal is to continue along those lines, not to add more measures that would increase the cost for companies or more demands that would make the process more complex. We actually want to simplify it.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Thank you.

Mr. Chair, I am going to give the rest of my time to Mr. Arseneault.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Thank you.

I am reassured when I read clause 29 of the bill.

My question goes to Ms. Wherrett or to Ms. Watkinson.

I am reassured by the fact that travellers can leave the preclearance zone at any time, unless they are detained under this legislation. So that leads me to clause 14.

When we read subclause 14(1), it says:

14 (1) If a preclearance officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed an offence under an Act of Parliament, the officer may, in a preclearance area or preclearance perimeter, (a) detain the person;

In terms of the equivalent in the French version, it says that an officer may detain someone if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed an offence under “une loi fédérale”, a federal act. When it says a federal act, it can also mean an American act, because there are also federal acts in the United States. That scares me a little.

I am sure that it is a problem with the translation, but I’d like to hear your comments. Then I will tell you about my concerns.

May 8th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.

Julie Watkinson Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel, Canada Border Services Agency

Certainly. The intent is that only if there's suspicion of a Canadian offence would there be the ability to detain.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

So we should see subclause 14(1) as referring to an offence under a federal act that is Canadian.

5:15 p.m.

Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel, Canada Border Services Agency

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Here is the danger. If someone has committed an offence under American legislation anywhere on the planet, he or she could be detained by an American customs officer in Canada. That's the kind of detrimental impact subclause 14(1) could have. You are saying that the intention is clearly that we are talking about an offence under Canadian legislation.

5:15 p.m.

Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel, Canada Border Services Agency

Julie Watkinson

That's correct.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Thank you.

That was my question.