Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by saying that I will be sharing my time today with the member for Bonavista—Burin—Trinity.
I am grateful for the opportunity to add my voice to today's debate on Bill C-3, which proposes to establish an arm's-length review body for the Canada Border Services Agency.
The CBSA is already reviewed by several different independent boards, tribunals and courts. They scrutinize such things as the agency's customs and immigration decisions. However, there is no existing external review body for some of its other functions and activities.
For example, there is a gap when it comes to public complaints related to CBSA employee conduct and service. With the way things currently stand, there is also no independent review mechanism for the CBSA's non-national security activities. That makes the CBSA something of an outlier, both at home and abroad.
Other public safety organizations in Canada are subject to independent review, as are border agencies in a number of peer countries including the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and France. Addressing these accountability gaps through Bill C-3 would improve the CBSA's strength and would strengthen public confidence in the agency. It would ensure that the public could continue to expect consistent, fair and equal treatment by CBSA employees, and it would lead to opportunities for ongoing improvement in the CBSA's interactions and service delivery.
For an organization that deals with tens of millions of people each year, that is extremely important. Public complaints about the conduct of, and the service provided by, CBSA employees are currently dealt with only internally at the agency. I am sure all of my hon. colleagues would agree that this is no longer a tenable situation.
Under Bill C-3, these complaints would instead be handled by a new arm's-length public complaints and review commission, or PCRC. The new PCRC would build on and strengthen the existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, CRCC for short, which is currently the review agency for the RCMP. The CRCC would thus be given an expanded role under this bill and a new name to go along with its new responsibilities for the CBSA.
The PCRC would be able to receive and investigate complaints from the public regarding the conduct of the CBSA officials and the service provided by the CBSA. Service-related complaints could be about a number of issues. They could include border wait times and processing delays; lost or damaged postal items; the level of service provided; the examination process, including damage to goods or electronic devices during a search or examination; and CBSA infrastructure, including sufficient space, poor signage or the lack of available parking.
Service-related complaints do not include enforcement actions, such as fines for failing to pay duties, nor do they include trade decisions, such as tariff classification. Those types of decisions can already be considered by existing review mechanisms.
In addition to its complaints function, the PCRC would also review non-national security activities conducted by the RCMP and the CBSA. The PCRC reports would include findings and recommendations on the adequacy, appropriateness, sufficiency or clarity of CBSA policies, procedures and guidelines; the CBSA's compliance with the law and ministerial directions; and the reasonableness and necessity of the CBSA's use of its powers. The CBSA would be required to provide a response to those findings and recommendations for all complaints.
The creation of the PCRC is overdue. It would answer long-standing calls for an independent review of public complaints involving the CBSA.
According to former parliamentarian and chair of the NATO Association of Canada at Massey College, Hugh Segal, the lack of oversight for the CBSA is not appropriate and is unacceptable.
Former CBSA president Luc Portelance also said that when a Canadian citizen or a foreign national engages with a border officer and has a negative interaction, the entire review mechanism is not public. It is internal, and it is not seen as independent. In Mr. Portelance's view, that creates a significant problem in terms of public trust.
The Government of Canada has committed to rectifying this situation by addressing gaps in the CBSA's framework for external accountability.
With the introduction of Bill C-3, the government is delivering on that commitment. It builds on recent action taken by the government to strengthen accountability on national security matters. That includes passing legislation to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. It also includes the creation, through Bill C-59, of the new expert review body, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. These two bodies are now in operation and they are doing extremely important work in terms of reviewing the national security activities of all departments and agencies, including the CBSA.
Bill C-3 would go further by establishing a review and complaints function for CBSA's other activities. In doing so, it would fill the gap in the architecture of public safety accountability in this country. It would allow for independent review of public complaints related to CBSA employee conduct, issues regarding CBSA services, and the conditions and treatment of immigration detainees. With respect to these detainees specifically, Bill C-3 would offer additional safeguards to ensure that they are treated humanely and are provided with necessary resources and services while detained.
The introduction of this bill demonstrates a commitment to keeping Canadians safe and secure while treating people fairly and respecting human rights. It is a major step forward in ensuring that Canadians are confident in the accountability system for the agencies that work so hard to keep them safe.
For all the reasons I have outlined today, I will be voting in favour of Bill C-3 at second reading. I urge all of my hon. colleagues to join me in supporting the bill.