House of Commons Hansard #147 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pre-clearance.


The House resumed from February 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, an act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

10:05 a.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in the House to Bill C-23, an act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States. I also want to thank the member for Beloeil—Chambly for moving the recent amendment that is before us today related to Bill C-23.

I will outline the reasons I support the recent amendment against the background of where we are today. To do that, I must first point out that the conditions present when the bill was drafted and tabled simply are not the same conditions we are seeing today, and frankly, they are unlikely to revert back anytime soon. What are those changing conditions? Let me state the obvious for the government members, as they have chosen, in my view, to stick their heads in the sand and turn a blind eye to what is happening right under their noses.

As the NDP critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, I have been compelled on many occasions since the election of President Trump to speak out against the discriminatory immigration and humanitarian policies being enacted by our neighbours south of our border. Unfortunately, despite a welcoming plea to immigrants and refugees by the Prime Minister, the government has failed to match its words with action. Instead, the Prime Minister has chosen to turn a blind eye to the politics of fear and division the Trump administration is fanning against the immigrant and refugee community, most particularly the Muslim community. The government continues to remain silent. Worse, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has gone so far as to suggest that nothing has changed. Anyone can see that plenty has changed since Trump was elected.

Hundreds of refugees have been forced to risk life and limb to cross illegally into Canada. In fact, the number has more than doubled, and in some cases even tripled, since Trump was elected. Since Trump was elected, there has been constant consternation about the situation, not just here in Canada but in the international community as well. One might ask why these refugees would risk their lives and limbs. They are doing it because they are desperate, because for them, the U.S. is no longer a safe haven.

Border communities are struggling to cope. Yesterday the Province of Manitoba announced that it will put resources into housing and resettlement for these asylum seekers. The Province of Manitoba has actually called for a federal, coordinated response, yet the federal government is missing in action.

Canadians are faced with racial profiling at the U.S. border, and the Prime Minister is busy, frankly, sucking up to Trump and will not even bring those cases to the President's attention. Instead, incidents of hate have reared their ugly heads, and we are seeing them in communities across this country.

The Prime Minister will not stand up and call out Trump's politics of fear and division. New executive orders are on their way, and so far, media reports suggest that these new executive orders will be strikingly similar to Trump's failed discriminatory orders. Perhaps the worst is yet to come.

It is with this information in mind that we must be examining Bill C-23, and not based on the situation when the agreement was signed under the Obama presidency. It is imperative that this legislation be examined under this drastic shift in conditions.

Let me say at the outset that while New Democrats will always be in favour of making it easier to access and cross the border, it must be noted that we feel strongly that this must never be done at the expense of Canadians' rights, privacy, and human rights. This is especially the case when those rights are compromised on Canadian soil. Many of my constituents are very concerned about Bill C-23 and are wondering what the implications are in practical terms, especially in the current troubling climate of uncertainty that has been created by the Trump administration.

Let me be clear. Bill C-23 would not address the concerns Canadians have regarding being interrogated, detained, and turned back at the border based on their race, religion, travel history, or birthplace as a result of policies that may contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In fact, Bill C-23 would increase the powers of U.S. officers on Canadian soil. Let me start with the issue of firearms. If Bill C-23 passes, it would mean that U.S. customs and border protection officers would be authorized to carry firearms in pre-clearance areas in land, rail, and marine stations. In fact, this bill could violate Canadian sovereignty by increasing the powers of American pre-clearance officers on Canadian soil with respect to the carrying of firearms and by not properly defining the criminal liability framework.

What we know is that the way U.S. customs and border protection carries out its national security mandate is very different from that of the Canada Border Services Agency. Many studies have shown that officers are trigger-happy, frankly, and use lethal force much too often. This should be a major concern for Canadians.

However, the authority that would be granted to U.S. customs officers would not stop there. The adoption of Bill C-23 would also mean that strip searches could be conducted by American pre-clearance officers. While U.S. customs officers would have to ensure that a CBSA officer of the same sex as the traveller was present during a strip search, if one was not available or declined to conduct a strip search, a U.S. customs officer would be authorized to do the search. This would be especially problematic during peak hours and the holiday season or when the CBSA was understaffed.

For those from the transgender community, Bill C-23 lacks provisions to protect their rights and freedoms, as the wording of Bill C-23 uses the term “sex” instead of “gender”. What does this mean? It means that those whose biological characteristics do not match their gender identity would be denied access to a pre-clearance officer of the same gender if they were strip-searched.

I will quote from the U.S. customs and border protection website regarding the procedure for searching transgender individuals. It states, “If the individual being searched has undergone the total transformation, the current gender of that person will dictate whether or not a male or female U.S. Customs and Border Protection...Officer performs the search”.

This language is discriminatory, because it ignores the reality of many transgender persons who do not want to, have not, or cannot undergo sex reassignment surgery.

What is more, Bill C-23 would also mean that people could be detained and questioned by U.S. pre-clearance officers on Canadian soil. Under the proposed legislation, travellers would no longer be able to exercise their right to withdraw from questioning. They could be detained and be obliged to answer any questions asked of them by U.S. officers. The act says that a traveller must not be “unreasonably” delayed. However, Bill C-23 does not clearly define what constitutes to “unreasonably delay” a traveller's withdrawal following a request to leave the pre-clearance area.

The implications of Bill C-23 does not stop there. We have seen that searches of electronic devices and requests to access the digital universe of travellers to the U.S. have been on the rise since the inauguration of Trump. In fact, a recent statement by the Trump administration suggests that an order requiring all travellers to disclose the contents of their electronic devices could be adopted. Bill C-23 would do nothing to ensure that Canadians' right to privacy would be protected during searches of electronic devices. While the government will argue that is up to people if they want to provide their devices to U.S. customs officers, the fact is that many travellers would be intimidated by them and would find it difficult to refuse such a request.

In addition, Bill C-23 would also mean that CBSA officers at a U.S. airport could prevent some Canadian permanent residents from boarding their flights if the officer somehow suspected that travellers had breached their permanent residency requirements. The bill also means, for refugees, that they could not make a claim for refugee status in the Canadian pre-clearance perimeter in the U.S.

To top it all off, Canadian officers would not be bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when they were in positions of authority outside Canadian borders. This would mean that Canada Border Services Agency officers posted to pre-clearance areas in the U.S. could screen Canadian travellers under U.S. law, which is far more permissive in terms of the invasion of privacy.

Since Bill C-23 was first tabled, we have already seen significant developments outside our control with the change to the Trump administration. It is unquestionable that the Trump administration has attempted to quickly enact sweeping, significant, disturbing shifts in American immigration and border policy.

It is also unquestionable that these policies have already had a direct impact on Canadians, and incidents of racial profiling are already taking place. We have heard numerous stories reported in the media of Canadians being interrogated at the Canada-U.S. border. They have been asked intrusive questions about their faith and ethnic background, interrogated for hours, and ultimately refused entry to the U.S. and left humiliated.

Some of these Canadians, while Muslim, have had no connection to the countries included in the ban the Trump administration tried to impose. This was despite assurances by the Canadian government that they would not be impacted by Trump's attempt to bring forward discriminatory travel bans. Despite some of these discriminatory executive orders being suspended by the U.S. court system, we know that Canadians are being impacted already.

Media reports so far suggest that new executive orders from Trump will be strikingly similar to those he tried to bring forward that were struck down by the courts. While I hope that there will be a change in direction with the pending new executive orders from Trump, I am not holding my breath. I fear that the troubling direction the Trump administration has signalled will continue.

With this level of uncertainty, it is my view that it would be irresponsible of the government to move forward with this bill. My colleague, the member for Beloeil—Chambly, moved a recent amendment to Bill C-23. This is a call for the House to decline to give second reading to Bill C-23. The reasons are quite simple. Let me outline them specifically for the House:

(a) neglects to take into account the climate of uncertainty at the border following the discriminatory policies and executive orders of the Trump Administration; (b) does not address Canadians’ concerns about being interrogated, detained, and turned back at the border based on race, religion, travel history or birthplace as a result of policies that may contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; (c) does nothing to ensure that Canadians’ right to privacy will be protected during searches of electronic devices; and (d) violates Canadian sovereignty by increasing the powers of American preclearance officers on Canadian soil with respect to the carrying of firearms and by not properly defining a criminal liability framework.

Let me be clear, if Bill C-23 passes, the Canadian government will no longer be just complicit in the discriminatory treatment of Canadians at the border. If Bill C-23 passes, U.S. customs and border protection officers would be authorized to carry out these acts of discrimination on Canadian soil. It is unacceptable across the border, but it would become reprehensible if our government allowed this to happen within our own country. I urge all members of this House to reject Bill C-23 and support the reasoned amendment.

I would like to finish my time by sharing the concerns of one of my constituents who took the time to write to me regarding his concerns around Bill C-23.

He said:

I am one of your constituents...and a born-and-raised Vancouverite...I am writing today on an issue that is very important to me. For a number of years, I lived in the United States of America, legally. I had an H1B visa that was renewed for my job...I have travelled across the Canada-US border innumerable times in my life. I have also faced mistreatment from border guards on both sides. A lawyer in New York helped me with my immigration case throughout so I did everything by the book; everything above board – and yet I was still treated like a criminal on many occasions. Thankfully, I always had the right to rescind my application for entry and I also stood firm knowing the Canadian government would protect my rights, my safety and – frankly – my body from any infringements on my rights as a free, upstanding, law-abiding citizen. Bill C-23, as I understand it, would strip that safety net away from Canadians such as myself. It would leave us vulnerable to frightening searches and allow border guards to overstep the boundaries of ethics and accountability.

I understand strong border protection is of utmost importance but, as the bill is written now, I have to urge you to vote against it in parliament.

This one email is a sample of many emails I have received in my office. My phone has been ringing off the hook. People have grave concerns with Bill C-23.

Any time we debate legislation that has an impact on how Canadians leave and re-enter our country, it is vital that we take the utmost care in the examining of the details of the legislation, its broader implications, possible unintended consequences, and anticipated changes to the status quo outside of our control. We owe that to Canadians. It is our job to do exactly that.

Without adequate legislative assurances that Canadian rights will be respected in Canada, I simply cannot support the bill. I would urge all members to think about what that means for their constituents. We can hold off and see what will happen with respect to the Trump administration on the new order. We can ensure the government takes action right now to raise the concerns that many Canadians have already said need to be brought to the attention of the Trump administration.

Our government has refused to undertake that work to date. Now we are dealing with allowing increased authority to U.S. officials. It is simply wrong. When will we stand up and fight for Canadian rights and protect those rights? Bill C-23 must not pass. The recent amendment that has been tabled should be adopted. If we adopt that, it will give us time to examine the situation and then to ensure we bring forward measures that are appropriate for all Canadians and, most important, that protect Canadian rights on the border.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

10:20 a.m.


Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Mr. Speaker, when proposing amendments to a bill, it is important not to come from a place of assumptions and misinformation about profiling.

As a former customs officer, I know that their work is about enforcing Canadian laws. Bill C-23 introduces measures that are in accordance with Canadian laws and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

On what grounds are they suggesting that there are certain rights the Border Services Agency does not already have? What rights and powers are they talking about that do not fall under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

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10:20 a.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that the member is a former customs officer. He says that there are false accusations of racial profiling. Let me bring this to the attention of the member.

At least two cases have been brought to my attention where Canadians at the U.S. border were interrogated for hours on end. One individual, a Muslim woman, was asked why she attended mosques so often. She was asked about her opinion of Trump, as though that somehow matters. Then she was turned away after this interrogation. She as humiliated. She was not even from one of the seven countries that were identified under the travel ban. She is from Morocco. In my view, that is an example of racial profiling.

There was another case that just recently took place with a young student who was travelling to the U.S. with his fellow students and coach to participate in a sporting event. He was singled out and questioned, again, for hours on end. He was interrogated about his parents, by the way. His parents were not even travelling with him. The officers asked for cellphone and the password for it.

Yes, it is true that he could say no, but he was intimidated. He was worried. He gave it to them because he thought that if he did not give officers his cellphone and his password, they would say no. He really wanted to participate in the sporting event with his teammates. Again, in my view, is racial profiling.

These incidents are happening right now in our country.

We raised this issue with the minister and the Prime Minister. We asked them to bring these Canadian concerns to the attention of President Trump. The government refused to do so.

With Bill C-23, I anticipate things will only get worse and not better.

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10:25 a.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my former life in the aviation trade, I worked a lot with the Canadian government, as well as our U.S. counterparts, in pre-clearance and transit without visa issues, and about making Canada competitive on the world stage.

My wife and I, in our travels across the border, have also been subjected to questions that some might seem are racist or whatnot. However, our border agents, whether it is our U.S. counterparts or our Canadian customs and immigration officials, are tasked to ensure that our countries and borders remain safe and sound, and that those persons and goods coming into our countries are here for the right reasons, not for nefarious reasons.

Does my hon. colleague agree that border agents and Canada customs and immigration officials should do everything to ensure that those who come into our country are here for good reasons, that they do have policies and procedures they must go through?

I also would echo her statements that racial profiling is not something we want to do, but profiling procedures are needed. Those questions are just part of the everyday investigation techniques that have to take place to figure out if the person or persons and goods coming into the country are here for the right reasons.

Is the hon. colleague saying that we should be lessening or loosening those rules and regulations?

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10:25 a.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me ask the member this. Does he think it is somehow relevant for an individual to be asked at a border crossing what his or her opinion of President Trump is? Does he think that asking a person how often he or she attends mosques is somehow relevant? Is it not my right to attend a mosque or a church as often as I want? Is it anybody's business except mine? How is that relevant at a border crossing?

In one of the cases I cited, the reason why the individual was rejected and refused entry into the United States was that individual did not have valid Canadian documentation, which was not true because the individual had a valid passport in good standing until 2020 I believe.

This is what is happening. How else should we explain the situation? I am at a loss as to how a person explains the situation and justifies it. I am not saying that border officials should not do their job, but given the situation taking place right now with the Trump administration and its direction, the message, and the signal it is sending out, they are taking things down a different path and a different perspective, and that is wrong.

Bill C-23 will increase the authority given to U.S. officials at the border. I do not think we should be doing that at this juncture. We have a lot of concerns with respect to this.

People talk about trade, and I get it. It is important, but we must not jeopardize our protections, our human rights, and our Canadian values in that regard.

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10:30 a.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her eloquent and hard-hitting but sensitive speech.

French historian Henri Guillemin said that the most adroit politicians are experts at exploiting circumstances. Unfortunately, this Liberal government is wilfully ignoring changing circumstances in the form of a Trump administration that engages in racial profiling and discrimination at the border and violates Canadians' rights. That is clear from its decisions and its actions.

My colleague talked about the Muslim family from Brossard that was turned back at the border and Yassine Aber, a young man at university in Sherbrooke who was interrogated for five hours, when all he wanted to do was participate in a sporting event.

With Bill C-23, the Liberals are kowtowing to the Trump administration. They are rolling over and giving American customs officers all the power they want with no regard for the rights of the people we are supposed to be protecting. That is the government's responsibility.

Does my colleague think the Liberal government is handing our privacy and our rights to the Trump administration on a silver platter?

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10:30 a.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my view, the government is failing to stand up for Canadian values and rights. It is failing to protect those rights. The government is kowtowing to President Trump and his administration. The impacts they have caused are significant. The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has gone as far as to say that nothing has changed. Everyone who I have talked to can see that things have changed, and quite drastically.

Just yesterday, the Prime Minister was on the phone with the President. Why did he not bring these Canadian concerns and issues to the attention of the President? It is really a mystery to me why he will not stand up for Canadians.

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10:30 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to what I believe is a very positive piece of legislation, contrary to the last 30 minutes of listening to the New Democrats trying to position themselves on this. Canadians should feel comfortable in knowing that the NDP knows nothing about what it is talking about. Quite frankly, it is difficult to understand the position that the NDP is taking on Bill C-23. It makes no sense.

Allow me to expand on that. The member started off by talking about refugees and challenged the government's approach on refugees. No government in the last number of decades has been more proactively engaged in trying to assist refugees coming to Canada than this government and this Prime Minister. The numbers will clearly show that. I do not know why the member would want to start off the debate by talking about refugees, because our government has done so exceptionally well on that particular front.

What really set me back was that the member tried to give those who might be listening or following the debate a false impression. If we listen to the member, we should think of where we have pre-clearance today. It is at different airports, including the city of Winnipeg. After listening to the member, if one were wondering, one might think that these U.S. customs agents are going to have guns on their sides. If one were listening, it was a fear thing, that someone is going to walk into these airports and have U.S. citizens, known as customs officers and immigration officers, with guns on their bodies. That is not true. I do not know if the NDP realizes that. In the speech I heard from the member, it is just not true.

The reality is, with the legislation, they can have the same sorts of tools or equipment that Canada border control officers would have at the airport. I have a news flash for the NDP: Canada border control officers do not have guns at the airport facilities.

The member made reference to racial profiling. None of us supports racial profiling and all the nastiness that goes along with it. She talked about difficult questions that are going to be asked of Canadians and permanent residents going through these pre-clearance centres. She made it sound as if Canadians are going to go through a difficult time. Does the member and the NDP not realize what the concept of pre-clearance really is? The purpose of pre-clearance is to prevent individuals from having to go through clearance in the United States. I would much prefer to have pre-clearance here in Canada than to fly into the United States and then have to go through clearance.

The Liberal Party is the party that came up with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was Pierre Elliott Trudeau who introduced the Charter of Rights. The legislation we are debating today would in fact guarantee the Charter of Rights for every citizen and every resident at our airports.

If one were to listen to the New Democrats, one would think that the government would be abandoning the rights of Canadians and permanent residents if the bill were to pass. I do not know where they are getting their information. Can they not recognize the true value of it?

Let me talk about the Toronto international airport. It is one of those airports that generates hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity for the city of Toronto every year. If we did not have pre-clearance at that international airport, there would be only roughly 25 or 26 destinations where we could fly from Toronto to U.S. airports. However, because of pre-clearance, it gets closer to 50 destinations. That is a very strong positive. Many of those American cities where Canadians are choosing to fly do not have the full customs and immigration facilities. Therefore, if we did not have that pre-clearance at the Toronto international airport, they would not be able to fly into those communities.

If we fly from airports in Canada, Winnipeg, Halifax, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, to the United States, we have a sense of what pre-clearance is. I do not know if any New Democrats have actually participated in a pre-clearance at any of those airports, but I suspect if they checked with most Canadians, they would find it is a positive thing.

Some legislation that has passed over the years, I would classify as almost no-brainers. That is not to marginalize the issues, but if New Democrats have some legitimate concerns in regard to it, they can address those concerns at committee stage and raise them in second reading. However, I do not believe that they understand the difference between pre-clearance and arriving in the U.S. where they would have to go through the process.

It is important that we understand that. We need to understand that at the end of the day, Canada does a great deal of trade, economic commerce, and a great deal of tourism into the United States, and vice versa. Pre-clearance is not something new; it has been happening for decades. Even as governments have changed, governments have consistently looked at ways that they can enhance pre-clearance. We do that because we understand the special relationship between Canada and the U.S. The more that the Government of Canada and the Government of the U.S. work together on dealing with issues such as pre-clearance, whether it is people or cargo, the more both Canada and the U.S. benefit immensely by it.

It is estimated that there is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 600,000 direct jobs that come out of tourism. When we think of tourism, approximately two-thirds of it, from what I understand, comes from the United States. When I look at it, I see one of Winnipeg's golden gems, one of the things we truly appreciate as a tourist attraction, something called Folklorama. It is a celebration of culture and heritage of a wide variety of different ethnic groups. Typically, we have 50 pavilions that participate. I want to use this as an example of the importance of tourism.

The Minister of Small Business and Tourism, our government House leader, talked about what is important to small businesses and made reference to tourism. I believe that if members across the way, in particular New Democrats, recognize the importance of that industry, they should be supporting this legislation, not voting against the legislation. If I were to highlight tourism, I would go back to the Folklorama celebration.

Our Prime Minister often talks about one of Canada's greatest strengths, which is in fact diversity. It is our diversity that we recognize as Canada's greatest strength. We are in the time of Canada's 150th birthday. It is an appropriate time to have this kind of legislation on our 150th birthday. We should be encouraging more people to come to Canada, and those who are in Canada should be encouraged to check out many more of the Canadian sights that we have. I know this will be a very special year.

Getting back to Folklorama, it is a special celebration, which I have been attending for well over 20 years. What we can expect if we go to Winnipeg during the summertime, as many Americans do, is to participate in one of Canada's best multicultural events, and I would argue it is the best multicultural event. It goes on for two solid weeks.

Roughly 50 pavilions will participate, and each pavilion will have a full evening of activities for one solid week. There will be 26 in the first week and roughly 26 in the second week. What can people expect when they walk in the door? They can expect to see some great entertainment, things like shows, which will include cultural dances, singing, arts, and heritage set-ups by different communities. I highly recommend that people participate if they want a sense of what Canada is like in terms of our multicultural society.

Why do I use that as an example? It is because roughly 15 million to 18 million tourists will come to Canada and stay overnight. Imagine the number of hotel rooms that will be utilized by those individuals, most of whom will come from the U.S.

The economic benefits of pre-clearance speaks volumes with respect to the potential for growth in the future. The more we move in that direction, the better it will be for both Canada and the U.S. Canadians often fly to U.S. destinations and stay for a few nights. The convenience of being pre-cleared at a Canadian airport far outweighs clearing immigration or customs in an American city.

The member across the way and her party have referenced things like tough questions being asked and racial profiling. If we stop and think about it, I would rather be asked those tough questions and so forth on Canadian soil. Pre-clearance does that, in part. There is the opportunity for having things like Canada's Charter of Rights apply with respect to Canadian travellers. Other concerns have also been raised. However, when we look at the bigger picture, the millions of dollars in cargo that crosses our border every day, the thousands of individuals, we can agree, I am sure, that this legislation is a step in the right direction.

People should not be surprised. Since we have been in government, we have taken a proactive approach when it comes to trade and commerce. We encourage and support our middle class and those who aspire to be a part of it, and we do that in different ways. Trade matters for Canada. Canada is a trading nation. One of the reasons that we have the lifestyle we have today in Canada is because of trade.

I will go back to when our Prime Minister met with the president. Both acknowledged the benefits of our border and the importance of the trade that goes both ways. There is, generally speaking, goodwill for both nations to co-operate on facilitating that trade. Whether it is the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of International Trade, or their respective parliamentary secretaries, in fact the Liberal caucus as a whole, we are all proactive on that front. My home city of Winnipeg and every region of this country benefit immensely from trade.

The best buses in the world are made in Winnipeg. Some of the best tractors in the world are made in Winnipeg. If we want to talk about the aerospace industry, we need look no further than Winnipeg. I could go on about the pork industry, and so many other industries as well.

All of those industries are very much dependent on trade relations between Canada and the U.S., and more and more with other countries as well. This is one of the reasons we are not focusing on just one country. We realize the benefits. We have CETA with Europe, which is a very important economy. We can talk about the special relationship between Canada and Ukraine, which is another trade agreement. In recent weeks, we were able to push both of these agreements through the House of Commons.

I can talk about the canola oil issue. It is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but it was a controversial issue in China. As a government, we were able to deal with that, which was great news for our prairie farmers.

A great deal of things are making a positive difference. As the Prime Minister and the U.S. President have acknowledged, it is important that we look at that shared border, and if there are ways we can enhance it with issues like pre-clearance, then we should be doing it. In fact, as we are debating this bill today, the U.S. has already completed legislation of a similar nature, which is going through its process. I really do believe that there is the potential.

We have another community that is going to be seeing an expansion of the services. I am thinking of the Billy Bishop airport in Toronto, the Jean Lesage airport in Quebec City, and for some rail passengers heading into the United States, the Montreal Central Station and the Rocky Mountaineer railway in British Columbia. All would realize very tangible benefits.

The best example I could give, which I have already provided to members, is the Toronto Pearson International Airport. However, the same principle applies wherever we have seen pre-clearance being given, and it does make a difference.

We can talk to the Mayor of Winnipeg or any politician who follows the issue of the relationship between the U.S. and Canada. If they recognize the importance of trade, and of people going back and forth, then they will recognize how important it is that we have pre-clearance.

As I indicated earlier, pre-clearance has been around for decades, but we as a government have recognized that we can do better on this file. We have this legislation before us today because it would enhance Canada's opportunities going forward. It would ensure that Canadians and permanent residents, those who call Canada home, would have better access to the U.S. For small businesses and so forth, the opportunity to have items pre-cleared is becoming more and more of a reality. However, there is so much more that we can still do on the file. The Prime Minister himself will tell us that we can always do better, and we will strive to do better.

I would highly recommend that my New Democratic colleagues across the way revisit their decision on this bill. Every criticism they have levelled at the pre-clearance issue, this piece of legislation, would apply equally or more if we did not have pre-clearance for Canadians and permanent residents landing in U.S. airports. Their arguments do not seem to support the fact that they are voting against the legislation.

I will leave it at that, believing that at the end of the day Canadians would benefit immensely by the passage of Bill C-23. I highly recommend that all members of this House support it.

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10:50 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Before going to questions and comments, I will notify the member that his time will be running out, but we will continue with his questions and comments once we come back from question period.

The other thing I would like to point out is that some of the questions and answers have been rather long. I know it is a complicated issue and we cannot do this in a short time, but I would ask hon. members that they do this as quickly as possible so that we can get as many questions in. Some of them are kind of dragging out.

Question and comments, the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.

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10:50 a.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief. I want to say that for once I am not disagreeing with our hon. colleague from across the way.

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10:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


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10:55 a.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

“Shame”, I am hearing from my own colleagues down the way. I will take that abuse.

Mr. Speaker, I indeed was in part of air service development. This bill follows up on the incredible work that former Prime Minister Harper and our team did in our previous government. I just want to state it on the record, as our hon. colleague in his earlier comments in his speech mentioned, that our colleagues from the NDP are railing against this as somehow the work that Mr. Trump is doing and the directives from his new administration. In my previous comment I mentioned an experience that my wife and I had in the course of going through an airport when people are asked certain questions. There was some profiling that was done and that was under the Obama administration and not the Trump administration.

Perhaps our hon. colleague could talk a bit more about the folk fest in Winnipeg.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is hard for me to say no to talking more about Folklorama, other than to emphasize that it is one of the greatest events in North America. It is at the end of July, beginning of August. I invite members to participate in it. Many Americans will fly into Winnipeg, many of them I suspect through pre-clearance, in order to participate.

I would emphasize that we recognize that pre-clearance is not new, which governments of all political stripes have done in the past and I suspect will continue into the future. We look at ways in which we can enhance it. By enhancing it, the biggest beneficiary, I would suggest, is Canada, Canadians, and permanent residents. We all benefit because it impacts on our trade and it impacts on people departing Winnipeg and coming back.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is nice that we have some levity, but this is a serious matter before us.

When I was the head of law and enforcement at the NAFTA environment commission, we grew very concerned because concerns about the movement of contaminated fuel and hazardous waste across borders were being put aside because of the push to enable trade and because of the concern that people perhaps with a brown face or a different ethnic background became the big scare. There has been a lot of talk on the other side of the House that we need to address Islamophobia, yet we heard at committee on this very bill from Safiah Chowdhury, representative of the Islamic Society of North America, extreme concern about the implications of this bill.

By the way, I heard nothing from the member talking about any of the provisions actually in this bill. One of the provisions in this bill that was of direct concern to a lot of Canadians is the fact that people could be detained for so-called reasonable grounds, which under current law they cannot be. I wonder what the member has to say about the concerns of members of our Islamic community, members of or were born in the seven countries that are banned by the United States, or a man who simply tried to go across the States with his family and was cross-examined about his view on marijuana. Is the member not concerned that Canadians could be detained when they are trying to cross the border and not simply choose not to go?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, what I am concerned about is the New Democrats seem to argue with something that is beyond me. There is no merit in what the New Democrats are saying with respect to this legislation. At the end of the day, we are talking about pre-clearance. We are not talking about when people arrive, where many of those things that the member was referring to might apply. If they are in Canada, the Charter of Rights and the Bill of Rights all apply here when they go.

Is there a detainment? That is just wrong. American customs agents cannot detain. It is only the Canadian border control and Canadians who are allowed to do any arresting or holding individuals in custody. The Americans are there to process in a pre-clearance way. Yes, they can ask questions but they can ask questions when people arrive at the other airport also. I do not really believe that the New Democrats' arguments are relevant to this bill in terms of where they point out the flaws because the flaws that they have pointed out thus far are not with respect to pre-clearance.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member will have four minutes and 47 seconds remaining in questions and comments following question period.

Use of French in QuebecStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has apologized for speaking French in Quebec. Imagine that: apologizing for speaking French in Quebec. Talk about a major step backward.

It is the same old story: francophones can speak to one another in French, but as soon as there is an anglophone in the room, everyone has to speak English. I would like to remind the Prime Minister that Quebec has an official language, a common language, and that is French.

How many ministers in this government are incapable of answering questions in French? Are any ministers going to apologize for not being able to speak French? No. The anglophone majority is entitled to an apology, but the francophone minority, the Quebec minority must acquiesce and submit, as the Prime Minister did.

I can guarantee that we in the Bloc Québécois will never ever apologize for speaking French. We look forward to having our own country where no one will ask us to apologize for existing.

Assistance To Disadvantaged PeopleStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, which has been tasked with developing a poverty reduction strategy, last week I had the honour of meeting with many men and women who courageously devote themselves to helping disadvantaged people in our communities.

Ash Healey from RainCity Housing is one of those extraordinary human beings we met along the way. For over 20 years, he has been helping those facing homelessness and addiction. He has saved hundreds of overdose victims, and continues to be there for them. Ash made an impact on me, because like others who do what he does, it takes superhuman strength to not walk away.

We are thankful to all those organizations and individuals who met with us and shared their experiences. We owe them a debt of gratitude for all they are doing to help our fellow Canadians, for giving hope to those who are never given a chance in life.

Bonanza RestaurantStatements By Members

February 24th, 2017 / 11 a.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, a Saskatoon landmark went up in flames late Tuesday night.

The Bonanza Restaurant, a fixture on 8th Street for the past 45 years, suffered over $2 million in damages from a fire that took over six hours to extinguish. Many thanks go out to the Saskatoon Fire Department, which responded with four engines, arriving within two minutes of the call.

Gary Baba has owned the restaurant for the last 21 years. He is shattered. He arrived on the scene at 4 a.m. to find 25 staff members huddled outside the restaurant, sharing their grief.

The buffet-style restaurant was a beloved institution for generations of families. Baba gave many students their very first job. Customers of all ages were part of that big Bonanza family. Hundreds of people in my city have taken to social media this week, sharing their fond memories.

On behalf of all Saskatonians, we share Gary's grief.

Nawfal FamilyStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, this weekend my heart was warmed by the generosity and love that exemplifies the very best of our community.

The parishioners of Saint-Remi Catholic church held a potluck dinner to celebrate the one year anniversary of the arrival of the Nawfal family from Syria, which they sponsored. I was honoured to meet Milad and Reham, and their two sons Bassel and Joe who are thankful to be in Canada, working and studying toward a brighter future.

I want to commend the Saint-Remi parishioners who sponsored the family, as well as students at the École secondaire catholique Pierre-Savard who took an idea and made it happen through fundraising and hard work. I also want to commend Father Jean-François, whose leadership and spiritual guidance are inspiring a community to demonstrate love and respect for our diversity.

I join Canadians in welcoming the Nawful family.

Persons with DisabilitiesStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was encouraged to hear two days ago in the chamber the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities declare she was fully committed to implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and that she was working toward ratifying its optional protocol.

We have been waiting for a disability act that is serious about accessibility and inclusion, and goes farther than unenforceable guidelines and voluntary standards, one that provides real oversight to the implementation process and the means for persons living with disabilities to seek redress should the government fail in its obligations to the convention.

The minister's promises leave me very optimistic, and I do not doubt her passion and integrity. I am, however, skeptical about the government's ability and indeed its willingness to follow through on the commitments it makes.

Therefore, I look forward to assisting the minister in fulfilling her objectives, as it is my heartfelt conviction that the goal of a more inclusive and accessible Canada should transcend partisan politics.

Harry HarnumStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to pay tribute to Harry Harnum, or as we called him, Chief Harry. Harry served with the Bishop's Falls fire department for 41 years and for 28 years he was our chief. Through many fires and floods, Harry risked his life for his community and he truly was our inspiration.

We need look no further than his own family. Today, his son Gary is the fire chief of Bishop's Falls. His other son, Ed, is the deputy fire chief. His son Craig is the deputy fire chief of Corner Brook. His grandson Steven is now a professional firefighter and his other grandson, Tyler, is now a firefighter for the Department of National Defence at CFB Trenton.

His son Harry, daughters Beverly and Cathy, nephews, daughters-in-law, also firefighters and his greatest friend and wife for 64 years, Jewel, are indeed a family of heroes.

Chief Harry passed away this week and will be laid to rest later today at his other home at the Calvary Pentecostal Church. Yesterday, his son Craig wrote to me and said, “I am sure the honour guard of Bishop's Falls will be standing proudly with heavy hearts as they lay to rest one of their finest”.

God bless.

Canada-Taiwan RelationsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, on January 1, Canada's arrangement for the avoidance of double taxation with Taiwan came into force. Taiwan is already Canada's 11th largest trading partner, with some $6 billion in trade annually. However, there are many opportunities to strengthen Canada's economic ties with Taiwan, particularly in the areas of energy, services, and investment.

Stronger economic ties with Taiwan complements the strong people-to-people links that we share, and we share common values, including a commitment to freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

Now is the time for the government to take the next step in strengthening Canada's economic ties with Taiwan. Now is the time for the government to commence negotiations on a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with Taiwan.

Human RightsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Terry Sheehan Liberal Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to acknowledge a very special initiative that is happening in my riding of Sault Ste. Marie.

On January 9, the initiative, “Take the Pledge Against Racism and Discrimination” was officially launched at a Sault Ste. Marie city council meeting. The project was unanimously endorsed by all of council and Mayor Provenzano.

This campaign was introduced through the Sault Ste. Marie immigration partnership and aims to combat hate and prejudice by taking a pledge. This is a chance to contribute toward building a world of justice, equality and dignity, where racism and discrimination have no place.

Today, I am pleased to announce there have been over 590 pledges taken. This initiative has gained support from organizations such as the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Together, let us make a statement against racism and discrimination in our communities from coast to coast to coast. Together, let us all “take the pledge”.

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