Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia.
I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-26 to establish the Canada Border Services Agency, which will provide integrated border services and facilitate the flow of persons and goods across our border.
This bill is of particular interest to me given that my riding of Langley is on the international border with the United States and I have a border crossing in my community.
As members know, the policy of the Conservative Party is to develop a strategic partnership with the United States to ensure that both security and trade issues are resolved in Canada's best interests. We are hopeful that the creation of the CBSA will assist in achieving those goals.
The CBSA is responsible for the smart border program, including Nexus, which expedites pre-approved low risk travellers, and FAST, which expedites the movement of low risk goods.
For the transportation industry in my riding, border clearances are a giant headache. We have heard other members speak on that problem. According to the British Columbia Trucking Association, located in Langley, the typical trucker has to contend with the usual security check as well as completing the time consuming and complicated forms while waiting for the government agents to arrive so they can approve the truck's contents.
With increasingly frustrating waits at the border and a trucking industry that lacks enough personnel, the in-demand truckers now realize that they can afford to stop crossing the border and are considering just driving within Canada. If that were to happen, there would be a loss of international trade.
The Aldergrove border, which is in my riding, is currently closed from midnight to 8 a.m. The issue of opening Aldergrove to a 24/7 crossing needs to be considered. The Aldergrove crossing is at the south end of provincial Highway No. 13. At the north end of Highway No. 13, intersecting with Trans-Canada Highway No. 1, is a large Canadian industrial park known as Gloucester Industrial Estates. Along Highway 13 is Aldergrove's Department of National Defence military base. To add to that, we have the Abbotsford International Airport, which is only 10 kilometres to the east.
It is easy to see that if Canada-U.S. truck traffic were permitted to flow efficiently at this crossing, it would be of tremendous benefit to the economic future and life of Langley and the surrounding communities.
I would like to speak regarding illegal border drugs. Interstate 5 in Washington state, just to the south, is the west coast pipeline not only for trade but also for illegal drugs. The issue of illegal drugs crossing the border is a hot topic in Washington state.
Washington and B.C. share the third busiest border crossing in the country. Prosecutors and sheriffs in Whatcom County are currently seeking a $1 million U.S. grant to help deal with crime spawned by their border crossing with British Columbia. This money is needed to deal with a large range of offences, including drug prosecutions, money laundering and auto theft.
According to Dave McEachran, the prosecuting attorney with Whatcom County:
--we have a huge flow of B.C. bud coming down and we've got cocaine going up to B.C., along with laundered money and guns.
While law enforcement is involved in intercepting criminals on both sides of the border, U.S. authorities are lamenting Ottawa's approach toward decriminalizing marijuana and its link to organized crime in Canada.
It is unclear at this time how many immigration officers will be financed by the new Canada Border Services Agency to combat illegal immigration, people smuggling and trafficking. In fact, people smuggling is not just an overseas problem. In my riding, people smuggling is second only to drug smuggling. Immigrants from the Philippines, Mexico and Korea are paying smugglers to bring them across the border.
The bushes at the border are riddled with well-worn paths used by smugglers. Some of the trails are even named, including the most popular, the Ho Chi Minh trail, named by the local law enforcement. Security cameras in place on the border are not solving the problems, because there still is insufficient manpower in place to actually apprehend illegal immigrants.
Front line border guards must be resourced properly to do their jobs. We have heard that from other members. Canadian customs officers have asked for backup from armed police at some of the busiest airports and border crossings. Recent stories of border guards working alone have raised concern.
My hon. colleague from Kootenay—Columbia, who will be speaking next, has made it clear that two guards are needed at each crossing. This was tragically demonstrated after border crossing guard Adam Angel fell ill and then tragically died while working alone.
As well, a female border guard was forced to work alone with faulty communications equipment. None of her colleagues were able to notify her that a potentially dangerous felon could be on his way to her border crossing while she was working alone.
These types of stories should not happen in this day and age when we should put the safety of our staff as a high priority.
Appropriate staffing levels at Canadian border crossings should also be a priority for another reason: terrorism. The 9/11 attack was the impetus for the Anti-terrorism Act, the allocation of $8 billion for national security, and the implementation of the airline security tax.
With the establishment of this new Canada Border Services Agency, we must be under no illusions about the severity of terrorist attacks on Canadian soil. Our top national security adviser, Robert Wright, has stated:
Osama bin Laden has publicly identified Canada as a country he believes his followers should attack. He ranked Canada as fifth out of seven countries, and every other country on that list has already been attacked...So this is not someone else's problem.
In fact, an Ottawa intelligence report states that al-Qaeda apparently considers Canada a legitimate target because of the presence of our troops in Afghanistan. The report surmises that terrorists might attack Canada in retaliation for the arrest of a few alleged al-Qaeda associates, including at least one from Vancouver whose deportation is currently being sought. That does not just hit close to home; it lands in our front yard.
Another recent national security warning comes from Colin Kenny, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence. Mr. Kenny criticized this Liberal government for ignoring a Senate report which concluded that most Canadian cities would not be able to cope with the devastating impact of a major terrorist strike.
Kenny said Ottawa has been lax in several security areas, including the protection of electrical transmission systems and oil pipelines. As well, we need better surveillance on our coastal waters, which stretch nearly a quarter of a million kilometres, making them the longest undefended borders in the world. Kenny says, “They are vast, they are vulnerable, and, unfortunately, they are largely unattended”.
There is much more to be achieved before Ottawa can claim to be able to defend itself against terrorism. According to Martin Rudner of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies:
--the government has not done nearly enough to address terror threats to our infrastructure--especially when it comes to the energy sector. It has failed to actively crack down on fundraising for terrorist and terrorist-affiliated groups, despite legislation to enable such a crackdown, and the Tamil Tigers--responsible for more of the world's suicide bombers than any other group--have not yet been outlawed by Cabinet.
While somewhat improved, our intelligence agency still falls short of the necessary level of sophistication, mostly due to the lack of sufficient funding that also plagues the RCMP. Our immigration system, which has roughly 36,000 failed refugee claimants lingering long past their deportation orders, is simply not tight enough for any country that takes security threats seriously.