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House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was columbia.

Topics

Private Member's Motion No. 70Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, after much discussion and deliberation, I have decided to amend my private member's Motion No. 70. The amended Motion No. 204 was placed on notice last Thursday, December 9 . Therefore, I request the consent of the House to change the number of my motion from Motion No. 204 to Motion No. 70. I thank the House for its consideration of this request.

Private Member's Motion No. 70Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to change the number of his motion as indicated.

Private Member's Motion No. 70Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Darrel Stinson Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present. The first two petitions, endorsed by over 270 constituents of my riding of Okanagan—Shuswap, call upon Parliament to protect our children from sexual exploitation by taking all necessary steps to raise the age of consent from 14 years of age to 18 years of age.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Darrel Stinson Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

My third petition, Mr. Speaker, is also from my constituents. The petitioners call upon Parliament and the Government of Canada to oppose U.S. plans for missile defence.

The petitioners request that the United Nations be required to permanently ban missile defence systems and space-based weapons worldwide by October 24, 2005, or to convene a mandatory space preservation treaty signing conference thereafter for that purpose.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition signed by literally thousands of Canadians from across the country. The petitioners are very critical that the government, as of January 1, will begin to tax any kind of education moneys given to aboriginal people as an income. We believe this is a shot across the bow in terms of aboriginal treaty rights.

The petitioners urge the government to not go ahead with this move because it will clearly result in fewer first nations aboriginal students going to university, if all their income maintenance and moneys to do with their funding is viewed as income, and therefore taxed.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to table a petition that has been presented to me by two of my constituents, Armande and Fiorindo Del Bianco, who are preoccupied by the lack of services provided to children diagnosed with autism. Their grandson Steven Mathew Kavchak is one of those children.

The petitioners request that Parliament amend the Canada Health Act and corresponding regulations to include IBI, ABA therapy for children with autism as a necessary medical treatment and require that all provinces provide or fund this essential treatment for autism.

They also ask that Parliament contribute to the creation of academic chairs at universities in each province to teach IBI, ABA treatment at the undergraduate and doctoral levels so Canadian professionals will no longer be forced to leave the country to receive academic training in this field and so Canada will be able to develop the capacity to provide every Canadian with autism with the best IBI, ABA treatment available.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise this afternoon and present the latest of a long series of petitions I presented on behalf of our military families. This is on behalf of citizens from Thamesville and Brockville, Ontario and Yorkton, Saskatchewan.

The petitioners wish Parliament to take note of the fact that the Canadian Forces Housing Agency provides some homes for some of our military families that live on base, that the Canadian Forces Housing Agency however is providing these homes in some cases substandard to acceptable living conditions and that our young military families are facing annual rent increases for these substandard homes.

Therefore, they call upon Parliament to immediately suspend any future rent increases for accommodation provided by the Canadian Forces Housing Agency until the Government of Canada makes substantive improvements to the living conditions of housing provided for our military families.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table two petitions this afternoon. The first is signed by thousands of Canadians who are concerned about the plans by the Canada Revenue Agency to begin taxing, in the year 2005, aboriginal post-secondary students' support funding. This effort by the Canada Revenue Agency clearly will have an impact on funding for aboriginal people and their ability to access education at the post-secondary level.

The petitioners call upon the government to scrap that plan.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the second is a petition signed by several hundred individuals from all over the country who want us to continue trying to find a way to convince the government to implement the private member's motion that was passed in the House three and a half years ago, dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome. They petitioners note the importance of having labels on all alcohol beverage containers warning of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.

They urge Parliament to implement this well supported effort by parliamentarians, and call for the government to immediately affix those labels on all alcohol beverage containers.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions to the House of Commons that I received from St. Margaret Mary Church, the Parish of St. Padre Pio, the Immaculate Conception Parish and the Woodbridge Presbyterian Church in a well attended and organized ceremony held in Vaughan.

The first petition calls upon the House of Commons to protect children from adult sexual predators by raising the age of consent from 14 to 18 years of age.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls upon the federal government to faithfully and rigorously uphold all existing laws against pornography, and that new laws be passed, as needed, to protect all men, women and children from this crime.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2004 / 3:30 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberalfor the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved that Bill C-26, an act to establish the Canada Border Services Agency, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, the vital importance of the Canada-U.S. border and the very special long-standing relationship it protects came into sharp focus for the citizens of both nations on September 11, 2001. What many of us may have taken for granted in the past suddenly took on a much greater significance. We began to understand that a strong, secure border was essential to our personal health and safety as well as the economic well-being of our country.

We fully grasp that Canada and the United States are linked, not only by geography but also by shared values and a social interconnection. Ensuring the security of the border is in our mutual best interests.

The events of 9/11 cannot be ignored, however, the challenge is much more than the Canada-U.S. border. We live in a global neighbourhood that brings benefits like increased international trade and intercultural exchange, yet it also presents unprecedented challenges from terrorism and cyber crime, to trafficking in illegal weapons and migrants, to globe-trotting viruses that kill people, and infestations of beetles that kill our forests. All these challenges pose a threat to our cherished way of life.

Mr. Speaker, there is no role more fundamental for government than the protection of its citizens. That protection includes, but extends beyond, their physical safety. It encompasses the security of our economy and society at large. It also recognizes our social interconnection with citizens of other countries.

The Canada Border Services Agency, the CBSA, has been created to provide integrated border management. The agency's role is to facilitate legitimate cross-border traffic and support economic development while protecting Canada's sovereignty and stopping people or goods that pose a threat to Canada. It is the first line of defence in managing the movement of people and goods into and out of our country.

The CBSA has been designed to improve and accelerate protection initiatives already in place and to develop more strategic approaches to border security that keep pace with new and emerging threats coming at us on all fronts.

The Canada Border Services Agency can more effectively identify and intercept threats so that we can get on with the business of growing the economy and strengthening Canadian society.

The bill before us today establishes the Canada Border Services Agency as a corporate body and defines its mandate, powers and authorities. The bill's key objective is to implement the government's decision of December 12, 2003, to create a border services agency.

Establishing the CBSA as a legal entity is a government machinery change aimed at vesting in the CBSA the same powers and authorities that existed in the three legacy organizations: the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Furthermore, this machinery change reflects a more strategic approach by the government in dealing with border issues. The legislation also includes consequential amendments to various statutes to reflect changes which are generally of an administrative nature.

The Canada Border Services Agency builds on the legacy of the departments and agencies that form it. The new organization is the result of a merger of border-specific responsibilities of three equal partners. It includes customs responsibilities previously vested with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, as well as portions of the appeals and compliance branches that support customs.

It has assumed the intelligence, interdiction and enforcement programs and the immigration program at ports of entry from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. In addition, it includes the import inspection at ports of entry program, previously with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, to achieve a truly integrated port of entry.

Collectively, the personnel of the CBSA now administer and enforce 90 laws governing trade and travel, as well as international agreements and conventions that were once divided among the three organizations.

The CBSA will provide integrated regulatory services and controls at Canada’s border, implementing legislation and programs on behalf of other government departments and agencies.

The agency also works to advance Canadian economic competitiveness and social and humanitarian interests, both nationally and internationally, through our networks and partnerships.

One of the key objectives of the CBSA is to build on the substantial progress already made under the Canada-U.S. smart border declaration to advance our two nations' shared twin goals of public safety and economic security.

The CBSA takes a multi-faceted approach to border management that builds on the experience and expertise of its founding members. Having all border services centred in one agency means we can share the right information at the right time among ourselves and with our domestic and international partners.

At the same time, the CBSA is committed to upholding Canadians' privacy rights guaranteed under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The collection and use of personal information under this bill will be managed in accordance with the law.

By strengthening interoperability and intelligence, we can more readily identify high risk arrivals and speed up the processing of the vast majority of people and goods legitimately moving in and out of the country. This is a crucial function within the larger Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada portfolio, operating under the national security umbrella but firmly focused on the border.

The agency is led by a president and executive vice-president, as well as other vice-presidents responsible for the agency's various branches. They report to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada. In turn, the minister reports to Parliament.

The mandate of the Canada Border Services Agency includes the following: promoting and facilitating a level playing field of legitimate travellers and traders; ensuring that all travellers coming into Canada are admissible and comply with Canadian laws and regulations; processing all commercial shipments that cross our ports of entry to ensure that Canadian laws and regulations are adhered to, that no illegal goods enter or leave the country and that related trade statistics are accurate; making sure all applicable duties and taxes are paid; detaining those who may pose a threat to Canada; removing people who may have been determined inadmissible to our country, including those involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity; and finally, ensuring food safety and plant and animal health by identifying and interdicting high risk regulated commodities arriving at our air, land and sea ports.

To carry out this mandate, the CBSA employs about 11,000 public servants who serve some 170,000 commercial importers doing roughly $2 billion in cross-border trade daily, as well as more than 92 million travellers each year.

The agency's employees are engaged in everything from preventing contaminated goods from entering the food chain to reuniting more than 100 missing children with their families each year, to referring roughly 2.5 million people for secondary immigration inspections, to handling over 11 million commercial releases and 24 million courier shipments, and to conducting seizures of illegal drugs worth in excess of $400 million on the street.

The Canada Border Services Agency operates in a real-time environment, providing service at over 480 air, sea and land ports of entry, 24 hours a day seven days a week at some of its busiest locations, and at 39 locations overseas. This enables us to deal more quickly and effectively with trade and security concerns, both here at home and abroad.

To give Canadians a sense of just how extensive these responsibilities are, consider that there are nearly 1,400 Canada border service locations across Canada, including air, land and sea crossings.

Regardless of where they are located, Canada Border Services Agency employees apply a risk management approach to the work they do. By this I mean that the agency operates on the basis that the vast majority of people and companies wants to comply with the law.

Our employees work hard to ensure that these people are able to quickly enter or leave our country so they can go about their business. However, they take strong enforcement action against high risk individuals and businesses that endanger our health and safety or the economy. They do this by getting as much advance information as possible to expedite the passage of people and cargo crossing the border.

The agency has a broad range of pre-approval programs that let us speed up the processing of low risk legitimate travellers so we can concentrate on those who pose a risk.

There is a variety of initiatives aimed at businesses to ensure the fast and secure passage of their cargo, which is absolutely essential to businesses in these days of just in time delivery. The majority of the initiatives were developed in consultation with and are carried out in partnership with the business community.

Similarly, there are numerous pre-screening programs for frequent travellers at our airports and land border crossings. Many of these initiatives use advanced technologies that increase the speed and accuracy of identification so we can quickly process those we know and trust.

This lets us focus on high risk arrivals, whether terrorists or travellers with highly contagious new diseases that put our personal and national security at risk and undermine the confidence of our trading partners.

Another way that CBSA reduces the risks to Canadians is by “pushing the borders out”. Borders are no longer limited to lines between countries. In the 21st century, a multiple border strategy is required in order to interdict high risk travellers and cargo even before they arrive in Canada.

The agency works closely with international partners, including the United States and the European Union, to address threats at the earliest opportunity. This work, which is largely carried out by the Canada Border Services Agency officers abroad, includes collaboration on visa policies between our embassies and host governments. We also have a responsibility to our international partners and the broader international community to ensure the security of our border.

It is important to understand that while the Canada Border Services Agency is vigilant in protecting our citizens and economy, it manages our borders in a way that reflects Canadians' values, the rule of law, equality of opportunity, fairness and compassion.

We are not prepared to compromise Canada's international reputation as an open society. We will continue to fully respect our international obligations with regard to persons seeking protection.

Yet neither are we willing to endanger our society by being complacent with respect to high risk individuals and organizations who would exploit our generosity.

The Canada Border Services Agency understands that facilitation and security are not mutually exclusive but equally essential and interdependent. Striking the right balance between facilitation and security will enable Canada to achieve its immigration goals and enhance the North American security agenda.

It is also important to recognize that the CBSA deals strictly with security matters at our ports of entry when it comes to the processing of people.

Refugee advocacy groups may continue to express concern with the move of Citizenship and Immigration Canada's port of entry operations, as well as its enforcement branch, to the Canada Border Services Agency. I recognize their concerns with regard to this issue and offer assurances that those individuals who arrive in Canada seeking protection or admission will be treated fairly and in accordance with our international and legal obligations.

While the Canada Border Services Agency is responsible for the ongoing delivery of immigration operations at ports of entry, Citizenship and Immigration Canada maintains responsibility for functional guidance and policy development.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada will continue to focus on citizenship, selection, settlement and integration of immigrants, while also offering Canada's protection to those in need. It will continue to issue visas and to develop admissibility policies for immigrants, refugees and temporary residents.

The CBSA, on the other hand, will focus on its role with regard to the management and operation of our nation's borders. Part of this role is to prevent people who should not be in Canada from reaching our borders, to detect those who are in Canada but who are in contravention of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and to ensure these individuals are removed in a timely manner. It is the CBSA's business to protect Canadians and those who need protection arriving at our borders.

There is no question that, to facilitate the movement of low risk travellers and trade and screen out and remove potential threats, we need to be able to access, collect and exchange information. However, there is also no question that the Canada Border Services Agency is committed to doing this in the utmost accordance with the law.

The advantage of amalgamating the various border programs and services into one organization is that our procedures are now streamlined and harmonized.

The bill before us today enables the CBSA, the Canada Border Services Agency, to be firmly established in order to provide integrated border management. It provides the management structure and the legal authorities to get the job done.

Make no mistake. This legislation is absolutely critical to our ability to meet the challenges of securing Canadians’ safety in the rapidly changing world in which we live.

New and emerging threats make protecting our borders and managing movement across them both a challenge and a national priority. The bill would give us the tools we need to implement innovative border management programs and services that would ensure Canada is better able to anticipate and respond to these emerging challenges.

I urge my hon. colleagues to speedily pass the legislation.

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I commend the parliamentary secretary for his comments with respect to the passage of Bill C-26.

I am quick to note that the bill, like the previous bill that set up the department which he co-represents with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, comes almost a year to the day after it became functionally operational. I also note that his own department has not exactly moved in a timely fashion or with post-haste in bringing this legislation forward.

Aside from that, the optics and the very high sounding language and references to multifaceted, integrated approach, streamlining and harmonizing are not really supported by the resources to carry out the task. A significant amount of effort has been put into the optics and the glossy brochures, and putting the best face on addressing the current shortcomings with respect to security at our borders, at our ports, at our airports, but there is a growing gap between the promise and the reality.

I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary to the department whether any internal effort is being made by himself or the minister to ensure that the necessary funds will be available to bring about these important changes to which he referred.

I am not just coming at this as a partisan, as a member of the opposition. I reference the recent report from the Senate, which is headed up in the other place by a Liberal senator. He indicated that a rust belt would be developing unless the government invested $1 billion annually over the next decade to address these shortcomings.

He talks about, as the parliamentary secretary referred to, the need to address the “economic crisis along the border, and everybody is spending all their misguided time worrying about missile defence”. He went on to say, “We are going to lose jobs and we are going to lose economic growth, and it is right in front of our eyes. It's the economy, stupid”. Those were the words of a Liberal senator in the other place.

What efforts has the parliamentary secretary undertaken to ensure that the actual resources are going to be there to implement the technology and, more important, the personnel? Could he tell us at the same time what that doily he is wearing represents?

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the doily was prepared by a constituent of my colleague from Etobicoke Centre, a young woman I gather from Slovakia. She made these snowflakes and sent them around to all members of Parliament. I am very happy to wear it to commemorate that.

I know the member for Central Nova is not a partisan person at all. I am sure his question was asked fully in the light of the best public policy for Canada and it is in that vein that I will respond.

Managing in government is always a question of dealing with the scarce resources that we have and in some cases the very abundant resources in other respects.

As I indicated in my remarks, the Canada Border Services Agency has some 11,000 employees but I am sure it could always use more employees and more money.

The member will recall that since 9/11 the government committed $7 billion and then beyond that another $1 billion or so to deal with the national security agenda, and that has evidenced itself in many different shapes and forms, but border safety and border security is a work in progress.

We can always do better. We are striving to do better. In fact there is a meeting coming up on Friday in Windsor and Detroit with the outgoing homelands security secretary, Tom Ridge. We are hoping to flush out some of the issues, particularly with respect to Detroit-Windsor, and get some momentum moving in that particular context. Yes, we have work to do but much has been accomplished.

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn Conservative St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, listening to the exchange between our two friendly parliamentarians here makes one question the cooperation generally that will be needed to make this a success. I can think of a couple of agencies that will have a direct effect, one being the Coast Guard.

As we know, most of the Coast Guard's operations come under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Some duties have been transferred to the Department of Transport. It has been recommended that it be a stand alone agency and, in a case like this, in relation to security, would be able to operate a lot better in conjunction with the new agency.

The other group would be the port police, which we had some years ago, that did a tremendous job when perhaps security was not the concern that it is today. We do not see them any more.

How, in light of the cuts that we have seen to the Coast Guard in particular, can we talk about beefing up security when the very agencies that have and have had to do a tremendous amount of the on-the-ground, on-the-ocean work are being decimated by budget cuts with one already disappearing? How, in light of that, can we have an agency that will be effective?

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, managing in government is never an easy task. We have many things that we want to implement on behalf of Canadians. We will implement the new health accord, introduce some day care programs, deal with equalization, with which I know the member opposite has a very long-standing interest, and also transfer some of the gas tax to the municipalities and communities. At the same time, we have the government looking at ways in which we can reallocate resources from within.

I thank the member for his question about the Coast Guard. It is an issue that is receiving some attention within the government. As I mentioned earlier, having a strong, effective border that deals with our security issues, as well as our economic issues, is very much a priority of the government. We are working diligently on all aspects of our border management policies and resources. I am sure we will be pursuing that to the best interests of all Canadians.

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I just want to follow up on the previous question. I have to confess straight away that it is not directly relevant to the bill but it is to the Coast Guard.

I wonder if my colleague could tell us whether any thought has ever been given to including the Coast Guard and the armed forces? I have been asked about this quite often with respect to sovereignty, whether it is better to have a coast guard which is essentially civilian in the waters in the Arctic islands, for example, or up the east coast or the west coast. Is it better to have one that is civilian for sovereignty purposes or better to have one that is associated with the armed forces as is the case in the United States?

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know that where the Coast Guard should be positioned structurally has been and continues to be a matter of some discussion. If my knowledge is correct, in the United States the coast guard is very much integrated with homeland security.

Suggestions have been made that our Coast Guard should be integrated with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada. A case can also be made for incorporating it into the Department of National Defence. I am not sure that those structural discussions are complete yet, but whatever we do, we need to look at the best positioning of the Coast Guard to deliver on its mandate and to provide the services that it can in a most optimal way, and sometimes the way it is structured organizationally can heavily impact on that.

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased and honoured to take part in this important debate on Bill C-26.

I should mention at the outset that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl. Following my remarks, he will be giving an eloquent dissertation and enlightening the House and Canadians with respect to the issue of the Coast Guard for which he has a longstanding affinity and a great deal of knowledge.

This bill is in a bit of a lag in coming a year late and is somewhat short in some areas in setting up this new border services agency. It is aimed in particular at bringing together several existing agencies, including an immigration program for ports of entry at citizenship and immigration, as well as import inspection duties from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Overall it is an attempt to improve, facilitate and bring together some of the existing agencies.

All goods and individuals entering the country today must report through this new service. The responsibility to ensure that travellers, items and services coming into Canada are admissible will fall on this new department. Clearly this is an extremely important agency and one which will have far-reaching powers and responsibilities. It is one which is heavily tasked to meet the new realities post 9/11, the new threats that exist in the world today.

There is responsibility as well for some of the more technical attempts by our country to augment our security, augment our trade and the speed with which we are able to send goods across the border to the United States, including the smart border initiative, the 30 point action plan that was initially introduced back in December 2001. There is also the FAST program. As well there is the Nexus system, which is aimed at simplifying and streamlining the border crossings for pre-approved low risk travellers.

All of these initiatives are wonderful and ones which we in the Conservative Party certainly endorse and encourage. The difficulty has been that we have seen this ongoing trend of announcements and re-announcements and efforts to garner as much public attention and support without actually doing it, without actually taking the important productive steps of implementing rather than talking about these particular initiatives.

My party would far rather see the actual effort and focus on putting these practices in place, improving the training and technology, and increasing the personnel. This is a problem that is repeatedly encountered. Whether it is Correctional Service Canada, the RCMP or the armed forces, we are seeing a dwindling of resources, the chief resource being individuals who are tasked with carrying out these important jobs.

There are a number of issues I would like to address. In the shortness of time I am going to refer first to the issue of the number of border guards or agents who are working alone at some of the ports of entry. Canada has 147 land and 13 marine border crossings. Some 103 of them are designated as work alone sites and are found mostly in remote parts of the country.

Seventy per cent of the work sites have technical difficulties with respect to communications tools. What I am talking about is the ability to access something as simple as the CPIC system. This causes real problems in terms of accessing important information as to who may have outstanding warrants, who may be seen as a security risk, information about individuals that is relevant to their crossing, such as whether they have a criminal record. I am told that much of that system is either inaccessible or is not up to date.

There was a very tragic incident recently which highlights the fact that many of these border crossings are basically guarded by a single individual. A young man, I believe he was 42 years of age, Adam Angel, who was a border agent, recently died of an illness and an affliction at Roosville, British Columbia, one of the remote crossings. He was working alone. There is no point obviously in speculating whether if somebody else had been there, that other person may have been able to assist him. He was working alone. Those are questions, tragically, that will never be answered. Certainly it is something that his family will have to come to grips with.

The member for Kootenay—Columbia has raised this issue in the House a number of times and has raised issues with respect to female border employees who also work alone at this same crossing. An alarm system was broken at Roosville and a communication network was deemed to be inoperative. These are dangerous situations that are currently being unaddressed or ignored by the government.

We can talk about the sophisticated attempts to improve border security, but it is personnel first and foremost, and shortcomings that would have to be addressed. Border officers are not allowed to carry firearms. If they need backup after encountering a dangerous situation, they are expected to call the RCMP. That is understandable. However in the moment when the danger presents itself, they are currently armed with batons or pepper spray of some sort. I would suggest that is insufficient, particularly if they are working alone at a remote border crossing where they are not able to access information. It is a recipe for disaster plain and simple.

I understand as well that in some of the remote locations it would take over an hour for the RCMP to actually respond. This would exacerbate the situation for an individual who found himself or herself in conflict with somebody entering the country.

Students are being used currently to replace rather than supplement border agents. With the greatest respect and the need we have in the country to employ students, this often puts students at risk. They have very insufficient or superfluous training of up two weeks. The shadowing of senior border officers varies from location to location, but 90% of these students are put in frontline positions. At one point in time after 9/11, over half of the customs officers at Pearson airport were students. Again, I say that with the greatest respect to those young people who are getting this training, but is the security risk really worth it in this capacity?

The Auditor General in her 2003 report expressed major concern about the safety of the students and the country. She stated:

Because they make critical decisions at the primary inspection line, we remain concerned that the inconsistent training of students could pose an unnecessary risk for Customs.

This comes from the impartial auditor, the watchdog of the country.

Border officials also themselves are on record saying they need more full time indeterminate employees to be hired. The current program renews worries of those employees at the CBSA. In some cases there are less indeterminate full time officers than there were before the planes hit the towers in New York on 9/11.

Last July in Sydney, Nova Scotia, one of the Prime Minister's ships, and I point this out only for illustration, the Sheila Anne , was found to have more than $1 million worth of cocaine in a grate attached to the bottom of the ship. Customs officers indicate that they found this as a fluke and Susan Horne, the president of the Customs Excise Union in Nova Scotia said:

The security is not good... there are not enough officers in Sydney to search a vessel.

I also understand they had to hire a private diver to inspect this particular ship. The disbanding of the ports police as referred to by my colleague from St. John's again highlights the lack of security often found at ports in this country.

We also know that individuals have been identified who have criminal records who are particularly vulnerable to being co-opted or are simply told not to show up at a certain point on the port at a certain point in time when goods are being brought in. Not to sound alarmist, but I have often maintained that the clearest danger, the present danger to this country is not through the air and is not across land; it is on the water.

Anything from child pornography, to trafficking in individuals, or a nuclear bomb can come into this country undetected. We currently inspect less that 3% of the containers coming into the major ports. That is not even touching upon the vast unguarded coastlines in this country. The decimation of our Coast Guard further underscores the need to turn our attention to this.

References to having the additional security for our Coast Guard by putting it into the military is an interesting suggestion or putting it into this particular security envelope is fine, as long as the necessary resources, personnel and equipment accompany that move. Simply banting the Coast Guard back and forth between Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans, or if we put it into another department does nothing to increase security. It is merely optics.

Equipment and interoperability of equipment is another issue that has to be addressed. Border officials have told us repeatedly that there are big problems with the current databases that they can access. In some cases we are told that the Americans can access the CPIC system but Canadian officials cannot.

The Auditor General pointed this out again with respect to her 2004 report. She spoke of the 139 LiveScan machines that were purchased to improve turnaround time for fingerprint analysis. She went on to say that the benefits were marginal at best, and the fact that Transport Canada processed four times more fingerprints was not due to the introduction of this new technology but due to the addition of personnel from the RCMP and Transport Canada.

Once again it is an issue of putting the people in place, not simply talking about the benefits, not simply talking about the new equipment but putting actual personnel in place.

There are terrorist watch lists at border controls, yet if we have those lists and cannot access them, they do no good. It is like a tree falling in the forest; if nobody hears it, it did not happen.

These types of approaches repeatedly seem to go unnoticed. They are not pointed out when the government is espousing the virtues of its new system.

I will turn the floor over to my colleague who will speak further about the need to address the rust out of infrastructure and the border delays that he is aware of.

The Conservative Party will be supporting this legislation because at least it is a step in the right direction. There is often a need and ability to amend the legislation which we will undertake to do. We will continue to push the government to hold it to account to do these things rather than simply talk about them.

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I want to highlight a couple of points.

When we talk about our border with the United States it is something like 6,000 or 7,000 kilometres long. I forget the exact length but whatever it is, it is a very long border between Canada and the United States. I suppose if we had immigration and customs officers every few yards, that would be the perfect solution. We cannot do that of course.

Let me point out some of the statistics which I thought I had highlighted in my speech but they are worth going over again. There are approximately 11,000 employees and 1,369 service points across the country and abroad. Last year there were 71 million highway travellers, 18 million air travellers, 276,000 rail passengers, 2.9 million marine passengers, and over 11 million commercial releases. Over $3.3 billion was collected in import duties and $22 billion was collected in GST.

This is not a small operation. This is a huge operation that is of critical importance to Canada. That is why our government is focusing on it as a key priority and the resources necessary to perform the function are being made available and will continue to be made available.

The member for Central Nova talked about the customs officers not carrying guns. I am wondering if he is aware of an independent job hazard analysis that was done in June 2003. It was performed for the former Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. It affirmed that firearms were not considered a necessary tool for customs officers. Does the member know about that report?