Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to rise in this House and add my voice to the debate on Bill C-3 which proposes to establish an arm's-length review and complaints function for the CBSA.
The bill before us builds on an action that our government had recently taken to strengthen accountability and transparency in the public safety and national security sphere. As members know, we passed legislation to create the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, and that committee has now been established. Following the passage of Bill C-59, we also created a new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. The goal of both of these bodies is to provide accountability for the national security work of all Government of Canada departments and agencies, including the CBSA.
Strong internal and external mechanisms are in place to address many of the CBSA's other activities. For example, certain decisions in the immigration context are subject to review by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Its customs decisions can be appealed to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal as well as to the Federal Court. However, the glaring gap that remains has to do with the public complaints related to the conduct of, and service provided by, CBSA employees.
There is simply no independent place to which people can turn when they have a grievance about the way they were treated by someone representing the CBSA. Without an independent body specifically tasked to hear complaints, it is easy to see how people can feel uncomfortable voicing any concerns. Bill C-3 would change that by establishing an independent review and complaints function for the CBSA. That new tool would be incorporated into, and benefit from the expertise and experience of, the existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, or CRCC, for the RCMP.
To reflect its new CBSA responsibilities, the CRCC would be renamed the “public complaints and review commission”, or PCRC. Members of the public who deal with the CBSA would be able to submit a complaint to any officer or employee of the agency or to the PCRC. The CBSA would conduct the initial investigation into a complaint, whether it is submitted to the CBSA or to the PCRC. However, the PCRC would have the ability to investigate any complaint that is considered to be in the public interest. It could also initiate a complaint proactively. In the event that a complainant was not satisfied with the CBSA's response to a complaint, he or she could ask the PCRC to review the CBSA's response. The PCRC would also have a mandate to conduct overarching reviews of specified activities of the CBSA. All of this would bring the CBSA in line with Canada's other public safety organizations, which are currently subject to independent review, and it would allow Canada to join the ranks of peer countries with respect to adding accountability functions for their border agencies.
Recourse through the PCRC would be available to anyone who interacts with CBSA or RCMP employees. This includes Canadian citizens, permanent residents and foreign nationals, including immigration detainees. Most of these detainees are held in CBSA-managed immigration holding centres. When that is not possible, CBSA detainees are placed in other facilities, including provincial correctional facilities. The CBSA has established agreements with B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia for detention purposes.