Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada to participate in your important review of the pre-clearance act, 2016.
ILWU Canada represents about 6,000 women and men who work at marine transportation facilities on Canada's west coast. We are a vital component in the efficient movement of goods and people into and out of Canada via the ports and cruise ship terminals in British Columbia.
In the early 2000s, Transport Canada introduced the marine security clearance program. Since that time, to be employed as a longshore worker with access to restricted areas, including the high-security cruise ship facility, you must first obtain a security clearance from Transport Canada. This is a robust program that involves extensive background checks on applicants, including drawing on information supplied by U.S. authorities. The goal of the program is to prevent people with ties to criminal and/or terrorist organizations from having access to these important marine facilities.
This program has warts. A person can be refused a clearance on the simple basis of association. In other words, you can be refused a clearance if your brother-in-law or sister-in-law happens to have a criminal record. This is important context for your deliberations about Bill C-23.
For the record, I want to tell you that ILWU Canada supports the pre-clearance regime as it is today. Expanding it, as is, would reach the economic goals that the government has set for Bill C-23 without the significant problems that come with the new additions.
You have heard a great deal of testimony about the bill's potential impact on Canadian travellers. I want to make you familiar with an issue with Bill C-23 that I do not believe has been presented to your committee to date.
As you know, the bill is intended to establish the required authorities arising from the Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance Agreement, otherwise known as LRMA, signed by Canada and the United States governments in March 2015. I would like to bring to your attention the negative effects that the bill will have on working Canadians, members of the middle class.
According to article VI, paragraph 1, of the LRMA, the people who work at the ports and cruise ship facilities in Vancouver, and possibly up and down the west coast, are covered by it.
We have been briefed by Transport Canada officials that once the LRMA is in force, Homeland Security in the United States will be given the opportunity to provide derogatory information, whatever that may be, on each employee requiring unescorted access to pre-clearance areas through normal employee security certification and recertification processes. As we understand, this information would be supplied directly to our employers, without any right to know it or to dispute it being afforded to the worker.
We are concerned that this process is separate from the existing security clearance process regulated by Transport Canada. The TC process includes provisions for reviewing decisions made regarding an individual's security status, and further provides judicial review by the Federal Court. Those safeguards do not appear in Bill C-23. In addition, the rules surrounding the provision of, again, derogatory information do not appear in the bill, and appear to be left to regulation, which would not be subject to scrutiny by this committee or Parliament.
The LRMA and Bill C-23 bestow upon U.S. border agents broad powers to search and detain workers in pre-clearance and perimeter areas, the same potential abuses that travellers could be subject to as well.
The BC Civil Liberties Association draws attention to the difficulties that this bill poses to a traveller seeking legal recourse, as pre-clearance officers are granted explicit immunities. The same difficulties will be experienced by port workers who are subject to this potential abuse.
We submit that no such power and immunity is appropriate and goes beyond what any Canadian worker could reasonably expect at his or her workplace. This concern is heightened by the fact that the pre-clearance perimeter could cover a significant area, thereby capturing a larger number of workers under the provisions of this bill.
A significant number of ILWU Canada members are of South Asian heritage. Many of them practice the Muslim faith. Our concerns, like those of the Canadian Bar Association, are magnified by the Trump administration and its extreme policies, such as banning people from certain countries that are predominantly Muslim from entering the United States.
In our view, Bill C-23 abrogates the government's responsibility to Canadian workers to ensure they are not subject to unfair or arbitrary actions on the part of pre-clearance officers. There is already a sophisticated security clearance process for vetting maritime workers, and that process will be undermined unless Bill C-23 is amended.
Bill C-23 should be amended to address these issues.
We also see inconsistencies in the bill. For example, clause 9 states:
For greater certainty, Canadian law applies, and may be administered and enforced, in preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters.
At the same time, clause 11 contains a much more definitive statement about the application of Canadian law, as follows:
A preclearance officer must exercise their powers and perform their duties and functions under this Act in accordance with Canadian law, including the
and it continues.
The bill should be amended to bring all of its provisions in line with clause 11.
In our view, with the abundance of municipal police and RCMP detachments in and around the Port of Vancouver and the cruise ship terminal, there is no need for border patrol officers to be armed, whether they be Canadian or, more especially, American.
We applaud the government for conducting its broad consultation with Canadians concerning national security.
I have another couple of concerns that I'll touch on, one being that American border guards will not be prosecuted in Canada if they violate any laws here. They'll be sent back home, and who knows what type of court system they'll be tried in?
A Canadian worker who wants to go to work on Canadian soil should never be subject to a foreign country's approval. These are Canadian workers who might not be able to work in Canada because of some derogatory comment that the United States government wishes to apply to us.
In closing, I believe this committee needs to implement the changes we've asked for so we can move forward with the expansion of our Canadian economy and the rights of Canadian workers as Canadians.
Thanks very much.