Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, good morning.
I'm sure you would all like to join me this morning in expressing our deep concern with respect to the two very serious incidents that occurred this past weekend, one in Edmonton and the other in Las Vegas. These circumstances are horrendous in our free and open and democratic society. It's at times like these that we all pull together to support each other and to applaud our first responders on both sides of the border, who have done extraordinary work. We extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims and the families and the loved ones, and we hope for the speedy and full recovery of those who have been injured. We make the emphatic point that events like this will not divide us, nor will they intimidate us. Police investigations are obviously ongoing; they're at a very early stage. A lot more information will be forthcoming in due course, but we I'm sure stand in solidarity with one another within our country and across the border when these kinds of sorry events occur.
Mr. Chairman, with respect to this meeting and this topic, this is my first opportunity to be before the committee since the return of Parliament, so welcome to you as the new chair. I notice some other new faces on all sides of the table, and some old-timers too. To all of you, welcome, and thank you for the invitation to be here today. I look forward to a very good relationship with the committee.
We begin, of course, with BillC-21. I'm joined today by Martin Bolduc, who is vice-president of the Canada Border Services Agency; Sébastien Aubertin-Giguère, who is director general of the traveller program directorate within CBSA; and Andrew Lawrence, who is the acting executive director of the traveller program directorate.
The bill that we're here to discuss will at long last enable Canada to keep track of not only who enters our country but also who leaves it. If that sounds pretty fundamental, actually it is. But there has been a gap in our border system for a great many years that we are now proposing to close with Bill C-21. I would point out that many other countries, including all of our Five Eyes allies, already collect this information that is commonly known as “exit” data. Canada, with Bill C-21, will catch up to those other countries and fill the gap.
The information that we're talking about is simply the basic identification information that is found on page 2 of everyone's passport, along with the time and the place of departure. It's the same simple identification information that all travellers willingly hand over when they cross the border. When you cross into the United States, you show your passport and the border officers take note of the information on page 2. It's that information that we're talking about here: name, date, place of birth, nationality, gender, and the issuing authority of the travel document.
The way this information will be collected is really quite straightforward, and travellers should notice no difference at all in the process. For people leaving Canada by air, the air carrier will collect that information, as it already does from passenger manifests, and it will give it to the Canada Border Services Agency before departure. For people crossing by land into the United States, American officials collecting this information, as they already do in the form of entry data, will then send it back to CBSA where it will serve as exit data. This will work in the same way in reverse for travellers crossing into Canada from the United States. The experience from the point of the view of the traveller will be absolutely unchanged.
With this information in hand, Canadian officials will be better able to deal with cross-border crime, including child abductions and human trafficking. It will strengthen our ability to prevent radicalized individuals from travelling to join terrorist groups overseas. It will help ensure the integrity of benefit programs where residency requirements are part of the eligibility criteria. It will also ensure that immigration officials have complete and accurate information when they do their jobs. They won't waste a lot of time dealing with people who have already left the country.
Finally, the legislation also addresses a concern raised in the Auditor General's report in the fall of 2015 about the need for stronger measures to combat the unlawful export of controlled or dangerous goods. Bill C-21 will amend the Customs Act to prohibit smuggling controlled goods out of Canada. Currently, and this may be a surprise to some people, only smuggling “into” Canada is prohibited. The new legislation will give border officers the authorities regarding outbound goods similar to the ones they already have for inbound goods.
Mr. Chair, I followed closely the second reading debate in the House about Bill C-21. There were not a lot of specific issues raised, but there was one mentioned by Mr. Dubé that I would like to respond to. It had to do with this issue of the sharing of information with the United States. I was concerned that there seemed to be a view that any exchange of information with the U.S. was inherently a bad thing.
I think we should keep in mind that the process of Canadian and U.S. authorities working together and exchanging information, pursuant to laws and agreements and subject to oversight, is essential for our mutual security. For example, when Canadian authorities were able to take action in Strathroy, Ontario, last summer to prevent a planned terrorist attack, that was due to an exchange of information with the United States. Because of that, the RCMP and local police authorities were able to prevent a much larger tragedy. Working in concert with our American partners, and exchanging information with them according to the rules, is very important to our national interests. It supports having the longest, most open, successful international boundary in the history of the world.
The key questions are these: what kind of information is to be shared, with what safeguards, and for what purposes? Bill C-21 provides very clear answers. What kind of information? As I said, it's the basic identification data, on page 2 of our passports, that we all offer up whenever we cross a border. It's worth pointing out that if Canada is sharing this information with the United States, that is only because the person in question has just come into Canada from the United States, to whom they necessarily gave the same information upon entry. It's not new or expanded information beyond the fact that they have left. That's the sum and substance of the data that is involved.
What safeguards are in place? To begin with, the government has engaged proactively throughout this whole process with the Privacy Commissioner. That engagement continues. You can find the privacy impact assessments of the current and previous phases of entry/exit implementation on the CBSA website. A new assessment will be updated once the new legislation is actually in effect.
In addition, exchange of information both within Canada and with the U.S. will be subject to formal agreements that will include information management safeguards, privacy protection clauses, and mechanisms to address any potential problems.
All of this will be happening in the context of the most robust national security accountability structure that Canada has ever had. We've already passed Bill C-22, which creates the new National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. Add to that Bill C-59, introduced in the spring, which will create a new national security and intelligence review agency. And as you know, we have proactively, in the last number of days, released new ministerial directives about information sharing that have been broadly applauded as significant advancements.
Finally, what purpose does the exchange of information serve? As I've outlined, it will help Canadian authorities do everything from combatting cross-border crime to preventing terrorist travel to improving the management of social benefits and immigration programs. But to give you a concrete example, if it's discovered one evening that a child is missing, police can do a check of the exit records to see if the child left the country earlier that day, where, at what time, and in whose company. That is obviously immensely helpful to investigators working collaboratively on both sides of the border in their efforts to recover the child and catch the kidnapper. For that reason alone, I hope the committee will see fit to report this bill back to the House with all deliberate speed.
I thank you for your attention, Mr. Chair, and look forward to questions.